Hear the conversation 34:14 – 19.6 mb mp3
Paula Hitzler loved horses while growing up in Pinckney, Michigan. In fact, her mother would say that Paula could whinny before she could talk. “I begged my parents as a child to get me a horse. And it was always ‘no, we live in the city, maybe one day when we move to the country we’ll get you a horse.’”
After eventually moving to the country, Hitzler held that promise over her dad’s head and the result? “He bought me a $360 pony with a saddle and that’s how it all began at the age of nine.”
According to Paula, there are several things today’s kids miss out on by not growing up around horses. “Horses teach children a lot of things—responsibility, compassion, patience, tolerance—so a lot of really important life skills.”
As a Spartan with a degree in animal husbandry, Hitzler manages the Michigan State University Horse Teaching and Research Center. “It is the third oldest consecutive Arabian breeding program in the country. We’ve been breeding Arabian horses at MSU since the late 1930’s. It’s really, really grown a lot as far as the quality of the horses and the ability to use these Arabian horses to teach the next generation of equine industry leaders.”
What does Paula like best about working with equines? “I like to walk through the barn when it’s quiet and no one is here on a Saturday evening and you open the door and they’re all nickering to you. I love the smell of them. I don’t even mind cleaning stalls. I like to look at them. I like to figure out how they think—so from a teaching aspect, kind of like teaching a child. So it’s kind of interesting to try to teach them skills, whether it’s under saddle or in hand, and watch them go through the thought process.”
What does Paula Hitzler love about MSU? “I like the diversity. Everything from the FRIB—to the swine farm—to the fact that we have cattle and horses and sheep—to the fact that we have a good law school and business school, and from an educational perspective it’s very diverse. I like the sports—the sports is okay, too.”
Ehmpressions of MSU is a podcast devoted to all things Michigan State University produced by Kraig Ehm.