CWC professor receives honors
Riverton – “Young people are great, you just have to expect them to be great,” says Patti Stalley, Central Wyoming College (CWC) Equine professor, of her students.
Stalley has been with the CWC equine program for 31 years and was awarded the honor of the Certified Horsemanship Association’s (CHA) 2012 Instructor of the Year.
Stalley credits her success with the CWC equine program to her wide range of horse experiences. She grew up on a working cattle ranch near Valentine, Neb. and worked cattle, bred racing Quarter horses and trained reining horses.
“In college I saw a class that you got physical education credit for English riding,” Stalley remembers. “Being 18 I thought I knew quite a bit and took the class because I thought I could keep my barrel horse legged up in it and get credit for it.
“That class was taught by a gentleman named General Lee, and he opened up a whole new world for me. I had never had formal lessons up until then. I ended up working for him training cross-country and stadium jumping horses. It provided me with a totally new way with horses and what you can do with them.”
The International CHA certifies instructors to teach riding, therapeutic riding and inspect facilities for safety. The Instructor of the Year award is by nomination and supported by documentation from employer and students.
The award was a complete surprise, and Stalley almost didn’t attend the award banquet at the annual conference in Oregon.
“I was going to visit with my brother and his family that night,” Stalley explains. “I happened to mention my plan to some friends, and they panicked. One called one of my daughters, who called my brother, and so he suggested to me that we all attend the banquet.”
The CWC equine classes have both classroom and lab components. Students tell Stalley that she packs more into one semester than larger universities do in three.
“I only have the students for two years, and I want them to know something when they graduate,” Stalley says. “I require my students to have good posture and correct grammar usage. When you work with horses, you work with people, and you had better know how to talk to them.”
Students are required to obtain their own horses for classes. Stalley does help them find suitable horses to lease, if needed. By not owning horses, CWC saves on overhead costs, and the students are learning on better horses.
“I’ve had college faculty tell me, ‘You can’t train a student and a horse at the same time, and you can’t take a beginning student and place them in the same class as a more advanced student,’” Stalley recounts. “I think that is false, because you get what you ask for.”
“I can take a student that is learning to ride the trot, at the same time I have one that is learning to post on the correct diagonal, at the same time I have one learning to collect their horse and develop more cadence in the trot,” she continues. “The ones that are just beginning are ahead of the game because they are hearing you talk to the others.”
Stalley sees students going into all types of fields within the equine industry from journalism to selling pharmaceutical supplies.
“The equine industry is larger than the motion picture and tobacco industries,” Stalley explains. “Like any other lucrative field you need to be very good at what you do.
“I had a student call me the other day and the people he trains for in Oklahoma have him accompanying shipments of horses to Mongolia. The horse world has become international in every facet.”
During her tenure at CWC, Stalley says she has had a student from every state and most European countries.
“The international students come here for western riding,” Stalley explains. “They look for horse colleges, and come here because we’re in Wyoming and predominantly western.”
“A former French student called me the other day and said the most embarrassing thing had happened to him. A friend of his had contacts at the racetrack in Paris. He went to interview and told them his riding experience,” Stalley says. “They took him into the tack room, and he realized that he knew what everything was – in English. He did not know what the tack was in French! He said he almost didn’t get the job, but was able to go home to study and come back the next day.”
“I love the international students as they add diversity of experience and culture to the program. It is the same with our community participants, as they are great examples of how to be life-long learners,” she also adds.
Never one to rest on her laurels, Stalley is currently researching the potential to provide courses to military veterans that combine the equine program with the psychology department to assist in their healing from the experiences of war.
“I could keep three arenas booked with the classes I would like to offer,” Stalley says. “We out grew this facility 25 years ago.”
Melissa Hemken is a correspondent for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.