Last week an anonymous donor committed $2.4 million toward the equestrian center facilities, according to a statement released by President of the college, Shirley Mullen. “Given the importance of this program for Houghton, both in recruitment and in regional connections, this is a welcome gift,” she stated.
According to equestrian program director and professor, Joanne Young, the funds will be put toward a new indoor arena. The current arena, she said, “Is booked so fully that it is extremely difficult to find an hour when it would be available for boarders to ride their own horses, for CHA certified current students to book riding lessons to teach, or for professors to school horses to keep their training level tuned and elevated. Having a second, larger arena will solve that scheduling problem.”
Equestrian student, Savannah Harms ‘17, concurred. “The new ring is really exciting because it will give the equestrians extra space for riding, which means more students will be able to spend more time riding and developing their skills.” The Equestrian program is growing, she said, so the donation is coming “just in time.”
Young said the arena will be 100 feet wide and 245 feet long, with an attached barn that will be 30 feet by 245 feet. This will be much larger than the current 60 foot by 145 foot arena. “The size of the new arena will allow full size competition jumping courses to be set, with a warm-up jump area at one end or a full 20m x 60m dressage competition arena. This will make it possible to prepare students and horses more accurately to train, compete and coach clients,” she stated.
She continued, “With the new indoor arena, we will be able to schedule conferences and clinics without having to worry about how to manage to rearrange regular classes. So we will be able to schedule more events to expand our current students’ equestrian education (which is already ranked nationally as top-notch) that will also draw in more outside spectators, auditors and participants.”
Included in the plans for the arena are solar panels and the possibly of geothermal heat for both the existing and new arenas, said Young. “That would give us a green footprint on the environment,” she said.
Aside from a new arena, the equestrian center will also add new spectator seating, and student storage areas, Young said. “Currently, there are no such storage spaces. So non-equestrians living near equestrians in the dorms get ‘treated’ to traces of horse-barn odor, even when equestrian students keep their boots and riding pants in plastic tote bins or bags,” she noted.
Larissa Strappello ‘08, instructor and Equestrian Center Facilities Manager, said, “The new facility will allow us to expand our services to the local Western New York equine community. Through this expansion it will allow our equine students more networking opportunities and give them that much more real life work experience. We are very excited that the Lord is finally bringing the dream of a new indoor arena to life!”
Mullen noted the project will not incur short or long term debt. “Additionally, the project will include endowment funds to contribute to the long-term sustainability of the entire Equestrian Center. Funds will be committed as they are received. It is our goal to have the project completed prior to the 2018 academic year,” she said.
Vice President for Advancement and External Relations Karl Sisson said, “This is a transformational moment” for the program. “We are highly optimistic that we will receive more donors [following the initial gift], and we already have.”