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12:24 AM Mon, Dec. 17th

Achieve Academy works to rebuild equine program

Courtesy <p>
Achieve Academy students Amber Lovett, center, and Ian Pendergast, right front, helped vaccinate calves at Big Chino Farms this past spring.

Courtesy <p> Achieve Academy students Amber Lovett, center, and Ian Pendergast, right front, helped vaccinate calves at Big Chino Farms this past spring.

PRESCOTT VALLEY - Imagine being able to ride a horse to school - and getting credit for it.

That is what junior Julie Levin likes about the horse and agriculture program at the Yavapai County Fair Association Achieve Academy.

Levine and fellow junior Amber Lovett have attended Achieve Academy since the sixth grade. Their enthusiasm for the horse program is evident, especially since Louetta Osborne returned this past spring as horse program and agricultural director.

Osborne was the horse program director when the school opened in 2002. After three years, she left for "other employment." "I am currently rebuilding the program," Osborne said. "When I left, 110 students were enrolled in the elective class and we had 50 horses. There are about 130 enrolled for this school year, and I hope at least half will take the horse class."

The school offers the horse program to all students in grades four through 12. Osborne teaches beginner and advanced classes.

The horse program teaches students horsemanship, anatomy, and veterinary sciences. The school expanded its equine and agriculture programs to include a rodeo club, a horse show, and halter, English, Western and cattle classes. The agricultural program also offers horticulture, farming, ranching, animal industries and welding classes.

Osborne said the equine class is "not just about riding. Students learn about care and feeding, and nutrition and grooming. Students learn that horses require a lot of care and responsibilities."

She said students enrolled in the equine program must get good grades in their core classes.

"No one fails around me. I have been known to tutor a student on the tailgate of a truck," Osborne said.

The most important lesson, she said, is safety. Students must learn safety while working around horses, grooming them and feeding them.

"If students have never been on a horse, they start in the round pen with me, and the other students line up on the railing. We start out one-on-one," Osborne said.

Osborne said a round pen provides a small, safe area for students to learn to ride. She often uses a lunge line so both she and the rider can control the horse.

The director said students learn on private or "lesson horses. I classify lesson horses as 'babysitters' because they have been through everything. They have to meet my criteria to be a lesson horse."

This year, Achieve Academy will include the horse program as part of the FFA and agriculture programs. Osborne said this would allow students to use their horses in the Supervised Agriculture Experience or SAE.

Levin said SAEs help students with scholarships, degrees and grant applications.

Osborne said horse programs are an important function of the National FFA Organization.

Levin, who wants to be a veterinarian, said, "The FFA is no longer called Future Farmers of America. It is now the National FFA and is not just for agriculture."

Lovett said the students had a unique experience during the past school year. The students helped care for a critically ill calf, staying with it, making sure it ate, and keeping it comfortable.

"When students live or work around animals, they have to realize the life-and-death situations. Not everything is always good."

Contact the reporter at prhoden@prescottaz.com