Watching the sun rise over the rolling hills of Mississippi State’s South Farm after caring for the horse herd is a daily experience for Ashley Glenn. This is the beginning of a busy day for the former competitive equestrian rider. She also coaches and pushes students to improve their skills as riders on the Mississippi State Equestrian Team and then witnesses them excel at competition.
In between practices and caring for the horses at the H.H. Leveck Animal Research Center, she finds fulfillment in helping future equestrians and veterinarians gain experiential or “hands-on” learning that will prepare them for their careers. These are just a few of the things Glenn engages in every day as the facilities supervisor for the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station Foundation’s herd of horses and head coach of the equestrian team.
“It’s a broad position that includes many different responsibilities,” Glenn said. “However, my main job is maintaining the herd, ensuring the wellbeing of the horses in the MAFES Foundation Herd Equine Unit.”
Glenn has worked alongside horses her entire life. Despite initial nervousness around them as a child, she eventually felt comfortable enough to take riding lessons. Growing up, she honed her skills while competing on the American Quarter Horse Association circuit in the northeastern U.S. and then went on to compete in college.
“It was the thrill of competition as part of the equestrian team that inspired me to pursue a full-time career in the horse industry,” Glenn said.
Now, that passion is evident in her work as she ensures the welfare of horses at the university unit. When it’s foaling time, Glenn oversees students and staff who are responsible for foal watch, making sure the process has no complications. The unit is fully involved once the foals arrive with halter breaking in preparation for riding. The equine herd is used in research projects, teaching labs and in community outreach, exposing children and adults to horse riding and the equestrian world.
As the head coach of the MSU Equestrian Team, Glenn specializes in the Western style of riding which revolves around horsemanship, reining and ranch riding. Assistant coaches Hannah Valigura and Justin Crowley specialize in English style riding. The English side includes hunt seat equitation on the flat where riders demonstrate proper riding of the horse at all gaits and hunt seat equitation on fences where riders negotiate a course of jumps on an unfamiliar horse.
Collaborating with the MAFES research program allows Glenn to help prepare horses for both breeding and sales.
“We are very involved in the horse industry and are always finding ways to improve the quality of horses at the equine unit,” Glenn said. “We breed anywhere between 12 and 15 mares a year.”
The MAFES Equine Unit is a teaching laboratory for students in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the College of Veterinary Medicine.
“I really enjoy working with the students,” Glenn said. “It gives me an opportunity to mentor them and also since we have many students who come to the unit for different reasons—the equestrian team, labs, internships and more—the experience teaches them the importance of teamwork and developing a good work ethic.”
Meanwhile, the horses serve a vital role in community outreach. Three different herds are maintained at the unit, including the research herd, the breeding herd and the riding herd, which the equestrian team uses to practice. The riding herd is also involved in therapeutic riding programs, extension events, camps, clinics and more with children and adults.
“I’m fortunate to have a career working with horses and students to further the university’s mission of teaching, research and service, Glenn said. “MAFES and the Department of Animal and Dairy Sciences in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences are supportive of our efforts, and we strive to bring pride to the university through our programs and competitions.”