War Eagle Words Student News


October 2015


By Ellie Isbell, SophOmore/Ag Communications

Ellen Rankins listening to a horse's heart beatGrowing up on a farm made Ellen Rankins understand the importance of hard work- even in the summers. At age nine, Ellen got her first horse. She has been riding and taking care of horses ever since. Growing up in Cussetta, Alabama, just 30 minutes from Auburn, made Ellen briefly consider going to another college to experience something new, but her connection to agriculture made Auburn the perfect choice. She did not have trouble picking her major, equine sciences, thanks to her background. She started volunteering with Storybook Farms, a therapeutic riding center in Opelika in 2004 to fulfill her Girl Scout Bronze Award service project. When she first began volunteering at Storybook, she recorded books on tape to add to their library and helped move and categorize their library as they moved from Auburn to Opelika.  This is not a task one would typically associate with a horse farm, but Ellen explains, “All their horses (and other animals) are named after characters in literature, hence their name and library.”

Even though this was tedious work, Ellen enjoyed her time at Storybook and continued to volunteer with the organization. Over the years her duties branched into a number of different areas including horse care and exercise and helping out with riding lessons.  Her supervisors at Storybook began to recognize her strong work ethic, and in 2012, she obtained her Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship, International (PATH Intl.) riding instructor certification and has been teaching riding lessons ever since.

When Ellen began classes at Auburn, her professors encouraged her to move outside her comfort zone and explore new options. In Orientation to Animal Science, Dr. Dale Coleman stressed to the class that they only had three summers during their college careers and encouraged students to make the most of those semesters. Ellen took this advice to heart. She wasted no time getting plugged in to the industry, and the summer after her freshman year she obtained an internship at Dream Catchers at the Cori Sikich Therapeutic Riding Center in Williamsburg, Virginia. During her time with Dream Catchers, she once again found herself involved with the care and exercise of horses. She also taught riding lessons and assisted with the inclusive summer camp they host. On top of these things, she worked to help update their volunteer training program.

The summer after her sophomore year, Ellen chose to pursue a completely different form of learning.

“The summer I spent here in Auburn was used to start my undergraduate research project and learn about the techniques used in biomechanics research by helping out in the Department of Kinesiology’s sport biomechanics lab,” she explains.

This summer Ellen interned at EQUAL, a therapeutic riding program in Singapore associated with the Equestrian Federation of Singapore.  She was a part of the training and exercise program for the horses owned by the program.  She also taught riding lessons and contributed to staff education while there.

“This was an aspect that was very different from my previous internship,” Ellen says. “The horse industry in Singapore is still small, so the majority of the staff had limited to no horse experience, so I had the opportunity to instruct them in horse management and care, as well as provide feedback on their teaching skills and techniques.”

Not only has Ellen experienced productive summers, but she has also utilized her time at Auburn to her advantage. She has served the college as an Ag Ambassador since her sophomore year and currently serves as secretary of the organization. Ellen is also the president of Block and Bridle, a club she has been involved with since her freshman year. Outside of the College of Agriculture, Ellen serves as the student editor for the Auburn University Journal of Undergraduate Scholarship (AUJUS). Through it all, she has remained an active volunteer at Storybook Farm, and to this day she can still be found on the farm mucking stalls or lunging horses. Ellen’s experiences prove that a commitment to hard work and a willingness to serve can take you far in life, all the way from Storybook to Singapore!

Ellie Isbell is a sophomore studying agricultural communications and is originally from Muscle Shoals, Alabama. She is an Ag Ambassador, Auburn Athletics Marketing Department intern and Project Uplift mentor, in addition to being the editor of War Eagle Words.