Mustangs Teach RU Students About Nutrition, Behavior

What do wild mustangs have to teach people? If you ask the students enrolled in Rutgers University’s (RU) Young Horse Teaching and Research Program (YHTRP), the answer will likely be, “plenty.” For the past two years, the YHTRP, headed by Sarah L.
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What do wild mustangs have to teach people? If you ask the students enrolled in Rutgers University’s (RU) Young Horse Teaching and Research Program (YHTRP), the answer will likely be, "plenty."

For the past two years, the YHTRP, headed by Sarah L. Ralston, VMD, PhD, Dipl. ACVN, associate director of teaching at Rutgers’ Equine Science Center, has been home to several Bureau of Land Management (BLM) mustangs. As Ralston explained, the previously wild horses have taught the students plenty about nutrition, behavior, and wobbler syndrome.

The YHTRP was founded in 1999 and initially worked with draft-cross weanlings from pregnant mare urine (PMU) ranches in the North Dakotas and Canada. In addition to learning more about the nutritional needs of this type of horse, it was Ralston’s hope that the program would be able to change the public image of these horses, typically viewed as only "byproducts" of the Premarin (hormone product for estrogen replacement in women) industry.

After a school year of handling these young horses, they were auctioned off to the public with the proceeds benefitting the YHTRP. This became an annual event, and Ralston reports that all of the RU "graduates" are doing exceptionally well in their homes

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Erica Larson, former news editor for The Horse, holds a degree in journalism with an external specialty in equine science from Michigan State University in East Lansing. A Massachusetts native, she grew up in the saddle and has dabbled in a variety of disciplines including foxhunting, saddle seat, and mounted games. Currently, Erica competes in eventing with her OTTB, Dorado.

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