North Carolina State University boasts a great animal science program. What most people don’t know is that NC State also hosts an equine education unit. Volunteers, students, and equestrian professionals while conducting tours and information sessions to help educate people as well as young horses. The young horses are bred and born at the Education Unit, cared for by an internship class from NC State. The internship class helps to track the mare’s pregnancy, assist in the birth of the foal, and then the students assist in the handling and training of the foals before they are put up for auction. Other classes offered by the Educational Unit are: Introduction to Equine Science, Principles in Equine Evaluation, Equine Management, and the Management of Growing and Performance Horses.

I headed down to the Equine Educational Unit to check out the foals up for auction in November and get a glimpse into life at the Unit. When I arrived, one of the classes was at the Unit to work with the foals up for auction. They started by handling their assigned foals in their stalls to get them acquainted with being handled before heading to the round pens to do some work. The students and foals worked on natural horsemanship to encourage the foals to accept the student as their dominant leader who can guide them through the exercises. In one of the exercises I watched, after free lunging the foals the students used a carrot stick with a plastic bag attached at the end. This tool helps to desensitize horses to foreign things touching them, and it encourages them to accept surprises and new things!

The foals bred and offered by the Equine Educational Unit are typically registered Quarter Horses, Appendixes, and Thoroughbreds. Some of the foals are the offspring of stallions whose owners donated breedings to the Equine Educational Unit. In particular, one of the babies (Donatello) is the offspring of a local Oldenburg stallion. Donatello is seven months old, and will be sold in the next auction. Each foal at the November auction begins with a bid of $100.00. It can only go up from there!

The most recent auction happened in November of 2016. The Educational Unit holds an auction so they can reduce their herd, and continue their educational program with NC State. Foals of the Unit are prospects for western pleasure, performance, and the hunters according to the program manager. Each foal is listed in a silent auction online opposed to the traditional method of auction. In a traditional auction, the people are present at the auction site. For each auction, foals are listed with a sale price. The auction is open for one week where interested buyers can offer bids – the highest bid on the last day of the auction wins!

Think you’d be interested in checking out the internships? NC State offers two internships for the Educational Unit: foaling, and breeding. Other events put on by the EEU include tours of local breeding and training facilities, Police Horse Training, and an Equine Health Symposium.

The foals shown at the EEU for the most recent auction were handled and shown to prospective buyers by one of the internship classes. After the silent auction, the foals left the EEU to go home with their new owners. With the 2016 foals out of the EEU, it’s time for the next babies to come around, and the educational cycle will start again next year!