If you want a career where you’ll spend most of the day on a horse, Lakeland College’s Western Ranch and Cow Horse program can help.
“Our students are getting the skills they need to find employment where they ride up to eight hours a day,” says instructor Ron Hoffman. He already has a list of more than 30 jobs waiting for this year’s graduates, including positions on ranches, feedlots, community pastures and with horse trainers.
Hoffman stresses that if you are interested in being a recreational rider, this one-year certificate program isn’t for you. In addition to classroom work at the college’s Vermilion campus, students spend two hours a day training a horse.
In September they start with a green horse and by the end of the program, students have horses ready to use on the job. Some students also ride their horse in Lakeland’s Working Cowboy Competition, completing rollbacks, spins, lead changes, cow work and roping.
“We push our students pretty hard. Just when they get comfortable with a skill, we raise the bar and start pushing them again. There’s definitely a courage component to this program,” says Hoffman.
But it’s not just about training a horse – it’s about learning skills that can help them successfully work with horses and with cattle. “There are courses on low stress cattle handling, range and forage crops, agronomy, beef production, cattle diseases and treatment, and equine marketing,” says Hoffman.
Craig Onyschak graduated from the program in 2008. He spends about four months a year as a horseback hunting guide in northern British Columbia. The remainder of the year he works at Highland Feeders near Vegreville where he spends six hours a day on his horse completing pen checks and moving livestock.
Onyschak moved from Manitoba to Alberta to take the Lakeland program which was then known as Ranch and Feedlot Rider. It’s a move he’s glad he made.
“I had worked with horses before but I was mostly self-taught. I learned a lot of horse-training skills and I became more confident and comfortable working with horses,” says Onyschak. “I also learned about cattle diseases and prevention which, working in a feedlot, I use all the time.”
Like many of the students in the Western Ranch and Cow Horse program, Onyschak was also involved in Lakeland College’s rodeo club. Team members compete in the Canadian Intercollegiate Rodeo Association.
To learn more call 1 800 661 6490, or visit www.lakelandcollege.ca