The Van Ness Award is a national recognition given in honor of the late Marjorie Van Ness of New Jersey. Recipients are individuals who, through their efforts to promote and improve the equine industry at the state level, best emulate the dedication of the late Van Ness who left behind a legacy of passion and commitment to the horse industry. The award was presented to Huseman at the annual AHC meeting and conference in Denver on June 6.
“I am very grateful that the American Horse Council offers this award to professionals working to impact their state horse industry,” Huseman said. “However, most importantly, this prestigious award reminds me of how fortunate I am to have people and organizations who are willing to collaborate with me to make an impact on the Texas horse industry.”
Andy Herring, Ph.D., professor and interim head for the Department of Animal Science, said Huseman is most deserving of the Van Ness Award and congratulated her for the recognition.
“Dr. Huseman has shown a dedication to the horse industry that has increased participation and interest across many audiences,” he said. “The department is proud of Dr. Huseman’s work and how her innovative approaches to equine education are impacting adults and youth.”
AgriLife Extension Programs Revitalizing Industry Participation
Huseman began her current appointment in the department in 2019. Since then, her targeted educational programs, workshops, seminars and a variety of other educational resources have supported the largest state horse industry in the U.S. Her contributions through AgriLife Extension largely focus on generating new programs and expanding existing ones to revive youth and adult interest and support the horse industry.
The programming offered by Huseman prioritizes the development of relevant, impactful and inclusive materials for all clientele. Despite the results of the AHC economic impact study conducted in 2017 showing that Texas continues to have the highest number of horses in the U.S., approximately 767,100 total head, Huseman said the industry has experienced a decline in participation over the past decade. Her endeavors welcome all horse enthusiasts by inviting them into a culture of learning amid declining industry participation.
“I enjoy working with others in the horse industry to support the development of innovative programs that address current issues,” Huseman said. “With collaborative help, I have been able to prioritize the development of meaningful AgriLife Extension programs.”
Equine stakeholders in Texas and beyond have benefitted from Huseman’s convenient and quality resources, particularly from the online reproductive short courses. Nearly all of her programs favor technological advancement that provides an innovative learning component.
Huseman was instrumental in transitioning the highly sought Texas A&M Equine Reproductive Management Short Course into an online format to facilitate worldwide participation. She also assisted in the creation of a mare and foal online workshop.
“The Texas A&M Equine Reproductive Management Short Course is a great example of how Dr. Huseman has reinvigorated and expanded AgriLife Extension equine programs,” said Ron Gill, Ph.D., professor, AgriLife Extension livestock specialist and associate department head for AgriLife Extension in animal science. “This hands-on school has a waiting list to attend every year. Through her dedication and forward-thinking mindset, she led the development of the online course to meet the demand of the industry.”
Impacting Youth Through Equine Education
Huseman’s dedication to equine education extends to youth and college students through activities aimed to facilitate involvement with horses at an early age.
Each summer, hundreds of Texas 4-H youth and families travel to Bryan for the pinnacle of the 4-H horse project—the Texas State 4-H Horse Show. Huseman, with other AgriLife Extension equine specialists, county agents and volunteers, manages the six-day event that includes 40 classes of competition, educational programs, scholarships and college preparation opportunities.
Huseman also spurred the program Texas 4-H Homes for Horses with grant support from the Texas Thoroughbred Association. This program addresses the continued struggle of the increasing number of at-risk or unwanted horses.
“True to my desire to bring equine education to new clientele, I designed this program to provide temporary funding for horse ownership, giving new families the opportunity to try out horse ownership with a low-risk financial obligation,” Huseman said.
The program culminated at the 2022 Texas State 4-H Horse Show where the horses were showcased and adopted. The program also supports a full-time graduate student at Texas A&M, furthering the youth impact of Huseman’s programs.
Equine science college students gain industry exposure through a variety of collegiate horse programs led or supported by Huseman. Lack of experience with horses prior to college, largely due to urbanization, motivated Huseman to provide college students with an educational journey involving horses.
“The Texas A&M Equine Ambassador Leadership Program, Texas A&M Summer Horsemanship Schools, and Horse Extension Internship are profound examples of programs I lead or co-lead that give Texas A&M students the opportunity to enhance their college experience and further the mission of AgriLife Extension,” Huseman said.
Industry Involvement and Future Plans
Amid Huseman’s work through AgriLife Extension programs, she continues to serve an integral role in moving the industry forward. Huseman said she looks forward to working with AHC on its 2023 national economic impact study, which will provide updated impact numbers to establish the value of the horse industry.
Huseman is the primary AgriLife Extension horse specialist who will lead the Texas equine industry’s portion of the study. The study is designed to quantify the size and scope of the Texas equine industry in both direct and indirect contributions to the Texas economy.
Gill explained that Texas has not accessed this data in recent years, and Huseman recognized the critical need for this important data.
“This data will be used to direct educational program delivery, as well as identify potential areas of research,” he said. “Without Dr. Huseman’s dedication to this effort, it would not have happened for the state of Texas.”
Moving forward, Huseman said she is committed to providing vital educational resources to Texas horse breeders, enthusiasts and stakeholders. With the recent establishment of the Texas A&M Institute for Equine Sciences, which aims to bring academic expertise and world-class science to the public and private sectors of the equine industry, the impact of these programs will continue to grow. A collaborative effort between the institute and AgriLife Extension programs will increase outreach and engagement in equine programs.
“My goals and ambitions continue to center around the mission of Texas A&M AgriLife Extension,” Huseman said. “We will provide quality, relevant outreach and continuing educational programs and services to the people of Texas.”