Equine Guelph: An Online Portal to Unlimited Possibilities
Story by: Anya Barradas, Ontario Veterinary College
Students and faculty from more than 40 countries around the world form the foundation of Equine Guelph’s online community. Regardless of their academic backgrounds, their goals or their reasons for enrolling, students from different walks of life can adapt the courses to their specific needs and interests. What happens after completing the courses, well…. read for yourself.
Six years ago, ecologist and primatologist Cynthia Naydani was searching for a way to reintroduce horses back into her everyday life. A lifelong equestrian, in her youth she planned to become an equine veterinarian, but as an undergraduate at the University of Calgary she discovered that she didn’t love anatomy and changed her career path. After completing two honours degrees, in ecology and primatology, she spent over a decade travelling the world, studying primates in Belize and later owning a scuba diving school and yoga studio on a tiny island in the Gulf of Thailand.
Passionate about preserving the environment and advocating for the welfare of animals, Naydani wanted to continue her studies and make an even bigger impact. At the same time, she pined for the beloved horses she grew up with in Calgary.
“I wanted to learn more, in an academic context, from a reputable institution of higher learning,” shares Naydani. “I just thought that would be the perfect way to keep horses with me no matter where in the world I was and regardless of the fact that I couldn’t physically ride or have horses where I lived, though I was fortunately able to travel frequently to ride in different parts of the world.”
Building a solid foundation
Online courses from Equine Guelph proved to be the solution she was searching for. “It’s not just an online classroom, it’s really an online community, which gave me a way to connect with people like me, who loved horses,” says Naydani. “Connecting with people from all over the world and having that foundation allowed me to amalgamate my love of learning with my love of horses in a way that was very accessible.”
Connecting animal welfare, environmental preservation and horses
Throughout her courses at Equine Guelph, Naydani found connections between equine welfare and what she was already practicing in Belize and Thailand.
“The courses really emphasize welfare throughout. It’s always been my motivation when I work with animals to drive towards improving their welfare. All of the courses, from Equine Functional Anatomy, to Equine Nutrition, to the Equine Welfare course, had underpinnings of welfare throughout, which has made them all very impactful to me,” she says.
The Stewardship of the Equine Environment course, which Naydani took and now co-facilitates at Equine Guelph, introduces students to the One Health approach.
“In the Stewardship of the Equine Environment course that I work on with Susan Raymond, we teach a lot about the One Health concept, which is that the health of people, the planet and animals are all very inextricably linked. In order to take good care of the planet, we need to take good care of our animals and that in turn means that we will be well taken care of,” Naydani explains.
Spreading the knowledge
After earning her Equine Science Certificate and a Diploma in Equine Studies, Naydani went on to complete postgraduate studies at the University of Edinburgh and Scotland’s Rural College, where she is currently conducting research on welfare impacts of alternative equine management systems. At UoE’s Global Academy of Agriculture and Food Systems, she is also developing a course that will empower individuals working with livestock to employ data science to improve the health and welfare of their animals.
“Sometimes change can feel quite overwhelming. Equestrianism and farming are both quite traditional sectors, where the way things have been done is often the way things continue to be done, and it can be difficult to find the opportunity to embrace new ways of thinking, which is not to say that the older ways shouldn’t continue. It’s simply to amalgamate new and old ways together. You know, to evolve,” says Naydani.
Evolving is exactly what Naydani herself had to do in order to navigate a winding career path, reaping the rewards and having horses back in her daily life once again.
Naydani says, “Life is not a linear path for a lot of people; myself included. Sometimes we fall away from things that we love, whether that’s academia, whether that’s horses – sometimes life takes us in different directions. But it’s genuinely never too late to make a change, and sometimes it’s quite scary. Sometimes it involves taking a big risk, but that opportunity is always there at the end of the day.”