In with the new: UF alum takes on barn manager position

Oxender leads in the Equine program

By Larissa Holmes

After graduating college, most people look beyond their alma mater when looking for a job. But not Luke Oxender. Oxender has returned to The University of Findlay to take up the position of new co-barn manager at the English Farm. Since Jan. 1, he has been fulfilling the duties of the previous barn manager, Brent Marsh, alongside Kelly Mehallow. Marsh stepped down after the birth of his first born daughter.

Oxender graduated from UF in May 2015 with a degree in equestrian studies and equine business management. He then found himself working in Maryland on a 250-acre property serving as facility manager. The dual properties owned by the same person served as both a business and personal barn, one of which specialized in the Eventing discipline within the equine business. While he didn’t have much interaction and care of horses during his brief employment there, he did gain valuable experience in organization and keeping track of the coming and goings of farm life. However, he felt good about coming back to Findlay and to familiar faces.

“I didn’t know anyone very well,” said Oxender, “It was nice coming back to people I knew.”

As co-barn manager, Oxender is responsible for the general care and management of the 130-horse barn made up of a combination of Dressage, Eventing, and Hunter/Jumper horses. He handles first aid treatment of the horses, participates in horse lameness evaluations, and sets up vet and farrier appointments. Oxender is responsible for ordering supplies necessary for the running of the barn and keeping track of medications.

His position requires work with the students, too. He helps supervise the different grade levels as well as doing barn grades for the students.

While still a student, Oxender was part of the English farm’s internship program. Some of the skills he picked up while serving as an intern include learning to work with the materials available, assistance with pre-purchase exams, and training the eye to accurately detect changes in horse’s movement through constant observation of lameness exams. While getting the benefits of a full-time scholarship, the program provided him with valuable experiences that has since translated over into his position as co-barn manager.

“I got a good idea of how a farm was run,” Oxender said, “It was an inside look on a lot of the processes and gave me an idea of how everything worked.”

Oxender’s goals for the position are to improve the overall barn morale and to increase the student comradery among the varying grade levels. For the long-term, he hopes to gain additional experience with horse care and the running of a large-scale facility. After the summer, he plans to return to school to work on his master’s degree.

Since he has only recently graduated, his rapport with several of the students is already well-developed. Erika Monticchio, a junior and intern in the equestrian program, remembers fondly the times she shared with Oxender as a student. She always felt she benefited greatly from his lessons as part of his work as an intern and finds the partnership has translated well into their new positions.

“He has a lot more authority now,” Monticchio said, “I know that if I have questions I can go to him and he will answer them.”

One element he has yet been able to shake, however, is his reputation as being the ‘fix-it guy.’ As a student at UF, if a cooler or blanket needed repairs, or the arena needed to be combed over with the drag, or even if someone needed their body clippers fixed, Oxender was the guy to do it. Now that he is back, it’s not surprising that people are still relying on his craft. Although, now with his added duties and responsibilities as co-barn manager, he finds himself hard pressed to be as dependable and helpful as before, but he still makes the effort to assist when he can.

“Yeah, I still get asked,” he admits. “If I have time I’ll do it.”

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