Adhoc committee to study "horse country" benefits

Equine Science Program mulled
Jun. 12, 2013 @ 05:13 AM

Three members of the Isothermal Community College trustees were named to an adhoc committee to study the Equine Industry in Polk County. 

Trustee Chair Grady Franklin appointed Chivous Bradley of Rutherford County and Ray Gasperson and Shay Hahn of Polk County, to the committee to determine what role Isothermal might have in offering programs and courses to the growing equine community.

They are being asked to study the impact the industry can have on Rutherford, Polk counties, Isothermal Community College and the economy of the region.

Libby Johnson, Polk County's Economic Development Commission and Tourism Development chair and Kate Barkschat, director of Isothermal's Polk Center, presented facts about the equine community that includes White Oak's Equesterian Center.

Earlier this year Tryon Equestrian Properties LLC bought White Oak Plantation for $11 million and the developer is turning the property into a premiere international equestrian lifestyle destination.

The development will have equestrian events, a golf course, hotel resort and convention center, spa and fitness center on 1,000 acres off of Pea Ridge Road in the Green Creek community. 

With the addition of the development and the equine industry already in Polk, Isothermal is being asked to consider offering an Equine Sciences Program.

Isothermal President Walter Dalton told the board the equine industry is not affected by the economy and the industry could offer opportunities to develop a of variety courses for students in the two counties, Upstate South Carolina and the country.

Some classes would be offered through the Continuing Education department and later a two-year degree program could be developed.

In Midway College in Midway, Ky., the cost to enroll in such a program could from $10,000 to $30,000, Dalton told the Trustees.

Barkschat said students could receive courses through the Continuing Education Department at ICC — 20 hours a week for 48 weeks — and the cost be less than $1,000.

Because there is a growing demand for jobs in the equine industry, Isothermal would have the potential to offer programs, Dalton said.

Johnson said, "people not in the saddle" are totally dependent on the horse businesses in Polk County.

"This is a program we think we can build" said Barkschat.

"We will have a program so young people will come here from across the country to take these classes," Johnson said.

"This will attract young people to come to Polk County," Barkschat said of the area that traditionally draws retirees.

Dalton said the program will not just affect Polk County, but the entire region. 

 "This will mushroom and there will be ancillary benefits for all of us," Dalton said. "The grass grows greener in Rutherford like it does in Polk, but we have to walk before we run."

The committee will be involved in the early planning stages and the feasibility structure of the equine community.

"That is why we are here, to improve life through learning," said Thad Harrill who has been working with the Polk County groups. 

The newly appointed committee will look at  careers available for those interested in the industries—  equine, breeding, feed companies research labs, pharmaceuticals and veterinary medicine.

Among courses that could be offered through Isothermal include: the scope of the industry, economic value to society, biological principles, animal behavior, ability to intergrate solutions, pasture management, judging, equine venture creation,  animal behavior, ability to intergrate solutions, nutrition,keeping records, legal issues and common courses in general education and treatment of the prevention of illness.