Lifelong equine wellness educator honored for leadership and innovation
Gayle Ecker, director of Equine Guelph, was named the recipient of the 14th annual Equine Industry Vision Award. Zoetis, in partnership with American Horse Publications (AHP), presented the award to Ecker at the AHP Seminar in San Antonio, Texas, on June 19, 2015.
The Equine Industry Vision Award is the first major award to showcase innovation across the equine industry. Established and sponsored by Zoetis, the prestigious award recognizes ingenuity and service, and it serves to inspire those qualities in others.
“We are proud to recognize Gayle for her heartfelt work in connecting people, especially youth, with horses,” said Kate Russo, equine biologicals marketing manager, Zoetis. “Gayle’s passion for utilizing science-based knowledge to educate people on the health of horses is unmatched. Zoetis is proud to present her with an award to recognize her lifelong commitment to advancing the equine industry.”
Ecker is director of Equine Guelph, which she has led since its inception in 2003. The center at the University of Guelph in Guelph, Ontario, Canada, supports the health and well-being of horses through education, research, health care promotion and industry development. It is supported and overseen by equine industry groups.
Ecker was instrumental in the creation of the center by writing the grant that led to the development of its education and communications programs. She was a pioneer in online education. In 2002, she established a first-of-its kind educational approach that provides virtual learning pathways for career development in the equine industry. She also serves as an instructor for the program.
She also led the development of Equine Guelph’s youth exhibit, EquiMania!, which features interactive stations that teach young horse enthusiasts about equine safety and wellness. The exhibit first appeared at the 2005 Can-Am All Breeds Equine Expo and also has traveled to the 2010 World Equestrian Games™ in Lexington, Kentucky, and the Minnesota State Fair. Each year, Ecker and her team improve the exhibit with up to 25% new materials based on attendee feedback.
“I am so grateful for the opportunity to be recognized,” Ecker said. “My passion is truly my students — seeing their thirst for knowledge and knowing the time I invest will be tenfold when they go out and make a difference.”
As a former researcher, Ecker’s expertise is in exercise physiology. She has been the assistant chef d’equipe for the Canadian Endurance Team, traveling around the globe to support the team at international events, such as the Pan American Games, the World Equestrian Games and World Endurance Championships. These days, Ecker enjoys trail riding aboard her two quarter horses.
Ecker also was named to the Can-Am All Breeds Equine Expo Hall of Fame in 2014, when she received the Builder Award. In 2010, she received the Readers’ Choice Award in the exceptional equestrian category from the Horse Journal. Ecker also was named one of the top 15 horse people of the year by Western Horse Review in 2008.
Other finalists for this year’s Equine Industry Vision Award included: the EQUUS Foundation, a charitable foundation that provides financial support and service to equine charities across the United States; Jim McGarvey, chairman of the board for Back Country Horsemen of America; and Juli S. Thorson, editor-at-large for Horse & Rider.