CORVALLIS - Oregon State University students in the Department of Animal Sciences' colt training program go through what may be the toughest final evaluation on campus. Each student is assigned a colt to train during the five months of the course, and at the end the students get to see what their class projects are worth in dollars and cents.
The evaluation is actually an auction called the Colts-In-Training Sale. Held in June and sponsored by the Equine Sciences Program in the OSU Department of Animal Sciences, the sale is planned as an annual fund raising event for the OSU Horse Center.
The sale exceeded all expectations for its first year, according to Christian Rammerstorfer, assistant professor in the department of Animal Sciences and co-organizer of the sale.
"Over 200 people showed up to see a total of 14 horses go through the sale ring," he said. "On average, the colts sold for $1,500 per head."
Several of the colts in the sale were consigned to the equine sciences program by Oregon ranchers Jim and Alicia Bentz, said Rammerstorfer. The OSU Horse Center receives 7 percent of earnings from the sale with the balance going to the owners of the colts, he said.
But the colts-in-training sale is much more than a fundraiser, Rammerstorfer noted.
"The event also provides a key learning experience for students," he said. "They know that when the sale comes at the end of the program, knowledgeable horse owners will be judging the value of the work each student has done. The students feel pressure to do their best."
The colts and students enter the training program in January and finish at the end of spring quarter. Colts are assigned to students who learn how to care for and train these two-year-old quarter horses for riding.
"The sale gives students an opportunity to get immediate feedback on how well they prepared their colt for auction, and it gives them a glimpse of how the horse industry works," he said.
"Many of our students plan to be veterinarians or work in the veterinary pharmaceutical or feed industries," said Rammerstorfer. "But whatever their career direction, if they plan to work with horses and horse people, they need to know how the industry operates to be successful.
"The colts-in-training sale provides a realistic introduction," he said.
The horse industry contributes more than $100 billion annually to the U.S. economy and employs 1.4 million people in full-time jobs, economists say. Rammerstorfer added that the colt sale fundraiser is not a new idea.
Other universities with strong equine science programs, including Colorado State and Texas A&M universities, have used similar events to support their equine sciences programs for many years.
"When I came to OSU in 2000 I wanted to establish a colt sale as an annual event to support our equine program and the OSU Horse Center," said Rammerstorfer. "I believe OSU's horse program can be just as strong as any in the country if we can find ways to help it grow."