Carrie Ostrowski spent the summer of 2008 at Miner Institute as a Summer Experience in Equine Management student and then returned in late summer 2009 as the year-long equine intern. She returned again to Miner in early August to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Summer Experience in Equine Management program with about a dozen or so other alumni for the first-ever reunion. “It’s like coming home,” Carrie said.
Carrie lives in Kentucky where she works for AFLAC, and also trains, competes, and gives lessons for Combined Driving Events and carriage driving. Ashley McCallion also visited Miner from Kentucky for the reunion. Ashley was a summer student in 2014 and now works as a broodmare groomer at a Thoroughbred breeding farm. Her summer at Miner, she said, was “such a great experience.”
The Summer Experience in Equine Management program is one of three paid internship programs for undergraduate students offered at Miner Institute. The Summer Experience in Farm Management program was launched in 1982 and the Summer Experience in Agricultural Research program began in 2006. Each program is a 13-week hands-on skill building experience that prepares students for careers in agriculture and/or graduate or vet school.
For Lauren Offutt, the ability to do some reproduction work this summer has piqued her interest in working on a breeding farm. She said that she also really enjoyed training her project pony, HD Jefferson. She experienced a “strange colliding of worlds” when one of her Colorado State University instructors came to Miner as part of the 30-year reunion. Ryan Brooks teaches in the equine science department at Colorado State. Ryan spent the summer of 2006 at Miner Institute as a summer experience student and then returned in fall 2007 for the yearlong internship after earning his Bachelor’s degree from Virginia Tech. Ryan said that he had “so much fun” at Miner Institute. He fondly remembers when his project horse, HD Essex was sold to a farm in England.
The most notable graduate of the program now oversees it; she has educated and inspired dozens of equine program alumni. Karen Lassell was a student at the University of New Hampshire when she first came to Miner Institute in 1989 as a Summer Experience in Equine Management student. After graduation, she returned to Miner Institute as a year-long equine intern working with Katie Ballard, who was managing the equine program. “She had the best hair ever,” Katie recalls about Karen. In 1992, then-president Charlie Sniffen asked Katie if she would become the director of the research program. Katie took on the task of building a research program and Karen took over the equine program, which she has managed since.
Samantha Dobbins was a Summer Experience in Equine Management student in 2014 and is currently wrapping up her time as the yearlong equine intern. She said that as a teacher Karen “instills a lot of trust” in her students and manages to stay calm in tense situations. Karen’s style is great for building confidence, Sam said. Even if you doubt your own abilities, she said, Karen will assure you that you can do it. “It’s a little bit of a tough love style,” she said. But it works.
Jess Hoffman spent the summer of 2000 at Miner as a summer student. She came back as the yearlong intern in 2001-02. “The program is awesome. You learn so much about yourself and about horses,” she said. Jess is a senior technician at Vermont Integrated Genomics. In 2016, she became the proud owner of a Miner Morgan when she purchased HD Mexico.
Karen encourages students to always be willing to learn new things and have open minds about new ways of doing things, Katie said. She doesn’t pretend to know everything and is always learning herself, Katie said. Karen’s involvement in the Champlain Valley Morgan Horse Association and the NY State Horse Council helps to increase awareness of Miner Institute and its equine program. “Genuinely she’s interested in the mission of Miner Institute,” Katie said. “It goes beyond the horses. She’s a real advocate for William Miner’s vision.”