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NMJC Equine: A First for Our Region

NMJC Equine: A First for Our Region photo
Clay Hardin and Equine Area

10/10/2013 4:58:09 p.m. - Hobbs, NM. HOBBS – Although community college programs come and go based on the needs of the people the college serves, few among the public have a notion about what goes in to building a program from the ground up.

Ask Clay Hardin, director/professor of New Mexico Junior College Equine, the program launched at the start of the fall semester with 30 students, and he can give you a pretty good idea of the effort required from inspiration to final product.

Hardin, who has a Master’s of Agricultural Education from Tarleton State in Stephenville, Texas, and a Bachelor’s in Agricultural Economics from Texas Tech in Lubbock, had been a rodeo coach while finishing up his master’s degree, and had taught online courses for NMJC after he finished grad school.  During grad school, he researched the development of an equine program as the subject of his thesis. Hardin’s research was to figure large in NMJC’s effort to build a start-up equine program.

The idea for NMJC Equine began more than a decade ago. President Steve McCleery recalls visiting different community colleges around the country to get ideas for workforce programs. At Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, he, the NMJC board and other college officials saw something they thought would translate well to Hobbs. An equine program seemed a natural in a place where a fairly large segment of the local population has an interest in ranching, raising horses, rodeo, horse racing and other equine-related activities. Plus, the college already had in place agricultural classes as well as a rodeo program.

“We came back to the campus and by 2003 the idea was worked into the master plan and the strategic plan. There was a lot of participation—the board weighed in, along with the community and the state,” McCleery said.  “My perception as a college president is that when you’re dealing with a rural community program, you look for ones that are different and don’t compete with others in your area.”

“We conducted focus groups with local ranchers and horse people, people in the horse industry, as well as people who had a secondary interest such as farriers and feed store merchants who make a living with horse-related products and services,” Hardin said. “Through these, we had a positive response and feedback. We jumped in with both feet.”

College officials then had to narrow the focus to two specific disciplines: horse training and equine business. Associate of Applied Science degrees were offered in Equine Management and Training and Equine Industry and Business. Along with these degrees, the college also developed four certificates: Basic Horsemanship, Advanced Horsemanship, Colt Starting and Equine Business.  

Hardin has spent the last year (in addition to recruiting students) developing the programs, an intensive process that has included writing course descriptions and developing the curricula for the programs. But that wasn’t all. Simultaneous to building the program, he also has helped oversee the development of a brand new, state-of-the-art equine facility.

McCleery said the entire cost of developing the 15-plus-acre facilities, which include three outdoor and two indoor arenas, 10 outdoor and one indoor round pen, 80-plus outdoor stalls, classroom space (one classroom includes a glass window where students can observe demonstrations in an indoor round pen during lectures) and equipment, is about $1.7 million.

On a recent August day just prior to the start of the fall semester, dump trucks were busy dispensing one load after another of good red New Mexico dirt into the arenas– donated, said Hardin, by a local rancher—in preparation for the students’ arrival. The facilities will be used not only by the fledgling equine program students, but also the college’s rodeo team. And, since a majority of the students are not local, a number of them will be boarding their horses in the new stalls.

How do NMJC’s facilities and program stack up against others in the state and region?

Hardin thinks they are “second to none.” Further, NMJC Equine is the only such program in this region among community colleges and even four-year institutions in this region do not offer the full emphasis on equine studies that NMJC does.

“What I’ve heard from students is, ‘Oh, wow,’” said McCleery. “I took one high school senior recently to give a tour, and he could not say enough good things. Quality facilities make a statement to students and to the public about how we feel about the program.”

For more information on NMJC Equine, contact Clay Hardin at chardin@nmjc.edu, or call 575-492-4715.

New Mexico Junior College is a comprehensive community college located in Hobbs, NM.

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Captions (Courtesy NMJC):

Clay Hardin, director/professor of New Mexico Junior College Equine.

Outdoor Arena: A tractor spreads red dirt for one of the outdoor arenas being finished up just prior to the start of the fall semester.

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