From Passion to Profession: Shelby Embraces Equine Science

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Shelby Dennis’s story is a testament to the power of perseverance and the transformative impact of education. Her journey with Equine Guelph’s Online Science Certificate program and the Roger L’Heureux Tuition Award is a narrative of triumph over traditional expectations and a celebration of lifelong learning.

Pictured with her horse Milo, Shelby Dennis receives the 2023 Roger L’Heureux Memorial Equine Award. Photo by: Carleen Giesler
Pictured with her horse Milo, Shelby Dennis receives her Equine Science Certificate, with distinction. Photo by: Carleen Giesler

The Journey Begins 

Shelby, an Equine Guelph student, was awarded the prestigious 2023 Roger L’Heureux Memorial Equine Award. This honor enabled her to complete her Certificate of Equine Science, with “Management of The Equine Environment” being the final online course in the certificate of six courses.

Challenges Along the Way 

Despite the demands of full-time work and managing a business, Shelby’s commitment never wavered. She tackled her course credits piece by piece, embracing the flexibility of online learning to navigate through the busiest and most challenging periods of her life.

“It definitely was challenging to have to manage so many different aspects of life while trying to complete post-secondary courses but having the option to do it online was extremely helpful and allowed me to make it happen even in the midst of some incredibly busy training years and taxing life situations,” says Dennis.

Gratitude for Support 

Shelby expresses deep gratitude towards the University of Guelph’s Equine Studies Program for their understanding and accommodation of her ADHD. The program’s wealth of information and well-structured courses allowed her to connect with incredible professors who guided her growth and learning.

A New Perspective on Training 

Her studies in equine sciences, particularly in equine behaviour and functional anatomy, have been pivotal in shaping her approach to horse training.

“They’ve helped provide me with clarity and support in coming to the conclusion that a lot of the ‘normal’ expectations people have for horses, in terms of how we expect them to behave and perform, are not reasonable and fair to the horse in many cases,” reflects Dennis.  “For years, I had my suspicions, but I struggled to really assert a stance because of pressures of other professionals in the industry and just how entrenched some traditional perspectives are.  Committing to studying horses from a scientific basis has brought a certain level of freedom because it has given me the confidence to know that I can both learn and unlearn.  That I don’t need the approval of other horse people as much as I need the assurance from the horse and the scientific opinion that seeks to learn from the perspective of the horse.”

Shelby advocates for empathy and ethics, challenging the ‘traditional’ expectations placed on horses and seeking to understand them from a scientific perspective. 

The Path Forward 

With her Equine Science Certificate complete, Shelby looks to the future with a desire to delve deeper into animal behaviour and human psychology.

Dennis currently works as a horse trainer and behaviour consultant and co-founded an equine welfare organization called the Alliance for Horse Welfare in Sport.  They are currently working to help improve equine welfare regulations leading up to the Paris 2024 Olympics which saw Dennis travelling to Paris last September to advocate for competition horse welfare improvements in front of FEI representatives.

Defying Doubt 

Once discouraged from pursuing equine studies, Shelby has proven her detractors wrong. Her success is a reminder to follow one’s passion, regardless of others’ opinions. 

“I had been told by more than one teacher that it was a waste of time and money and that it would never make a viable career,” said Dennis.  “They were wrong.  Don’t let people who don’t know you and what lights your soul afire dictate your path because they may just lead you astray.”

Continued Dedication 

Taking a short break from online studies, but always the student, Shelby has her eye on Equine Guelph’s Genetics course.  This will be the second free course granted as part of the annual Roger L’Heureux Memorial Equine Award.

The story of Shelby Dennis is not just about personal achievement; it’s about the broader impact of education on equine welfare and the industry at large. It’s a story that Equine Guelph proudly shares, illustrating the value of their Online Science Certificate program and the opportunities it creates for passionate individuals like Shelby.

Equine Guelph offers tuition award

Nov 30 is the deadline for entries for the next Roger L’Heureux Memorial Equine Award.