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Women’s History Month Spotlight: NOVA Student and Jack Kent Cooke Semi-Finalist, Kerri Langhorne is also a Trailblazer and Inventor

NOVA non-traditional student, Kerri Langhorne, exemplifies being #BoldlyNOVA! Recently named a Jack Kent Cooke semi-finalist, Kerri is an inventor, entrepreneur, single mom, an in-demand equine athletic recovery therapist and holder of a patent on a top-of-the-line horse recovery supplement—a patent she wrote herself because she couldn’t afford a lawyer. She has been a speaker for NOVA Stem Week, and she serves as a mentor for other NOVA students.

Kerri is the “whole package’; and she’s all-in on achieving her dream of a doctorate in equine research. She will graduate from NOVA this spring with an A.S. in science.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background:

As a 9-year-old girl in middle school, I finally got my parents to allow me to "take the reins" in fueling my horse obsession and started taking horseback riding lessons. Fast forward ten years, I noticed that these horses were getting injured--like human athletes–as riders and owners put them through the wringer.

I started at NOVA in the early 2000s and was told that my path toward becoming a veterinarian would be too complicated and was pushed to follow a "normal" career path. Two years later, I had to quit college and go back to work to help my parents, who struggled to support my family's needs.

Since college wasn't an option to become a veterinarian, I thought, "What else can I do?" At the time, I saw a newspaper ad for an instructor of horseback riding at Quantico Marine Base. I applied and got the job. Instantly, it was a breath of fresh air to the riding students and I. These riders captured my heart, and I gave them all the knowledge their little minds would absorb. When the 12-week renewal session was due, I had over 95% of the stable riders sign up with me. It was such a rewarding and emotional time to see all these riders dreaming bigger because of me.

Shortly after that, the stables announced they were closing. I quickly brainstormed and took all my savings to build a small barn on my parent's property and figured out how to facilitate these riders and give them somewhere to follow their horse dreams. Though we were a small "backyard" farm, the barn was filled with love, passion, goals and a desire to soar against the naysayers. We became the Royal Stables of Garrisonville in March 2002, growing so large in riders (62 riders in a week and two show teams), and it quickly boomed into a successful business. Throughout all these years spent at the barn, I've learned so many things about myself that have shaped and molded me into the person I am today. In 2005, I bought my heart-horse Bella Luna, who became my best friend, and we achieved greatness together.

I fell in love, got married and had two beautiful boys. After the Iraq war, my last hope to save our marriage was to sell Bella, which I did—sold Bella for "our family" in 2012. It was what "society"

said was the right thing to do. I stopped pursuing my dreams with horses and settled into the mother/wife role.

I eventually filed for divorce in 2013, and at the same time, I received a phone call from Bella's new owner that my dear horse was fighting for her life.

On Nov 12, 2013, my beloved horse, Bella, was dying from stress-induced colic with only seven days to live. Implementing my expertise, I created/invented a recovery supplement, and she outlived the veterinarians’ prognosis by two-and-a-half years.

Veterinarians who knew of Bella asked me, "How on earth was Bella alive and back in the competition arena?" They also asked, "Do you have a patent on your supplement?"

Horses have always been a place of calm and serenity, and it's my life's path to be with them. I wrote, published and received a copyright for the Equine Sports Massage Therapy certification course manual and opened Equi-Pair, repairing your equine athlete in 2016. This was in honor of Bella's passing because I could not break a promise. The promise I made to her in July 2016 in her last moments was that I would be the change in the equine world. I would follow the process of getting a patent and dedicate my life to helping others like her.

There is a silent communication and understanding between horses and humans; it is a partnership that does not have words and is built on an energy level. I have always believed that I understand horses and connect on a level I cannot even explain.

I went to the patent office and was told I needed a lawyer. I did not have the resources at the time to pay a lawyer; so, I started the process to get my recovery supplement patented through the ProSe Office. The ProSe handed me the 612-page document on patent law and rules in writing a patent. My best friend, Serina, got involved in helping write my patent. Together we beat all odds in writing a patent as a civilian, though I was told it was nearly impossible.

On July 13, 2021, with an approval rate of 0.2% of all submitted patents, mine got granted!

What brought you to NOVA?

I finally listened to myself to have more self-love and returned to college. I wish I could go back to my younger self and pursue my dream from the beginning. I am trusting myself and going to college – everyone wants to hear my story. It hasn't been an easy road, to say the least, but it has been rewarding. It's about self-discovery, thinking outside the box, having the courage to follow precisely who I am and what I am here to do during my lifetime.

My father didn't graduate high school, though he made a superior life for our family. He was my biggest cheerleader. I lost my dad in December 2021 to Delta Covid. It's been extremely difficult without him. Now more than ever, I honor him in continuing my educational journey.

What are you studying or plan to study at NOVA?

Returning to college and pursuing my education has been a gratifying experience for my family and me. My children's grades have drastically improved as they see their mom accomplishing greatness. It warms my heart and brings me joy, knowing I am setting a great example to my children. Showing them that with kindness, dedication and perseverance anything is possible. I don't want them to be scared like I was initially. I want them to go after what they want and have the dedication to work.

I was studying to become a veterinarian, but with Professor Cheski's encouragement and her dedication to seeing her students succeed, I officially confirmed my path to focus on equine research with the goal to be a leader in the research field. To start, I will be graduating from NOVA with an associates of science from the Woodbridge campus.

Tell Us About Your Experience at NOVA; ie, professors you've liked and friends you've met.

Dr. Charles Errico, professor of History 121, is truly one of the best at NOVA. Professor Errico encouraged me to research my family history, so I did! I found out William Langhorne – my eighth great grandfather was in the House of Burgess, and he stood beside Patrick Henry as he said in his famous speech, 'give me liberty or give me death.' My 10th great grandfather, Henry Cary, was the contractor of the Governor's palace, The Wren Building and the capitol building in Colonial Williamsburg and the College of William & Mary. Professor Errico's passion for history was contagious and truly a gem of NOVA.

What would you tell a student coming to NOVA?

I would tell them to not listen to naysayers, as success lies within your heart's desires. If you desire something and are passionate about it, go after it, as failure is a part of success. And remember, just because someone says you can't do something, it's only because they see a reflection of who they are and tell you their limitations, not yours!

Where do you see yourself after NOVA or what career pursuits are you exploring?

I have applied to Yale, Cornell, William & Mary and will apply to Texas A&M for their research programs to obtain my bachelor's. I am so excited!

I will most likely continue to work with horses while pursuing my education toward a Ph.D. in equine research.

How do you feel about graduation?

I am excited. I really am. Graduation marks another step toward completing my goals. And it is another piece of encouragement to keep moving forward. This is a part of having my dreams come true. I get to stand up and say, "I did it." I got the nearly straight A's, Summa Cum Laude – I can do it.

I have fought against all odds. I lived in poverty, had two kids, am a single mom and I kept going no matter what happened to me. Graduation means so much more than just a piece of paper. Everything I was told that I couldn't or shouldn't do – I did!

Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) is the largest public institution of higher learning in the Commonwealth of Virginia and one of America's largest community colleges. NOVA enrolls nearly 80,000 students at its six campuses in Alexandria, Annandale, Loudoun, Manassas, Springfield (Medical Education Campus) and Woodbridge, through NOVA Online and high school dual enrollment. We offer more than 100 associate degree and certificate programs to help our students reach their academic and professional goals through university transfers and access to the most in-demand careers. At NOVA, we strive to ensure that every student succeeds, every program achieves and every community prospers. For more information about NOVA and its programs or services, visit our website, www.nvcc.eduor call 703.323.3000.