• Miller Coliseum, stables, and teaching arenas highlight 154-acre complex
  • Horse Science Center features equine reproduction laboratory
  • Equestrian facilities provide hands-on learning for students
  • Veterinarian Dr. John Haffner assists in taking an X-ray

Horse Science M.S.

The Master of Science in Horse Science at MTSU centers on a curriculum designed to prepare graduates for the multi-faceted equine industry. Programs are tailored to students’ interests and produce graduates able to adapt to and thrive in this dynamic field. Students may choose from Equine Education, Equine Physiology or Industry Management concentrations. Only the top qualified applicants are invited for an interview at the applicant’s expense, prior to final acceptance into the program. Faculty members mentor students in curriculum development and provide training in scientific methods, principles of equine student education and instruction, and general industry practices. All M.S. degree candidates share a common core of coursework in statistics, research methods, and multiple disciplines in horse science and animal science. A significant number of elective credit hours are available, permitting each student to customize the program with courses in other departments. A limited number of graduate teaching assistantships are available.

Graduate student uses equine therapy to aid veterans

Graduate student uses equine therapy to aid veterans

Horse Science M.S. graduate Sarah English and university horses have helped U.S. military veterans in a collaborative program between MTSU’s horse science program and the local Veterans Recovery Center. Veterans can enroll in the 10-week class, called the Center of Equine Recovery for Veterans (CERV), as part of their recovery plan. English, an advanced instructor through the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH Intl.), says equine therapy helps veterans strengthen communication and build confidence. The CERV program, the master’s project for English, is one area in the growing field of Equine Assisted Activities and Therapies. “To be able to watch these individuals discover hope and renew belief in themselves and be able to reintegrate in their community was just beyond description,” says English, now an MTSU instructor. “Horses are like mirrors; they respond to a person's body language. In this, the horse becomes an instant 'bio-feedback' machine, enabling the participant to recognize behaviors or emotions that are dwelling beneath the surface.” The horses utilized for CERV, including Major, Dollar, Jay-R, and Harley, also compete and are used in MTSU equine classes. (Photo by Angel Pardue)

MTSU students teach horsemanship clinics in Europe

MTSU students teach horsemanship clinics in Europe

Horse Science graduate students Helen Hardy, Ariel Herrin and Andrea (Smith) Rego conducted international horsemanship clinics in Europe in summer 2015 after MTSU won a grant from the American Quarter Horse Association. Dr. Holly Spooner, director of the Horse Science master’s program, headed up the overseas trip that also included undergraduates Seneca Ewing and Delaney Rostad. “The chance to travel to these countries and see other parts of the world, all while spreading my passion of the American Quarter Horse, is without a doubt the experience of a lifetime," says Herrin, a 2014 world champion. The Middle Tennessee State University students expanded their teaching and horsemanship skills while meeting new friends in Sweden and England, Spooner says. "We definitely learned that the language of horses is universal,” Rego says. Hardy says she learned from both participants and fellow clinicians: "I am so fortunate to have gained a unique perspective on the international industry that have benefitted me as an instructor and rider."

A wide variety of careers are associated with the horse industry. A student’s talent may pertain directly to horses or to science, education, marketing, management, or business. Some potential career options with advanced degrees in Horse Science follow:

  • Collegiate horsemanship instructor or equestrian team coach
  • Community college or technical school instructor
  • Equine behaviorist
  • Equine exercise physiologist
  • Equine facilities manager
  • Equine nutritionist, equine feed specialist, or nutrition laboratory technician
  • Equine reproductive physiologist
  • Horse extension specialist or extension agent
  • Instructor or program coordinator of therapeutic riding and equine-assisted therapies
  • Journalist for major horse publications (breed or discipline-specific magazines)
  • Pasture management specialist
  • Pharmaceutical representative for equine products
  • University instructor or teaching professor specializing in horses

Employers of MTSU alumni

This information is still being compiled since the Horse Science M.S. program is relatively new.


The Master of Science in Horse Science is offered with three concentrations:

  • Equine Education includes interdisciplinary courses in coaching and sports management to strengthen knowledge for careers as collegiate riding instructors, equestrian team coaches, horse judging team coaches, or agents for the Cooperative Extension Service.
  • Equine Physiology emphasizes an interdisciplinary, science-based curriculum structured to build knowledge of scientific principles and apply these principles to a thesis research project related to equine science. Students successfully completing the concentration are prepared for admission into an animal science or equine science Ph.D. program. Students entering this concentration must have a strong foundation in undergraduate biology and chemistry, including organic chemistry.
  • Industry Management allows students to complete interdisciplinary courses in business management, marketing, and/or sports management to tailor their curriculum for specific industry-related careers.

Equine Education or Industry Management students may choose a research-based thesis or a non-thesis equine experiential learning option. Equine Physiology students must complete a research-based thesis.

The selection procedure is a two-phase process. Based on a review of applications to the M.S. Horse Science program, qualified students are invited for an interview at their expense. Not all applicants are invited for the personal interview.

Horse Science M.S. applicants must have

  • A 3.0 GPA from a minimum of 12 credit hours of upper-division undergraduate horse science and/or animal science courses, or equivalent industry experience as approved by the Horse Science Graduate Committee.
  • Satisfactory Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or Miller Analogies Test (MAT) scores. Successful applicants typically have GRE Verbal and Quantitative scores exceeding 146 and 140 respectively (current scale) or 400 each (former scale), with a total combined score that exceeds 286 (current scale) or 800 (former scale), or a score above 385 on the MAT.

Application deadlines are April 15 (Summer or Fall admission) and Oct. 1 (Spring admission).

For complete curriculum details, click on the REQUIREMENTS tab above.


Undergraduate students who wish to study Horse Science choose the concentration under the Animal Science major and earn a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree. Other majors in the School of Agribusiness and Agriscience leading to a B.S. are Agribusiness, and Plant and Soil Science.

Undergraduate and graduate minors are available in Agriculture.

Equine Education Equine Physiology Industry Management

Horse Science, Equine Education Concentration, M.S.

Holly Spooner, Program Director
(615) 494-8849

The School of Agribusiness and Agriscience offers the Master of Science (M.S.) in Horse Science, designed to prepare graduates for the multifaceted equine industry. Students may choose one of three concentrations: Equine Education, Equine Physiology, or Industry Management.

Please see undergraduate catalog for information regarding undergraduate programs.

Admission Requirements

Admissions are based on a comprehensive assessment of a candidate's qualifications including Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores or scores on the Miller Analogies Test (MAT), undergraduate and graduate grade point average, letters of recommendation, and a personal interview.

Applicants who do not meet admission requirements but whose overall record indicates the potential for success may be considered for conditional admission. Students admitted conditionally must meet all conditions established by the Horse Science Graduate Committee in order to remain in the program.

Application Procedures

All application materials are to be submitted to the College of Graduate Studies.

The application deadline is April 15 for those wishing to be considered for graduate assistantships and admission in the Summer or Fall. October 1 is the application deadline for admission in the Spring. Applications will be accepted after these dates, but admission consideration is not guaranteed.

Applicant must

  1. submit an application with the appropriate application fee (online at www.mtsu.edu/graduate/apply.php);
  2. submit three letters of recommendation from professors or professionals that address the applicant's potential to successfully complete an M.S. program in Horse Science;
  3. submit official scores on the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or Miller Analogies Test (MAT). Successful applicants typically have GRE Verbal and Quantitative scores exceeding 146 and 140 respectively (current scale) or 400 each (former scale), with a total combined score that exceeds 286 (current scale) or 800 (former scale) or a score above 385 on the MAT;
  4. submit official transcripts of previous college work reflecting a 3.00 GPA from a minimum of 12 credit hours of upper-division, undergraduate animal science and/or equine science courses or equivalent industry experience as approved by the Horse Science Graduate Committee;
  5. submit a letter of intent that addresses the following:
    1. In 500 words or less, applicant should describe his/her horse experience to date (which may include but is not limited to college coursework, club/team involvement, breed/discipline groups, etc.) as well as other experiences which may have impacted the decision to pursue this degree; and
    2. In 500 words or less, applicant should describe future plans and goals as they relate to obtaining an M.S. in Horse Science degree;
  6. after application review, participate in an invited interview with the Horse Science Graduate Committee at the applicant's expense before final acceptance into the program.

Degree Requirements

The Master of Science in Horse Science with a concentration in Equine Education requires completion of a 15-credit-hour core and 21 credit hours in a concentration.

Candidate must

  1. successfully complete a written comprehensive examination (may be taken no more than twice) during the semester in which the candidate intends to graduate;
  2. successfully complete and defend a thesis or equine experiential learning project; students have the option to conduct and complete a traditional research-based thesis project or to select a more contemporary non-thesis option.

All students in the graduate program will be expected to complete a minimum of two consecutive semesters of full-time study in residence at MTSU.

Curriculum: Horse Science, Equine Education

The Equine Education concentration offers a skill set needed to teach and provide instruction at a postsecondary equine program or leadership within the Cooperative Extension Service. Students in the Equine Education concentration have the option to conduct and complete a traditional, research-based thesis project or to select a more contemporary non-thesis option.

Candidate must complete 36 hours in the following course of study:

Core Courses (15 hours)


  • ANSC 5420 - Animal Breeding and Genetics

    3 credit hours

    Basic principles of genetics, heredity, crossbreeding, inbreeding, and molecular genetics. Animal breeding topics include quantitative traits, prediction of breeding value, methods of selection, and genetic evaluations including genomic-enhanced selection. Offered fall only.

  • ABAS 6000 - Research Methods in Agricultural Science

    3 credit hours

    A review of current scientific methods related to experiments in agriculture. Topics include research ethics, welfare of research subjects, literature resources, critical review of scientific literature, experimental design, scientific writing, interpreting data, and data presentation.

  • ABAS 6100 - Graduate Seminar in Agriculture

    1 credit hours

    Seminar presentations target current issues and research advances in agricultural science and production. Presenters include faculty, graduate students, and outside speakers. Active participation in topic discussions emphasized. May be repeated. S/U grading.

  • HORS 6170 - Issues in the Equine Industry

    2 credit hours

    In-depth look at relevant events affecting the equine industry. Interaction with industry leaders provides a unique window to examine the issues affecting the horse industry. Oral and written reports on specific problems presented. Topics will vary depending upon the current issues important to the equine industry.

  • HORS 6440 - Advanced Equine Nutrition

    3 credit hours

    A class in organic chemistry or biochemistry recommended. A biochemical approach to understanding the nutritional requirements for horses at various life stages, including maintenance, growth, reproduction, performance, age, and clinical support. Feeding management related to nutrient digestion, absorption, and metabolism. Current equine nutrition research and its applications to practical equine management emphasized.

  • STAT 6020 - Introduction to Biostatistics

    3 credit hours

    Prerequisite: Introductory probability/statistics course or permission of instructor. Contemporary and medical research methodology for biostatistics. Descriptive and inferential statistics including parametric and nonparametric hypothesis testing methods, sample size, statistical significance and power, survival curve analysis, relative risk, odds ratios, chi square modeling, and analysis of variance. Data will be analyzed using statistical software.

Required Courses (12 hours)


  • HORS 6250 - Coaching and Teaching for Equine Competition

    3 credit hours

    Teaching and coaching successful teams for college or youth equestrian and judging competitions. Utilizes current philosophies of teaching and coaching based on fundamental psychology of personalities and learning. Practice and assisting with teaching and coaching of youth and college teams will be required.

  • LSM 6500 - Legal Issues and Risk Management in Sport and Leisure Services

    3 credit hours

    Understanding the legal basis for management actions, concepts of legal liability including torts, contracts, and constitutional law as applied to sport and leisure services organizations. Emphasis on the ability to plan, develop, and implement risk management programs.

  • HORS 6540 - Equine Experiential Learning  1 to 6 credit hours  (3 credit hours mimimum) OR 

    HORS 6540 - Equine Experiential Learning

    1 to 6 credit hours

    Prerequisite: Completion of 24 semester hours at the master's level. Practical experience gained while working with an equine-related program emphasizing hands-on involvement. Students will develop, implement, and conclude an applied project in consultation with a faculty member and approved by their committee. S/U grading.

  • ABAS 6640 - Thesis Research  1 to 6 credit hours  (3 credit hours minimum) 

    ABAS 6640 - Thesis Research

    1 to 6 credit hours

    Prerequisite: Completion of 24 hours of graduate-level course work. The completion of selected research problem, review of pertinent literature, collection and analysis of data, and preparation of the thesis. S/U grading.

Electives (9 hours)

In consultation with their committees, students must select a minimum 9 hours from graduate-level courses within the College of Basic and Applied Sciences, the College of Behavioral and Health Sciences, and/or the Jones College of Business. Of these, a minimum of 6 hours must be taken from courses with similar content rubrics (i.e., MKT, MGMT, LSM, ABAS, etc.). Students are limited to 3 hours at the 5000 level.

Program Notes

Candidate must

  1. file a degree plan in the College of Graduate Studies prior to entry into the program;
  2. file a Notice of Intent to Graduate form in the College of Graduate Studies within the first two weeks of the term in which candidate intends to graduate.