Penn State has a trove of prominent animals that rove its campus: the Nittany Lion, Sneezy the Squirrel, and the ducks in the Hintz Family Alumni Center pond are the most famous and the first that come to mind. But it’s the oft overlooked Penn State horses whose existence here may be the most threatened.
Unbeknownst to many students, there’s a horse farm within walking distance of campus that houses approximately sixty Quarter Horses. The facility is supported by the Ward Studebaker Horse Farm Endowment, named in 2000 after the former farm manager.
According to Taylor Shears, the sophomore who’s in charge of running the endowment for the Collegiate Horseman’s Association at Penn State, the fund was set up exclusively to provide financial support for the horse farm.
“The Penn State horse farm allows students and faculty of the Department of Animal Science to have a hands on experience,” said Shears.
But with recent budget cuts, and a dwindling endowment, the future of Penn State’s prized horses is in jeopardy.
According to Shears, few universities in the country have such a comprehensive and applied opportunity for students interested in equine studies. Every April, students organize, plan, and run a Quarter Horse sale, which draws bidders from across the country.
“The sale allows students to have a real world experience working with the horses, advertising, and even getting experience in the equine industry,” said Shears.
Constant equine research is conducted in the farm, mostly by undergraduates. According to Shears, the barn furthers research not just throughout the university, but throughout the industry.
“Growth of this fund would allow for this long-term sustainability,” she said. “The horse farms are a crucial part of the University in endless ways and we want to make sure they remain here.”
Along with conventional fundraising methods, students will have the option of donating their senior class gift money to the Studebaker Endowment. The 1949 Livestock Improvement Act led to increased funding towards and emphasis in equine activities. Led by coordinator Elmer Taft, the university purchased notable mares such as Quaker Lady, who would be queened champion model at the National Morgan Horse Show multiple times.
The Quarter Horse is the current breed of emphasis for Penn State researchers. It’s a popular horse and the one most used in national breeding shows. However, horses of all types are engrained in the history of the university. Draft horses, whose former stables were centrally located on campus, carried administrators and guests to campus functions while providing recreation for students.
The 1949 Livestock Improvement Act led to increased funding toward and emphasis in equine activities. Led by coordinator Elmer Taft, the university purchased notable mares such as Quaker Lady, who would be queened champion model at the National Morgan Horse Show multiple times.
These marvelous annimals led to success for the students who worked with them. 1981’s Horse Judging Team became world champions at an event in Oklahoma City. A year later, a different student became the World Champion Performance Horse Judge.
And this history, according to Shears, is one important to preserve, and expand.
“The Penn State horse farm is continuing to grow,” said Shears. “It’s extremely important to make sure this fund continues to grow…It is important for the farm to become a self-sustaining facility in the future.”
Here’s more information on how to donate. You never know when two of Penn State’s favorite animals could meet…