U plans enlarged equine program

Emily Ayshford

Unless they smell the manure of the horse barn, many people do not consider the horses at the University.

A new undergraduate program and a $5 million equine center could make equine education and research more visible at the University.

The College of Agricultural, Food and Environmental Sciences unveiled an equine emphasis for its animal science major earlier this year.

The equine program was partially spurred by plans to build an equine center on the University’s St. Paul campus in several years.

The University has already raised $2.3 million for the center, which could cost between $5 million and $6 million, said Trevor Ames, clinical and population sciences chairman in the College of Veterinary Medicine. The college will try to raise the rest of the amount by the end of the 2005 fiscal year, he said.

The center would include clinical space for medicinal programs, an indoor arena for diagnostic evaluations and 50 horse stalls. It would also contain classrooms and laboratories that could be used by the animal science department and the College of Veterinary Medicine, Ames said.

The planned equine center could also benefit the public, Ames said.

For instance, organizations such as the We Can Ride 4-H Club, which provides horseback riding activities for disabled adults and children, could house their horses in the stalls, he said.

The center would also accommodate services for the public, such as testing for cardiac and muscular disorders.

The college’s Large Animal Hospital currently serves about 3,000 animals each year, most of which are horses, Ames said.

“Dedicated facilities would allow us to do a better job of providing a better service to those clients,” he said.

The equine center accelerated plans for an undergraduate program in equine education, said Christie Malazdrewich, equine undergraduate program coordinator.

“The equine center initiative helped make it happen sooner rather than later,” she said.

Although the program’s coursework will not begin until next fall, 10 to 15 students are enrolled in the program and Malazdrewich estimates that number will double by the next school year.

Before the program was introduced, students interested in equine studies had few options, Malazdrewich said.

“They pretty much had to leave the state,” Malazdrewich said.

Minnesota ranks ninth in the country for number of horses, according to a recent University study.

Conducted by economics professor Brian Buhr, the study found that although Minnesota has a high number of horses, the value of the state’s horses is significantly lower than other states.

“Most of our horse population is recreationally oriented,” he said. Recreation horses eat less feed, require fewer amenities and generally bring in less money than horses used for other purposes.

Buhr said the high number of horses in Minnesota could be attributed to the state’s high per capita income, and the value of horses in the metro area is very large and growing.