It often seems that equestrians and those interested in the equine industry are steered away from majoring or minoring in some kind of equine degree. It can often be seen as ‘limiting’ or ‘too narrow’ of a focus. Those not privy to the industry might think that the only thing to do with an equine degree is to become a barn owner or ride professionally.

otterbeinequinesignHowever, at Otterbein University (located in Westerville, Ohio), students are encouraged to pursue their equine-related dreams with several equine majors and minors, and a strong equestrian team. The Equine Department at Otterbein has graduated a multitude of students who have gone on to amazing and unique careers in the equine industry, proving the multifaceted nature of the industry, and how versatile an equine-related degree can be.

In this series, I will be catching up with a variety of Otterbein alumna and sharing the careers that they have found within the equine industry.

Allie Rubenstein is a 2016 graduate of Otterbein University, where she majored in Early Childhood Education. During her sophomore year, a new minor was approved; Equine Assisted Activities and Therapies. “I had a passion for horses as well as a passion for teaching” said Rubenstein, “Of course I had to jump on that opportunity!”

In addition to her education classes, Rubenstein added courses in Therapeutic Riding, Equine Assisted Psychotherapy, Non-profit Management, and others. “This minor prepared me to not only teach therapeutic riding lessons, but possibly even start my own non-profit therapeutic riding center one day” stated Rubenstein.

Willing to go above and beyond, Rubenstein took her newfound skillset and tested to become a Certified Therapeutic Horseback Riding Instructor through the Professional Association of Therapeutic Riding (PATH). Rubenstein was also the very first student at Otterbein to graduate with this innovative minor.

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Ted the Irish Sport Horse with Rubenstein (to the right of Ted), the 3 Special Olympics athletes, one of the volunteers, Christine Kessler, (far left) and Dr. Steffanie Burk, the Otterbein faculty in charge of the Equine Assisted Activities and Therapies minor (far right). Photo credit: Otterbein Department of Equine Science.

So what has Allie done with her minor and her PATH certification?

Keeping her close ties with the university, Rubenstein is now employed by Otterbein to teach therapeutic riding lessons to the newly formed Westerville Special Olympics Equestrian Team. They lesson on, and compete with, Otterbein school horses. Rubenstein is in charge of coordinating individual lesson plans, teaching the lessons, the horses and the equipment they need for each lesson, and the volunteers that help with the program, as well as educating the volunteers on horse handling, etc.

At the end of Summer 2015, as well as at the end this summer, Rubenstein has taken her athletes to the Special Olympics state competition in Cincinnati, Ohio, where her students have come home with a plethora of medals.

I have been lucky enough to volunteer several times and see Allie at work. She interacts so well with each rider, and her enthusiasm for the program is immediately apparent.

“It has been a great experience working with individuals with disabilities and it has helped me learn strategies for teaching a diverse population of students” said Rubenstein. “I feel that the skills I have acquired teaching mounted lessons do apply to teaching students in a classroom setting as well. Being able to teach Therapeutic Riding lessons in the summers, in addition to teaching in a classroom during the school year, has helped me to become a better teacher, and has given me the opportunity to keep working with children all year round”.

Many thanks to Allie for sharing her story and providing wonderful pictures!

If you would like to learn more about Otterbein’s Equine Department and Equestrian Teams, click here