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The Equine Faculty of Reedley College

IN THE June 13 ISSUE

FROM THE 2020 Articles,
andEducation,
andJim Mulligan,
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by Jim Mulligan

We all know that Reedley College is the gem of the Valley when it comes to programs for everyone from students right out of high school to grandmothers who want to hone their ceramics skills. Students choose the beautiful, rural setting of Reedley College to get a start on their bachelor’s degrees, to learn highly technical and sought after job skills such as welding or diesel mechanics, to learn how to maintain and fly planes, and to increase their knowledge base in order to make a career change. A few students each semester take a class for the pure joy of learning to do something they might never have had the chance to do. Anyone who wishes to take a crack at hand building with clay, learning the basics of Spanish or French, try their hand at oil painting, or learn how to write short stories can glean these skills and knowledge from some of the most expert instructors to be found. Only one class, though, is led by a team of teachers, most of whom live on campus, take no salary, have no office, and cannot be reached by phone or email. They are the hooved, hay-munching equine faculty of Reedley College.

Reedley College has a long history of equine science courses and horse show teams. The show team began a new era in about 2015 when it became an official college athletic team under the guidelines of the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA). Since then, Reedley College has had riders excel at all levels of competence, and has had one qualify to attend the American Quarter Horse Association High Point Rider Competition in New York. A boost to the program came in 2016 when full time human faculty member Desi Molyneux joined the department. Horses can be an expensive addition to a program. Molyneux has partnered with local horse owners and provides feed-lease agreements (an arrangement whereby the school feeds and cares for horses owned by others, in exchange for making them part of the teaching and show teams); it’s a win-win situation for all involved.

The college generally takes care of nearly twenty equine faculty members during the school year. It requires more than the paid staff to really take care of the needs of such a large team. A few experienced local equestrians volunteer their expertise to keep the group in tip-top shape. One such helper is Sue Buckley, wife of the current college president, Jerry Buckley, and an accomplished rider and life-long equine enthusiast. Buckley can be seen out on the school farm several times a week throughout the year giving each horse the care and attention they deserve. Buckley’s simple sentiment about her four-legged friends sums up her devotion to her volunteer activities, “The kindness of these teaching animals is profound.”

So if Rate My Equine Professor dot com actually existed, here are some of the probable standouts:
“Professor” Brownie – Brownie is a dark bay quarter horse. At thirteen years old and fourteen hands high (one hand equals four inches) Brownie ranks among the youngest and smallest of the equine instructors at the college, but don’t let his age fool you. He is experienced and has proven himself in the show ring as a reining horse. Reining is a performance event where a horse and rider must work together to complete precision riding patterns. The horse must be quick on its feet and react to the direction of the rider with very little guidance. This event showcases the skills needed for ranch horses, which in the past, and today, go out and help the cowgirls and cowboys get the job done. What do the human staff say about Brownie? “He’s an awesome horse to ride. He loves to get out of the pasture. He’s full of personality. He knows all the moves.”

Brownie enjoying some routine hoof care

“Professor” Jiggie – In their comments, college staff focused on Jiggie’s temperament. “He is a wise and patient old fella; he is kind and great with beginners.” Jiggie is a nineteen-year-old Paint who stands about fifteen hands high. Like many of the horses that help teach new riders, Jiggie is a part of the Reedley College Show Team and has earned honors as such. He was recently named Horse of the Year for Zone 8, Region I of the IHSA, an honor that is chosen by riders from all participating schools in the area.

Sue Buckley working out with Jiggie

“Professor” Princess – Princess is a grey quarter horse who stands at 15½ hands. At fourteen years old, he is in the prime of his life and his spunk can show at times. Like many of the horses who work each semester in the riding class, Princess has a summer job too. He spends the summers up at a mountain pack station, giving riders a glimpse of the Sierras via horseback. College staff and students love Princess. “He can be very kind with beginners but can get a little mischievous at times, almost to the point of taking advantage. Once aboard, students can expect a smooth, steady gait, as Princess likes to mosey along.”

Princess receiving his daily grooming from RC student farm employee Devrie Montgomery.

“Professor” Louis – Louis is an old pro out on the college farm. At thirty years old, he has proven his worth time and again. Louis is a Paint and stands fifteen hands high. Despite his age, he is ready to go when it comes time to work. His previous job experience was on a real working ranch where he likely acquired his strong work ethic.

Thoughts from staff and students include, “Louis is a hard worker who loves his job. Once the rider is astride he is ready to get moving.”

Louie at his summer home up in the Sierras

“Professor” Gucci – Gucci is the gentle giant among the group of equine professors and one of the most beloved. He is a beautiful light brown Paint who can appear looming at seventeen hands high. He is only fourteen years old but played hard on the show circuit in Oklahoma in his early years and has developed some arthritis. This, along with his extremely calm temperament, has earned him the job of working with the newest of riders, giving them the opportunity to overcome their fears of a large horse. Gucci stands for repeated haltering practice and often gives students their first opportunity to mount a horse. Equine Science Instructor Desi Molyneux said, “He’s larger than most horses on campus so his size can be intimidating, but his sweet nature builds the students’ confidence.”

Gucci poses with RC Equine Science Instructor Desi Molyneux.

So, have you had the life-long dream of riding a horse? The classes at Reedley College are open to anyone who wants to learn. Molyneux explained that most of the students who take her introductory class range from very little to no experience with horses. Be confident in knowing that Reedley College employs the best when it comes to both human and equine faculty and will provide you with a sound introduction to the art and skill of riding. For more information about applying and registering for classes visit www.reedleycollege.edu.

Jim Mulligan is a 6th generation Californian, born and raised in Selma. He has been employed in Reedley on and off for the last twenty years. He married his college sweetheart, a Reedley-ite, Kristi. They now reside in Reedley with their five children. Jim loves to create Bonsai and travel as much as possible, both near and far. He is a member of the KCUSD Board of Trustees and is employed by Reedley College as the Tutorial Coordinator.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 Bud West June 13, 2020 at 9:01am

Great article Jim Mulligan! Fantastic way to discuss the merits of Reedley College and of the Equine program – using the “equine professors” as the focus! Reedley College does indeed have lots to offer valley residents! I look forward to your next article!

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