Penn State Horse Training Class, Brian Egan

Brian Egan, Instructor of Equine Science at Penn State, shows students how to hold reins during horse training class at Snider Agricultural Arena on Tuesday, March 27, 2018.

Penn State’s equine science program will hold the 18th annual Penn State Equine Science Showcase and Quarter Horse Sale later this month — but in a very different format than in previous years.

Due to Penn State's remote learning period, the horse sale will now operate through an online auction with the help of Professional Horse Services LLC. Bidding will open on April 27 and conclude on May 2. The weeklong bidding will be available to anyone through the Penn State Quarter Horse Sale website.

Brian Egan, the College of Agricultural Science’s equine science instructor and horse farm coordinator, helps plan the annual showcase.

“This event was created to give the students an opportunity to learn about equine marketing while planning and running a real life quarter horse sale each spring,” Egan said. “It includes the demonstration of the sale horses by our students and the actual sale of the horses raised on our farm.”

Egan said that since the auction generally only sells between 12-15 horses, the event is made into a daylong showcase of Penn State’s entire Equine Science Program.

This year, however, attendees will be missing out on key aspects of the event, such as getting to see the program’s students at work, touring the farm, hearing from various undergraduate clubs and seeing the horses.

“Perhaps most importantly, attendees will miss out on the social aspect of coming to campus and visiting with friends and other horse enthusiasts,” Egan said. “This weekend is often a big alumni weekend where they can come back to campus and see what changes are being made while visiting with fellow alum.”

Attendees also won’t have access to the silent auction, which benefits the Ward Studebaker Horse Farm Endowment.

“We will miss the excitement and competition of bidding in a live situation which may hold prices down,” Egan said. “It is difficult to tell how the finances will work with the online auction.”

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Egan said it’s possible some may be hesitant to bid online for a horse they aren’t able to see in person, which may drive down the overall sales.

He also pointed out, however, that the online format of the event may actually increase the event’s visibility to a national audience.

Regardless of the financial aspect, Egan said this event is already a success due to the hard work and flexibility of students adjusting to a totally different sales method.

“I believe that in the end, this will be a benefit to a percentage of our students and introduce them to a marketing method that they may never have been exposed to,” Egan said. “Our student’s ability to change on the fly and move forward the best way possible helps to show that we can continue to move forward even in difficult times.”

Scarlett Loya is one of the sales managers for the horse sale and is a student live-in at the horse barns on campus. She’s also the current president of the Collegiate Horsemen’s Association at Penn State.

Loya (senior-animal science) described the Equine Showcase and Quarter Horse Sale as her favorite event throughout her time at Penn State. Now a senior, Loya will be enjoying this year’s showcase in a very different way.

“Over the years, you begin to look forward to this sale not only to showcase our program, but to communicate with attendees from the equine community and network with industry professionals,” Loya said. “Being my final year working with the sale, I’ll miss not being able to have those face to face connections this year.”

Loya reminisced on previous showcases, which she described as having upwards of 450 attendees.

“The most exciting part of the day is the auction where everyone gathers around the auction block in anticipation to see what happens to the horses they worked with and learned about all semester,” Loya said. “Instead, we’ll be gathering on our computer screens to see how our horses sell.”

Loya is one of the students who has worked toward making this event possible amid the coronavirus outbreak. She is part of the equine marketing class which runs the live sale and said she and her peers have had to learn new marketing techniques to plan this year’s online auction.

Horse Barn

Horses graze outside the main barn of the Penn State equine facilities, which are located behind Beaver Stadium on Park Avenue.

Although the situation may not be ideal, Loya said gaining these new skills has taught her valuable lessons that will benefit not only herself, but also the program as a whole.

“Marketing our horses online via an online auction has opened the doors to new clients and new relationships across the country,” Loya said.

Emma Murgas is also in the equine marketing class and has had to adjust to new marketing methods for the online auction as well, which she said has been a valuable experience.

“The effects of the coronavirus present an opportunity for this event to reach a broader range of people and grow in new ways,” Murgas (sophomore-animal science) said. “I’m excited to continue moving along with the sale as planned and see it’s success in May.”

After attending the event in 2019, Murgas said she’ll miss the social aspect of seeing all of the students come together to put their work on display.

Although physical interaction won’t be a part of this year’s event, Murgas said her class has been utilizing Zoom to interact with each other prior to the showcase and said they are making the best out of a difficult situation.

“I think it provides valuable insight on how we continue to come together as a community and learn from our experiences even as hardships continue,” Murgas said.

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