Rogers State Delays Start Of Horse Riding Program

Monday, September 14th 2009, 6:25 pm
By: News On 6

By Tara Vreeland, The News On 6

CLAREMORE, OK -- Rogers State University is trying to get their Therapeutic Horse Riding Program back up and running. The classes will not start on Tuesday as originally scheduled.  Rogers State University says that over the summer they lost several staff members, including the interim director. They say they want to have ample staff before classes begin.

With 80 students, more than 75 volunteers and 20 horses, the Bit by Bit Program at Rogers State University is thriving and growing.

 "It's probably one of the most rewarding and humbling jobs a person could have," said Bit by Bit Equine Manager Pam Switala.

However, volunteers say the work can be overwhelming. They say the program is understaffed and their voices are not being heard by the university's leadership.

The program's interim director sent a letter to the Rogers State University's Vice President Dr. Ray Brown last month.  In the letter, Trista Milliman wrote that the program had grown and required more help. Milliman went on to say she would resign if another part-time instructor was not hired. Now, Milliman is no longer with the Bit by Bit Program.

"Just let the past lay. And, it's a new start and a new beginning," said Bit by Bit Equine Manager Pam Switala.

A new director is moving in from Michigan.  Jennifer England will start the end of September. England is a certified therapeutic riding instructor.

"The unique thing about Jennifer is that she has both experience in equine therapy and higher education," said RSU's Brent Ortolani.

But, the riding classes will start about a month later than originally scheduled.

"We will add extra weeks onto our classes at the end of the year. So, we won't have a shortened class semester.  We'll have the same number of classes this year," said RSU's Brent Ortolani.

Volunteers say the new director will be an asset to the program, but will only bandage the core issues of being understaffed. However, the university says it's time to move forward.

"The program is important to the university. We see it as a community service and it's something that we are absolutely committed to," said RSU's Brent Ortolani.    

Classes will start October 12th.

Learn more about the Bit by Bit program.