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College Decision Time? SCAD Offers Top-Notch Art and Design Degrees with Equestrian Studies

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Text by Heather Buchanan 

Junior riders can face a heart-wrenching decision when it comes time for college – Do you give up horses to focus on academics? The Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) says you can have it all.

Students can focus on numerous majors in art and design combined with equestrian studies and ride on the SCAD team, which has won more national collegiate championships in the last decade than any other team in the country. Coach Ashley Henry says, “You don’t have to make an either/or choice. Here you can do both and do it successfully and in a really happy environment.” She learned first-hand as a former SCAD student establishing a successful training and jewelry design career. In May, her team will defend their two year-running IHSA National Championship.

Another alumna, accomplished horse portrait artist Julie Ferris, says, “I was able to major in painting and minor in equestrian studies, and there’s no other school that would offer that combination for me.” Ferris found that her equestrian studies informed her artwork. “One class that stands out is Equine Anatomy. I portray horses better because I know them.”

SCAD is also a horse paradise with the Ronald C. Waranch Equestrian Center, a 100-acre facility with paddocks, pastures, beautiful barns and competition areas including a large covered arena. They even have their own vet clinic with stem cell research. Riders can either bring their own horse or have access to top-notch school horses. The ANRC National Collegiate Equitation Championship will be held there April 21– 23rd this year; it’s the second time that SCAD has played host to the event.

Often students who push themselves both in school and in the show ring are torn between their professors and their riding trainers. At SCAD, however, everyone is on the same side. Ferris says, “SCAD sets you up for success. The balance of student and athlete is there. Both sides are integrated within one institution – riding coach and teachers.”

For student Cady Voyer, the goal was to combine photography with horses. Although she didn’t bring her own horse, she says, “You could say I have 60+ horses.” She adds, “My classmates come from different levels of riding, so I’m learning from them as much as I am from my professors.“

Bringing in industry experts for clinics is another major bonus. Voyer comments, “I got to watch Daniel Stewart give a challenging clinic where he taught us about sports psychology and gave us tips about how to stay calm in the ring and focus on proper riding. I rode with Kip Rosenthal and Scot Evans too. We also had a workshop with Lanier Cordell about equine business marketing. That was probably the most influential because it helped me realize where I want my career to go. It also gave me the idea to start an equestrian magazine for SCAD.”

Coach Henry describes the key to her team’s success: “I try to do my best to appeal to every student’s individual style. Art students are visual, and I let them know I’ve been there and can relate to them, ‘Imagine how you hold your paint brush – hold the reins with that same tension.’”

She explains, “Every major can relate to the equestrian world, whether it’s graphic design for an equestrian magazine or industrial design students working with a helmet company. Students also have classes in training, judging, and show management and many go onto a professional career in the industry. We have amazing visiting speakers, networking opportunities and alumni support for their careers.” Imagine having designer Norma Kamali come to campus – she’s slated to give a lecture as part of the university’s annual SCADstyle event in April.

An Instagram-worthy setting certainly adds to the appeal. Coach Henry comments, “Savannah as a location has a beautiful romantic history, and it’s so upbeat and posh. SCAD also has campuses in Atlanta; Hong Kong; and Lacoste, France.”

And with a host of programs from preservation design to fashion to television producing, branded entertainment and interactive design and game development, the future is so bright you definitely will have to wear shades. But keep on the spurs.

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