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The Business of Horses: Katie Petchell's Off-Campus Internship
by Katie Petchell, '13
Most Albion students will tell you that spending a semester off campus is a great learning experience, and after completing my first internship at Thomson Reuters last spring, I’d have to agree. However, great opportunities sometimes spring up where we least expect them. That’s how I ended up spending the fall just a few miles away, involved with something that's been a passion for years.
For my second Gerstacker Institute internship, I was lucky enough to design my own position with Nottawa Paint Horses, LLC. The owner, Denise Webber, coaches Albion’s Western equestrian team, and I've been riding and working with her as a team member for three and a half years. When I was struggling to find a second internship that would fit in with my career goals, she offered to take me on, recognizing that both of us could benefit from this opportunity.
As a barn management intern, I was essentially Denise’s right hand. In the office, I scheduled lessons and meetings and helped keep records of the different medications that we had to administer to specific horses. We also reorganized her entire filing system, which had not been updated for nearly 15 years. I even designed and built a horse board, which allowed us to keep track of which horses had been ridden on any given day. During lessons, I aided riders with tacking up, as well as giving some instruction in the arena.
Aside from the above-mentioned management and human resource duties, my main project was training Lunar Nykson, an Arabian gelding who had passed through several homes and, at 10 years old, was still not broke to ride. Since no one else was willing to take on his intimidating nature, I started working with him on a regular basis. Every day it was something different with Nyk, but by the end of the semester he had drastically improved. He now canters off with ease, and is much more respectful of space. Nyk has a long way to go before he is considered broke, but it was an amazing experience to be able to gain his trust and build up his confidence. It was also great to see how happy his owner was with the progress we made during the semester.
Overall, this internship has allowed me to gain valuable knowledge about running a small business, from management to public relations. As a horse boarding facility, Nottawa is the home of over 30 horses and nearly that many different boarding clients, along with numerous other horse enthusiasts who take riding lessons. Furthermore, Nottawa is the home of Albion’s Western Equestrian Team, which currently consists of about 20 riders. This creates a unique situation where you have to deal with both people and animals and try to keep everyone happy, healthy, and safe. If nothing else, running Nottawa is a balancing act.
Additionally, this internship has allowed me to explore my love of horses on a professional level. After all is said and done, I still want to become a CPA, but this opportunity has confirmed that I also want to do some training and maintain my love of horses on the side. Albion's Gerstacker Institute, along with the Western riding program at Nottawa, has given me the training and experience to do both.