Penn State Equine Science program continues 'hands-on' learning -- online

Kelly Jedrzejewski
April 05, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The 18th annual Penn State Equine Science Showcase and Quarter Horse Sale will take place this year — but in a new format.

Due to the coronavirus outbreak, the sale has transitioned to an online auction. The sale will take place with the help of Professional Horse Services LLC, with bidding open from April 27 through May 2.

“We want to showcase our horses, breeding program, undergraduate program and especially all the work our students have put in,” said Brian Egan, equine science instructor and horse farm coordinator in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences.

“We're trying to make the best of a bad situation," said Egan. "Our students are going to get a good experience with the online auction world, and we’ll still be able to offer a positive buying experience to our clients.”

The horse sale is the farm’s biggest event of the year. It is designed to highlight all aspects of the equine science program at Penn State, according to Egan. Previous sales have included demonstrations of the horses under saddle and tours of the breeding facility.

In the first year of the auction-format sale, about 75 people attended, with 17 bidding numbers and nine horses sold. From there, the sale has grown exponentially. Last year, there were about 450 people in attendance and 86 bidders. Horses have been sold to buyers all over the country.

The 2019 sale was the most successful in the equine program’s history, bringing in just over $100,000, according to organizers. The high-selling horse went for an eye-popping $19,000.

This growth can be attributed to two significant things, Egan said. With the addition of PSU Dynamic Krymsun’s genetics to the herd during the years he was the main sire at the farm, the quality of the horses skyrocketed.

Interest in his offspring born between 2010 and 2018 led to more people attending the sale, which led to buyers seeing how dedicated students are to the program. Facebook also has been a considerable asset in advertising and promotion.

To get the horses ready for sale, about 30 students in the equine marketing class are responsible for everything from finding sponsors to writing the sale catalog. Every assignment in the class has a purpose related to the sale. This year, students in the equine marketing class are continuing to work remotely to finish preparing for the sale. They are coordinating with the farm staff and sale managers to ensure the horses will be ready for sale day.

Five student managers lead the group with the help of other equine science staff. Additionally, there are 20 to 25 committee chairs – students who have previously taken the class and have arranged to work at the sale again as part of an independent-study class.

Quarter horses

The sale horses are bred and raised at Penn State. Located across from Beaver Stadium, the horse barns have always been an integral part of Penn State's long agricultural history.  

IMAGE: Penn State

“The managers have been part of more than one sale, so we have the experience to be able to answer a lot of questions and keep the sale on track,” said animal science major Isabella Cerrone, of Muttontown, New York.

Students in the sale class are not just animal science majors; in fact, the group is very diverse. Sale manager Meg Gingerich is a supply chain and information systems major who took the class because of its real-world applications.

“We’ve had students majoring in advertising who helped redesign the cover of the sale catalog, someone interested in photography, another person in finance, and even an English major,” she said. “The class is structured so that they can use their talents and interests.”

From advertising to technology, the student chairs and their committees are working to prepare for sale day. The public relations committee stays active on Facebook and Instagram, while the sponsorship committee works to find sponsors and help advertise across the equine industry.

National and local industry professionals have sponsored the sale — some year after year. Treas Trailer Sales, Tractor Supply, Equilume, Zoetis, and the Pennsylvania Equine Council are a few of this year’s sponsors.

Emma Murgas, a sophomore animal science major from Clarence, said the opportunity to be an assistant sale manager has been a unique and enriching part of her education. “Moving to an online sale has been a challenge to overcome, but in the long run, I think it will be an opportunity for personal growth and growth of the program," said Murgas.

Scarlett Loya, an animal science major from Washington, Pennsylvania, is one of this year’s sale managers. “The students learn to be resilient and take challenges in stride and also learn how to work with other people and be mindful of what they’re trying to accomplish,” said Loya, who added that this year’s class has faced a whole new set of challenges but has risen to the occasion.

“Our students take this sale very seriously and have pride in their work,” said Madi Heilveil, an assistant manager and animal science major from Lansdale. “It’s amazing to see them come together to keep this event going in spite of everything else that’s happening.”

The quality of the horses is only getting better, Egan said. “Every year, the sale continues to grow, and every year it’s an incredible process to be a part of. This year’s challenges go to show how strong this program is and how we could rally to get this sale done.”

For more information about the sale or to view the online sale catalog, visit https://sites.psu.edu/quarterhorsesale/ or follow the sale on the Penn State Quarter Horses Facebook and Instagram pages. For more information about bidding in the sale, contact Egan at began@psu.edu or 814-863-0569.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated April 06, 2020