Marilyn Randall didn’t put up with any excuses when Rocky Mountain College equestrian students showed up late for early morning chores.
She remembers one student who claimed she didn’t need to be on time to feed horses between 6 and 7 a.m. because she lived out of town.
Randall was the wrong person to tell that to.
Not only did Randall drive in every morning from her home in Bridger, about 60 miles away, she knew how important it was to feed and exercise horses on a regular schedule.
“Part of being in the equestrian program is to know how to regulate your time and be responsible,” she said.
Most of her students have been punctual and hard working, although a few dropped out of the program when they found out how much work – including stable chores – it required.
Randall, 65, recently retired as an associate professor of equestrian studies after 20 years.
She was hired in 1992 as the program’s director who also taught classes.
Preferring teaching to administrative work, she later became a full-time professor.
Her veterinarian husband, Ray, taught in the equestrian program since 1990. He also retired this year from teaching but will continue as a veterinarian for the college and operating his Bridger Veterinary Clinic.
Growing up in northeast Colorado, Randall always loved horses. She finally got one of her own when she was in junior high school.
She went on to Colorado State University in Fort Collins, where she met her husband, who was from Miles City.
After getting a degree in physical education, she went through training at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., to become a registered physical therapist.
In 1973 when the couple moved to Bridger, she began competing in horse shows, mainly riding quarter horses.
The Randalls now have nine quarter horses at their Bridger property.
Long involved in the American Quarter Horse Association, Marilyn Randall is a national director of the organization. She recently was named the group’s Horsewoman of the Year for her service to the association and wider community, an honor she cherishes.
“It was like getting the most valuable player award in the Super Bowl,” she said.
She is the first Montanan ever to receive that recognition.
She also has been an AQHA judge all over the world. This spring, judging has taken her to Hawaii and the Czech Republic.
Randall also worked to have registrations transferred to new owners of quarter horses formerly owned by the Leachman family that were involved in a case alleging animal cruelty.
She taught school in Bridger before joining the equestrian program at Northwest College in Powell, Wyo., for six years.
When she arrived at Rocky, the program, then only a few years old, had about 17 students.
Over the last two decades the program has grown to about 75 students majoring in equestrian studies. Rocky students can choose from among five equestrian options: equine business; equitation (learning to ride correctly) and training; riding instructor; therapeutic riding; and writing.
Horses, once mainly for work, have become a big recreational business that is increasingly more professional, specialized and scientific.
When Randall was growing up, people bought horses and taught themselves how to ride.
“If you can catch that horse you can ride him” was the prevailing attitude, Randall said.
Now parents want their children to learn to ride correctly and safely and will pay trained instructors to do it.
Even buying a horse is more specialized.
“Do you want it for barrel racing, reining or jumping?” Randall asked.
Those trends create job opportunities for equestrian graduates.
Rocky students have gone on to work as horse trainers, stable managers, veterinarians, veterinarian technicians, vet pharmaceutical representatives, breeding managers and journalists.
Some students might double major in equestrian studies and education to become teachers during the winter and work with 4-H horse programs during the summer.
The Rocky program, which draws students from all over the country, has earned more national recognition that makes it easier to place students in internships.
Randall has sent students to internships in Europe, Israel and Australia.
Rocky students also have spent internships in Oklahoma, Florida and Texas with well-known trainers, breeders and rodeo ropers.
Closer to home, business-equestrian majors have had internships at Billings Livestock.
Although Randall is retiring from full-time instruction, she plans to help out with the Rocky program and substitute teach.