Horse lovers celebrate future Equine Center

by Yelena Kibasova

Horse lovers trotted Tuesday to the St. Paul campus to take carriage rides, get photos with a well-known horse and listen to keynote speakers.

The afternoon event was a celebration of the future Equine Center, which will begin construction in 2006, and feature equine education, research and services.

“The event was to thank our donors for all of their support,” said Stephanie Valberg, director of the Equine Center and professor at the College of Veterinary Medicine.

Valberg said the event would “let everyone know that’s been involved in the center over the years that it is a reality and that we’ve made great progress with our fundraising.”

Attendees enjoyed a complimentary Famous Dave’s buffet while listening to speakers.

Minnesota Public Radio’s Cathy Wurzer was the master of ceremonies for the event.

Wurzer said she has “the horse gene.” She came to the University when her horse Matt became lame, and continues to support their efforts.

Jeffrey Klausner, the dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine, spoke about the impact that the new center will have on the college.

“We have to have great facilities here to attract star faculty. That’s why the Equine Center is so important,” Klausner said.

Listeners took carriage rides to the center’s location and photos with Hercules, a Belgian draft horse.

“Hercules lives in our hospital and he acts as a (universal) blood donor,” Valberg said. “So when we have horses that need blood transfusions, he’s such a big guy he can feel free to donate a few liters and it doesn’t do him any harm.”

Visitors got brochures and packets in the tents and made donations to the center.

The Equine Center will be built by Rafferty Rafferty Tollefson of St. Paul, together with Gralla Architects, and will cost $12 million.

The University equine faculty currently carries out its work at the Large Animal Hospital, but has outgrown the facility.

“We are particularly excited about this because many of us have worked here in the current facility for 10 years or more and it was built in 1950 and updated in 1980,” Valberg said. “We are tremendously excited at the prospect of having a state-of-the-art center that will match the talents of our faculty here.”

The new facility will allow for better diagnoses of lameness in horses.

When a horse limps for any reason, it is referred to as lameness, Valberg said.

The center will also focus on equine research, undergraduate and graduate education, and will become a home for the local equine community.

Kim Turner, senior health and wellness student and president of the University’s equestrian team, attended the event with other team members.

“We are hoping to be able to use the facility. It’ll be exciting when it’s done,” Turner said. “It’ll be a great place for both teaching and for the community.”