Former Student Profile: Jessica Leatherwood

Jessica Lucia-editJessica Lucia Leatherwood has been involved with horses since her youth. She gained a strong background in animal science through her involvement in 4-H while growing up in Franklin, Texas, and continued to pursue those interests while earning three degrees in animal science from Texas A&M University. Now as a faculty member at Sam Houston State University, she’s making a career out of her love for horses.

During her time as an undergraduate student in the Department of Animal Science, Leatherwood participated on multiple judging teams, the Stock Horse Team, COALS Council and the Horseman’s Association, to name a few. She also competed for four years as a member and co-captain of a three-time national champion Texas A&M Women’s Equestrian Team.

Due to much encouragement from faculty and peers within the department, Leatherwood chose to continue her education at Texas A&M after graduating with her bachelor’s degree in 2007 by earning her master’s in 2009 and doctorate in 2013.

Leatherwood made the most of her time as a graduate student and earned multiple awards for her talents including the American Quarter Horse Association Young Research Investigator Award in 2013, Ronnie L. Edwards Graduate Teaching Award in 2011, Graduate Research Presentation Competition in 2009 and 2011, and she was a member of the Equine Science Society.

Today, Leatherwood has made a successful transition from student to teacher and works as an Assistant Professor and Equine Science Coordinator at Sam Houston State University.

Here is what Leatherwood has to say about Texas A&M:

Why did you chose to attend Texas A&M and major in animal science?

My love for horses stems from my involvement as a youth in the 4-H extension program. Often times Texas A&M graduate students and faculty participated in multiple horse judging, showing, demonstrations, as well as clinic programs, and it is here that I credit my decision to attend Texas A&M. I can remember participating as a student instructor in the Summer Horsemanship School Program in my local Robertson County 4-H Club and it was hard to imagine at that time the potential impact I could have on each of the youth participants. I also had the opportunity while at Texas A&M to assist with the State 4-H Horse Show as a scribe, again hoping to contribute back to a program that gave me so much. I spent many summers enjoying the Abilene weather in late July.

Explain what you do at your current job?

I am the Equine Science Coordinator for Sam Houston State University which encompasses teaching courses, both traditional classroom lectures and hands-on laboratories, conducting research, and serving in an equine outreach capacity which includes hosting youth equine clinics and contests. Efforts also are placed on coaching a competitive ranch horse and horse judging team, and I oversee the Horsemen’s Association for undergraduate students. I serve as a national advisor for the American Collegiate Horsemen’s Association. Sam Houston and Texas A&M will co-host the American Collegiate Horsemen’s National Convention in March.

In addition, I oversee nearly 100 equine science minors at Sam Houston and escort students to the AQHA International Horsemanship Camp each year. This summer, I will travel with the undergraduate students to Germany, Switzerland and Slovenia, a program I originally participated in as an undergraduate student at Texas A&M.

Do you feel your education in animal science has helped you prepare for your career in the equine field? If so, in what ways? 

The Texas A&M Department of Animal Science equine section is the most unique graduate program in the U.S. because it allows students to assist and teach behavior and training labs and traditional classroom lectures, conduct large-scale research projects, utilize current laboratory technologies, and become involved in outreach programs. I also had the opportunity to participate in the Parsons Mounted Cavalry and interact with Bob Byrns, site manager. This group provided me with the ability to develop equitation lesson plans, gain herd management experience, and develop teaching skills for persons interested in riding with limited previous experience. I also enjoyed traveling across the state with this large, visual equine mounted unit and, of course, riding through campus and participating in football game-day operations.

As the chair of my graduate committee, Dr. Josie Coverdale encouraged her graduate students to become involved in teaching and outreach programs, to gain research experience across species, and to assist other graduate students with their research endeavors. She also allowed me to participate in the grant writing process, and I was fortunate to receive a H. Patricia Link-Quasi Endowment grant. All of these experiences were invaluable when preparing for my current faculty position at Sam Houston.


For more information regarding news from the Department of Animal Science, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Texas A&M University, please contact Courtney Coufal at or (979) 845-1542.

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