Miniature Horse Helps Career Center Students Learn

(Saturday, March 3, 2007 6:26 AM EST)
Think of Arlington and, outside of Arlington National Cemetery and Fort Myer, images of horses probably don't spring to mind. But, believe it or not, at least one equine makes its home in the county.

Snickers lives at the Arlington Career Center, where students in the animal-science program are required to take care of myriad kinds of creatures, including farm animals.

Although she is only a miniature horse (defined as 38 inches or smaller), most of Snickers' grooming and care is the same as for a regular-sized horse.

“In this area, it's difficult for students to get large-animal experience,” said Career Center animal-science instructor Scott Lockhart. “At least now they can get a taste of it.”

Miniature horses are known for their good temperament, and Snickers is no exception.

“She's so mellow,” said Lockhart. “She's never kicked anyone.”

Snickers is a large miniature, close to the size of a pony. Because she is larger than most of the animals in the lab, two students take care of her at a time, two times a day.

They learn how to change Snickers' water, feed her, clean the stall, walk her, groom her (brush, comb and towel her and clean her hooves) and conduct a physical exam.

She lives in an 8-foot by 12-foot pen in the Career Center animal lab, but has room outside to run and play. Recently, student volunteers Lydia and Ann Carpenter donated a jumping apparatus for Snickers to use.

Students will have the chance to train the miniature horse to jump and lunge over the apparatus, but need to have some horse-care experience first, said vocational laboratory technician Jennifer Culver.

The staff in the animal science department purchased Snickers from a farm in Spotslyvania about five years ago for around $600. She was 8 years old when they bought her; the normal life expectancy for a horse is 20 to 30 years.

“A horse was one of the few animals we didn't have, and over the years, students had always asked if we could get a horse,” Culver said. “Once we had the money, we got her. She's been a real benefit to the program.”

In addition to working with Snickers at the Career Center, students can volunteer to take care of sick foals at the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center in Leesburg. Students stay with the foals, and learn how to do things like measure urine output and take a pulse.

Although the animal-science department would like to expand the equine part of its program, space is limited. But those who run the program say they are proud that they can offer any farm experience at all in such an urban environment.

“What's really unique about our program is the variety of animals available,” Lockhart said. “Snickers has been great.”

Arlington Career Center Instructor Scott Lockhart poses with Snickers, the center's miniature horse.
(Photo by Kristen Armstrong)

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