University of Minnesota at Crookston

This month’s aftercare spotlight focuses on a different type of program, the Equine Science program at the University of Minnesota at Crookston. I was able to speak with Jonathon Holland to learn more about this program and its relationship with Thoroughbred racing.

MPK: Tell me a little bit about this program.

JH: We offer an Equine Science major and an Equine Science Pre-vet major. In the fall of 2020 we will begin offering an Equine Business Management major.

MPK: Can you tell me about the history of the Equine Science program?

JH: Our program has been in existence since 1972. It is well known in the area. We started out with a thoroughbred focus. Over time the program focus moved away from thoroughbreds. More recently we have been looking for ways to partner with the horse industry to better utilize the campus and give students better connections in the industry. We started talks a couple years ago with the racing commission to have that relationship. 

In these discussion we learned that the racing commission had needs as well, such as young, vibrant workers. We talked about the Minnesota-bred program. We always brought in outside mares to foal for a hands-on experience for the students. Utilizing the Minnesota-bred program, we could provide an asset to both the industry and students. We currently have six mares booked for this year.

During foaling we have students and staff at the barn around the clock, watching for signs of labor, assisting during foaling, and caring for the mares and foals in general. 

MPK: How are off track thoroughbreds (OTTBs) involved in your program?

JH: One of the classes in the curriculum is a training and showing class. We bring in outside horses for the students to ride and train. We also bring in unbroken horses as well. The students are responsible for training and care. We have had several OTTBs brought in for that program. We have a few OTTBs in our riding program as well. Our hope with our new relationship with Canterbury Park is that we could bring in more OTTBs. This initiative is a two-fold experience: (1) an introduction to the racing industry, (2) experience with retraining and rehoming. We hope to do more with that. We are working to expand our facilities so we can take more OTTBs. Part of the program is funded by training and showing. Horse owners pay $375 per month to board the horses here, and the horses can stay for the semester. Those owners take their horses home at the end of the semester. We would like to rehome these OTTBs in the future. We also would want to keep some horses for our school programs. 

MPK: What other school programs do you offer?
JH: We have a Women’s IHSA and NCAA Hunter Seat and Western team.

MPK: Do you work with any other groups?

JH: We have been working with another racetrack, Running Aces Racetrack, which has harness racing. The track veterinarian is an alumna of University of Minnesota. As of last semester, we also had a standardbred off track horse. 

MPK: How big is your Equine Science program?

JH: We have 72 students in the program currently. The total enrollment at Crookston is 1,800. However, of those 1,800 students, 1,000 are online. With 800 students on campus, the Equine Science program students make up a tenth of the campus population. 

MPK: What made your program consider working with OTTBs?

JH: We know the value of an OTTB. They can become hunters, jumpers, westerns. We know that OTTBs are capable of those roles. We look forward to showing the public how much the OTTB can do and therefore see the value of the program.

MPK: If people want to learn more about your program or assist in some way, what should they do?JH: If you go to the University of Minnesota at Crookston website (, you can find the Equine Science program (or click here). You also can contact Nicky Overgaard by email at For us donations can come in many forms, including horses, tack, equipment, monetary, and more.