Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts
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Holding reign

Emily Blanchard ’17 competes in equestrian championship, with help from science course

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Emily Blanchard ’17 (right) in the lab working on her independent study in equine science with Teaching Associate Shari Ackerman-Morris

Emily Blanchard ’17 has earned a spot into a national horse show competition that includes a test on equine science, which she is well prepared for, thanks to independent study with Teaching Associate Shari Ackerman-Morris.

Blanchard, captain and treasurer of Wheaton’s Equestrian Team, is representing the college at the Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association (IHSA) National Championships May 4 through May 7, in Lexington, Ky. A top rider for the team, she qualified to compete in Individual Novice Equitation on the Flat, where riders are individually judged on their effectiveness in communicating with their horse, as well as their posture and appearance. She is also participating in the Teresa L. McDonald IHSA National Challenge, a rigorous, hands-on practicum that tests a wide array of horse knowledge.

Blanchard is one of two college students from New England to qualify for this challenge having a top score on a 15-minute, 50-question quiz on equine science. She will compete against 15 other students from across the United States. The winner will receive a trophy and a cash prize of $1,500.

“Although I am a bit nervous to be competing on such a large scale, I am proud of myself for making it this far, no matter how I place,” she says.

This semester, she has been meeting weekly with Ackerman-Morris, faculty associate in biology, for an independent study on equine science.

“We are going over everything from horse anatomy and conditioning to management and handling,” says Ackerman-Morris, who makes sure the coursework is rigorous.

Last fall, Blanchard approached Ackerman-Morris to ask if she would design an independent study around their shared passion: horses. Ackerman-Morris immediately agreed. “This is a perfect example of how Wheaton lets students explore their interests,” says Ackerman-Morris.

The two met when Ackerman-Morris taught Blanchard’s freshman biology lab. “It didn’t take long for us to discover we are both horsewomen,” says Ackerman-Morris, who owns and shows miniature horses. They have remained in close contact through their involvement in the equestrian team. Morris is the team’s faculty advisor.

“I am so grateful to have her as a resource for equine knowledge on campus,” says Blanchard about her professor.

Blanchard chose Wheaton because of its strong academics and opportunities for internships and research. “The more I learned about Wheaton, the more I knew it was where I wanted to be.” Though she planned to major in biology, Blanchard changed her mind when a friend convinced her to take a business class. “I fell in love with it.” Now a business and management major with a concentration in society and the environment, she is on a pre-physical therapy track program.

Blanchard has explored the medical and business side of physical therapy through two internships at Marathon Physical Therapy and Sports Medicine in Norton, Mass. (Alex McKinney ’94 is the owner/director of services.) The internships led to her current part-time paid position as an exercise and customer service specialist with the practice. She also completed a senior research project on the marketing of equestrian safety equipment.

Looking to the future, Blanchard is keeping her options open, considering careers in physical therapy, business, and alternative veterinary medicine. One thing is certain, however: “I plan to always be involved in horse ownership.”

She currently owns, trains, and competes with Boomer, a thoroughbred gelding she keeps on her family’s farm. Blanchard’s family has been working with horses for generations. Her sister is also an equestrian. Her aunt trains horses and teaches riding lessons. And her father, Jay Blanchard, a Wheaton Public Safety sergeant, has bred, and owned racehorses.

“My mom [Farrar Heard Blanchard ’89] was riding when she was pregnant with me,” Blanchard notes.

Whatever direction she chooses, Ackerman-Morris is confident Blanchard will achieve success. “Emily is the whole package: well spoken, intelligent and outgoing. She has a bright future ahead of her.”

—Mary Howard ’85