SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
Kentucky Derby day - sorry if we didn't mention that in sports - post time this afternoon, 6:46 Eastern. Midway University - an hour's drive away from Churchill Downs to the east in the Kentucky bluegrass - it's a small school with intense focus on horses. Many of the well-known thoroughbred farms have Midway graduates on staff. NPR's Noah Adams visited.
NOAH ADAMS, BYLINE: Midways started back in 1849. It was called the Kentucky Female Orphan School. Now it's a coed university. And 35 horses are in the fields and barns on campus because 75 students are going after equine management degrees.
(SOUNDBITE OF HORSE NEIGHING)
ALLIE JOHNSON: Horses can just really teach you a lot.
ADAMS: Allie Johnson is ending her sophomore year. She loves to ride Sophie in the indoor arena. Johnson plans to open her own farm to be able to teach kids about horses - certainly those with special needs like autism.
JOHNSON: I love horses. I just get emotional about them because whenever I had a lot going on at home, my horse helped me through a lot of it because I would just always sit in the barn. I was supposed to be in the house after 10 at night. And I would sneak out there and hang out with my horse until like midnight.
(SOUNDBITE OF HORSE NEIGHING)
ADAMS: Over in a busy barn, somebody says here's the first brave guy to sign up for the horse program. His name is Koy Lindsay. He is a rodeo fan and would like to start his own rodeo in Kentucky. Midway makes him think he can do it.
KOY LINDSAY: I did a year - a full year of doing work in the barns, and then now I'm a manager. It's really helped me a lot in my managing techniques and in becoming a better reader.
JANICE HOLLAND: You have to at least be in khakis or dress pants. You do not have to be in a suit.
ADAMS: In a classroom, the professor Janice Holland is helping set up a student presentation. What should they wear? Holland advises barn professional. The students have been making posters for a symposium. Sara Gatchell shows her idea to Beverly Garland.
SARA GATCHELL: It is a comparison of PEMF devices - a breakdown of Cytowave and BioPulse.
BEVERLY GARLAND: OK.
GATCHELL: So it's long.
ADAMS: At a quieter place - one of Midway's barns in the rain - Hannah Waroway does some careful sweeping as an assigned chore. She is a freshman from up near Ann Arbor, Mich.
HANNAH WAROWAY: There's no equine anything in Michigan. I mean, we have Michigan State, but that's really an animal science rather than equine. So down here, I found that they had a very hands-on program. And I'm a very hands-on, kinesthetic learner.
ADAMS: Lately Midway's had equine students from 15 states and South Africa and Zambia. And the school estimates that 80 percent of the current equine students have off-campus jobs. Rene Fossett works 32 hours a week at a thoroughbred farm - sometimes helping with a birth.
RENE FOSSETT: I did get to witness one and help out with cleaning the foul off and everything like that - and tying up the uterus so that it pulls out correctly.
STEPHANIE KEELEY: All right, so we are doing two vaccines and dewormer per horse.
ADAMS: Seven o'clock in the morning, students meet with Stephanie Keeley. She loves planning these classes - real freshman stuff, early in the day. And the idea is hands on the horse.
KEELEY: Remember. When we are giving our injection - kind of fast like you're ripping off a Band-Aid, just - right? Just stick it in. Don't sit there, and - just stick it in, OK. Excellent.
ADAMS: Around this campus, with the barns and the fine spring grass, there's maybe some talk about the Kentucky Derby coming up today. But the true excitement - that's the graduation next Saturday on this campus in Midway, Ky. Noah Adams, NPR News.
(SOUNDBITE OF DUNKAN'S "EUROPE (ORIGINAL MIX)")
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