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Online Exclusive - Posted November 12, 2012 2:08 p.m.
photo by Ethan Black
Keylee Sayler stands with Dr. Pipkin outside the Agricultural Sciences Department near cases displaying multiple championship trophies.

Born to Ride

West Texas A&M University offers degree unlike any other in nation

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West Texas A&M University is the home to nearly 8,000 students from more than 30 states and 30 foreign countries, enrolled in the university’s 61 undergraduate and 46 graduate programs, according to West Texas A&M University. Of these programs, the Department of Agricultural Sciences offers a one-of-a-kind degree known as Agriculture Business and Equine Industry. The uniqueness of this program lies within the combination of the two fields. Dr. Pipkin, program director and professor of Animal Science says the program is the only one of its kind in the country. “Many schools offer a degree in one field or the other,” he says, “but we offer students a degree that pertains to both fields.”

Keylee Sayler, a senior from Casper, Wyoming is currently enrolled in the Agriculture Business and Equine Industry Program. Prior to attending WTAMU, Keylee acquired her Associates degree in Equine Science from Laramie County Community College. It was there she discovered Dr. Pipkin and WTAMU. “I was heavily involved in 4H and FFA growing up and I really enjoyed horse judging. I wanted to go to the best school and their [WTAMU’s] programs are well known. I was on the Horse Judging and Ranch Horse Team at LCCC, and when we traveled we always saw WTAMU doing really well at the competitions,” declares Keylee.

As for the move to Canyon, Keylee smiles as she relates that the 700-plus-mile trip from home “was actually a really easy transition. I really like Canyon and I probably won’t go back to Wyoming. Honestly, it’s just about the same. It’s just about as windy as Wyoming, but it’s consistently twenty degrees warmer. Not to mention everyone here has been really nice.”

Perhaps the most significant reason that Keylee chose the region’s university was for the credibility of Dr. Pipkin’s program. While pursuing her degree, Keylee has also been involved with the Horse Judging and Stock Horse teams and enthusiastically pronounces how beneficial it’s been to her. “In the last year, we were crowned national champions at the Horse Judging Congress, World Champions from the American Quarter Horse Association and Reserve National Champions at the Reining Futurity,” she explains. “Not a lot of schools have these teams or this kind of success. Dr. Pipkin is amazing and has had years of both national and world champion horse judging teams.”

Involvement in these organizations allows for competitors such as Keylee to travel the country building relationships and networking with people in her field of study. This involvement, accompanied with the programs at WTAMU and Dr. Pipkin’s reputation, elevated Keylee into the equine market when she received an international internship with AQHA this past January.

“The programs here really helped me to get my internship with AQHA,” Keylee joyfully adds. “Unlike other internships, the international internship offered by AQHA carefully selects individuals based on referrals and references rather than an application process. Dr. Pipkin’s letter of recommendation really helped me to get the internship.”

Keylee’s duties called for her to organize 13 different horsemanship camps spanning 10 different countries. Additionally, when she was in Europe, she served as the AQHA spokesperson and was tasked with making sure students arrived to each camp safely, and educating the masses about membership in the association.

“I ended up going to Norway, Denmark, the Czech Republic, Sweden, England, Ireland, Switzerland, Austria, Slovenia and Germany. I was definitely nervous and it was a culture shock, but more than anything it was reassuring that Europeans are still people over there,” smiles Keylee. “I had heard many people say everyone over there hates Americans, but really, they are few and far between. They were super interested in us and had lots of questions. Not to mention they were very nice,”

Even as Keylee has experienced success in this discipline, she isn’t alone. Past graduates from the Equine Industry Program have found recent success, as well.

“Mallory Vestal was the WTAMU Outstanding Equine Program Student in 2005. After being a part of a World and National Champion Horse Judging team, a National Champion Equestrian team, and being inducted into WT’s Athletic Hall of Champions, she received her M.S. and Ph.D. from Oklahoma State and is now a member of the WTAMU faculty,” Dr. Pipkin explains. “Don Bell from Tennessee has become a successful Western artist and horse trainer while serving as an AQHA judge. Or Kristen Jacobsen, originally from Pennsylvania, was a National Champion Intercollegiate rider at WT in 2001 and now works for AQHA.”

Students can be assured the university is taking steps to meet their needs while offering degrees that are competitive at a global level. Individuals like Keylee will continue to flourish through programs like Agriculture Business and Equine Industry while developing skills, such as networking, teamwork and patience.

When speaking about her years spent at WTAMU, Keylee recommends future students get involved in campus life, and pursue internships when the opportunity arises. She believes her degree, in addition to extra-curricular activities WTAMU offers, will help her find a good job after graduation. And her internship has only enhanced her hope.

“I’ve been blessed to have horses around me my entire life,” Keylee attests. “When I was born, my mom rode horses, and I grew up loving the passion.”

by Ethan Black

Ethan is currently finishing his graduate degree in Sport Management from West Texas A&M University, with an emphasis on Sport Sociology and Marketing. In his spare time, he enjoys playing sports and spending time with family and friends.
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