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.

Annie Hankins graduated in 2013 with an Equine Business major and an Economics minor. Although she started out with a specific vision, Annie’s degree took her in a very different direction.

“Like most students who enter Equine Business programs, I started with the dream of having a very hands-on, ground level, role in the industry” said Hankins.  “I wanted to be in a barn every day, managing a farm, training horses, teaching riders, and competing at an elite level”.

However, as her education at Otterbein progressed, Hankins found herself exploring topics that she had not previously considered. “Not only did I learn about equine science and horse care, but I learned about how things like marketing, accounting, law, regulations and ethics play a role in the equine industry” said Hankins.  It was at this point that despite “not (being) a math whiz”, Hankins added an economics minor.  She believes that this was a turning point in her career path.

“I was fascinated how economic policies influenced different industries and the environment.  For the first time in my life, I realized the horse industry didn’t exist in a bubble, but that it was deeply impacted by the world around it” explained Hankins. “I no longer wanted to sit in Equine Emerging Issues class and hypothesize about what could make the horse industry better, I wanted to go out and do it”.  

Although being born and raised in Washington D.C., Hankins wasn’t originally interested in pursuing any part of the equine industry that would lead her to D.C.’s governmental and political scene. But with a new-found passion, and after months of debate, Hankins decided to “put the horse farm dreams on hold, sell my upper level jumper, and pursue a Master of Public Policy Degree”.  In order to retain “the weird horse girl” status  (her words, not mine!) Hankins specialized in environmental policy and nonprofit management. She found that many of the skills she gained during her undergraduate career at Otterbein here helping her in her Master’s program. “I had the solid communication, teamwork, quantitative and qualitative skills that were necessary” said Hankins.

While obtaining her Master’s, Hankins started working at the Maryland Horse Industry Board (MHIB).  “MHIB is a rgulatory and commodity board within the Maryland Department of Agriculture” explained Hankins. “Unlike any other state, Maryland law requires all stables that provide a public service to be licensed and inspected by MHIB. Simultaneously, we are charged with promoting, marketing, and growing the states equine industry.  Our goal is to make the horse industry appear friendly and welcoming, and to “get more seats in saddles.”

In addition to all of the above, MHIB amhiblso works to unite the horse industry to promote the progress of the industry as a whole from a legislative standpoint.

So what is Hankins’ role in the MHIB?  While completing her Master’s degree, Hankins worked part time as a Research Assistant.  Since graduating from the University of Maryland School of Public Policy with her Master’s in 2016, she has worked full time as the Research and Communications Manager.  “I keep track of the stables in our state, and insure they maintain compliance with the licensing law.”  She also conducts a variety of research projects and develop them into databases, fact sheets and outreach materials for the public.  She also manages social media pages, and generally assists the Executive Director of the MHIB.

“In the future I have big dreams of working for a nonprofit and representing the interests of the horse industry on “The Hill”.  I guess I really am a true political Washingtonian at heart” joked Hankins.

Hankins will be embarking on the next leg of her career with an advising firm, but I am certain that she will remain involved with the equine industry as closely as she can.

She left me with some fantastic advice for anyone pursuing a career in the equine industry:

“The advice I would give any equine business student is to be open-minded, take courses that remove you from your comfort zone, build connections, and don’t be afraid to change paths. There are so many unique roles you can play in this industry, and sometimes you have to throw yourself into a whole new world before you find where you fit best. Would I still be happy managing a barn? Yes. After a long day sitting in the office do I sometimes question my sanity for leaving that dream behind? Yes. But am I so much more fulfilled in my current career path? Undoubtedly!”

Many thanks to Annie Hankins for sharing her story, and I wish her the best of luck in her future endeavors!

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

If you would like to learn more about the Maryland Horse Industry Board, click here!