The faint sounds of whinnies fill the air as I get out of my car and start walking toward a mare and her foal – it’s just another typical morning at the amazing Cal Poly Horse Unit. Amidst the hustle and bustle of Cal Poly’s campus, dozens of mares and foals are peacefully grazing on green spring grass. While the rest of campus is abuzz with busy students going to and from class, the Cal Poly Horse Unit offers a peaceful sense of isolation.
Dated Facility Gets a Much-Needed Facelift
The horse unit sits atop a hill on the northwestern end of campus, where students can participate in a number of horse-related classes, enterprises, and clubs. From mares with foals, to eager Cal Poly bred two-year-olds and impressive stallions, the horse unit has had so much to offer its students over the years. However, with dated facilities, the unit was in need of a face-lift. Thankfully, Peter and Beth Oppenheimer, long-time Cal Poly supporters, donated $20 million to Cal Poly in 2014. The money was to be used to completely renovate the Cal Poly Horse Unit, and as I walk around the new unit, I find the results to be truly awe-inspiring.
The renovations began this past summer, and they include a new foaling barn, stallion barn, additions to an existing hay barn, but the most anticipated is the brand new 60,000 square foot covered riding arena. Attached to the new riding arena are several spacious round pens for more individualized work, and holding pens for cattle. New rubberized walkways are also seen throughout, offering a safer alternative to asphalt.
Additionally, lighting has been added all across the unit – as a student who often had to feed in the dark, this is a much-needed addition. It safer for the students and safer for the animals. Restrooms and drinking fountains have also been dotted around the unit, making for a more convenient and pleasurable experience for students.
How the New Cal Poly Horse Unit Impacts Students
Alice Von Staden, a horse-unit employee and animal science student, is especially excited about the new renovations to Cal Poly’s Horse Unit. She says, “All of the barn and pasture changes will make the facility easier to maintain and more enjoyable to work at, too.” She thinks that the arena is, “the most impactful and exciting change to the unit, [allowing] for riding classes and teams to have a better overall experience.”
Megan Riddle, a student trainer in the Quarter Horse Enterprise is also very enthusiastic about the renovations. She said, “All the construction has been great desensitizing for these young horses! All the sounds, vehicles and movement have been great for these animals to learn to be comfortable around, because of that they will all be very confident riding horses.”
Enables Students to Reach for Their Equestrian Dreams
“Cal Poly students can reach deeper into the equestrian world by planning shows, expos, anything you can think of with this facility, and have the opportunity to learn from all kinds of horsemen,” Megan continued, “As students, we have everything we need for every discipline and equine personality to be safe and comfortable working.”
Lastly, she told me, “I think the new facility will allow Cal Poly students to truly reach for their equestrian dreams, be it learning to start young horses, improving their horsemanship, participating in equestrian showing, or even just learning how to ride for the first time.”
Come See the New Cal Poly Horse Unit
The new Cal Poly Horse Unit, officially known as the Oppenheimer Family Equine Center, will be unveiled Friday June 1, 2018 with an open house and will include food, drinks, a live band, barn tours, and horse demonstrations. The next day will be the always anticipated Performance Horse Sale, where Cal Poly bred and student-trained two-year-old performance horses will be shown and auctioned.
Both events are open to the public, so make sure to come and enjoy the new and improved Cal Poly Horse Unit and all it has to offer Cal Poly students and the equestrian community!
Photo Credit: Chanel Jensen