The horse courses offered at UH Hilo include Horse Production, Fundamentals of Riding, Horse Handling and Practical skills, and Intro to Equine Sports and Careers. All of the horse courses are aimed at giving students hands-on experiences working with large animals. The courses emphasize safe and confident animal handling and horsemanship. These courses prepare students for employment opportunities with farms, ranches, or equestrian centers, or to prepare them for admission into graduate degree programs in the veterinary or animal science fields.

If you are interested in supporting the equine program, please contact Dr. Lissa Tsutsumi (

Picture credits to Nyssa Kushi, Ryan Young, and the CAFNRM staff


The horse facilities include a covered arena which is used to give laboratory demonstrations, riding lessons and other outreach activities such as pony rides and equine-assisted leadership workshops.

Course: 133 Fundamentals of Riding I

Highlight laboratory activity: Posting trot and changing diagonals


Our horses are kept in pastures and brought into the barn for classroom activities. Here, students will do surface anatomy laboratories, first aid, grooming, tacking up and practice their overall horse handling skills.

Course: 353 Horse Production

Highlight laboratory activity: Calculating nutritional requirements of individual horses

Future Activities

Recreational activities involving contact with animals such as horses have long been promoted as constructive and therapeutic for people with physical, intellectual, emotional, and/or learning disabilities. On the physical aspect, working with horses can encourage increased activity levels and foster better posture. On the mental and emotional side, horses can increase self-esteem, assertiveness, and give participants enjoyment as they can create a relationship that is understanding, non-judgmental and based on implementing non-verbal interactions. On the learning side, horses can help participants achieve improved communication skills, understanding of personal space, build trust, foster confidence, independence and have a better understanding of how their actions affect their environment.

1-day workshops will aim to teach participants basic groundwork (unmounted) horse skills and perform tasks and complete obstacle courses. Groundwork includes leading, grooming, round-pen, longe work etc. which has the overall goal of the individual being the leader of their horse. Groundwork must be implemented one step at a time and is a good demonstration that small steps can lead to the larger goal; this concept can then be applied to other learning and life situations. The proposed itinerary for the workshop is as follows: 1) individuals are paired with a horse and learn grooming techniques to establish a relationship, 2) they learn basic groundwork principles of pressure and release, negative and positive reinforcement, and establishing leadership 3) they learn round pen and longe work and compound movements of the horse (multidirectional as opposed to unidirectional) 4) they learn desensitizing techniques and introducing their horse to new stimuli and obstacles 5) the day concludes with completing an obstacle course involve all of the learned skills.