UNR To Cut Equestrian Program

The University of Nevada, Reno will close its equestrian center next year because of budget cuts, officials said.

The 12-acre facility where horses are boarded and students have
learned to ride and care for the animals is scheduled to close June 30, 2009, officials said.

Established more than 40 years ago, the equestrian center is part of the College of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resources.

"It is a revenue-generating operation, but it does not pay for itself," said Kevin Piper, assistant director of the Nevada Agricultural Experiment Station. "It is supported by state funds in order to keep its doors open."

Piper said "the handful of students" enrolled in the equine science program and who use the center will be able to complete their degrees.

"We will take care of those students in the program now, but it is going to impact the equine sciences option and we will not advise any other students to enter the program," he said.

Jamie Allison, an equine science major at UNR, said students were saddened by the news.

"Everyone kind of was heartbroken, and a lot of girls here started crying," she said.

Allison, 21, also is a member of the Equestrian Center's Intercollegiate Horse Show Team, which competes in Western and English classes in regional and national competitions.

She boards her 5-year-old American warm blood mare, Willowby, at the center.

"I'm paying $450 a month, but some places charge as much as $1,000," Allison said. "They're saying it's an unnecessary program, but it makes money and people learn a lot from horses. A lot of kids come here to learn to ride."

The closing will mean the firing of the center's manager, an administrative faculty position, the assistant, a classified position and three part-time student workers.

If the manager and her assistant leave for new jobs, the center could close before June 30, Piper said.

Katie Dean, a 23-year-old UNR student majoring in environmental science and health, hopes the public will oppose closing the center.

"This is a land-grant university and, as such, it should not be moving away from its agricultural-based teaching mission," said Dean, who boards her thoroughbred at the facility.

Piper said it's always difficult to make decisions such as closing the center, but other programs within the Agricultural Experiment Station are more important in fulfilling the university's core teaching and research missions.

"We basically are going to do everything we can to keep the Equestrian Center open over the next 12 months, and that will be based on what our employees decide to do," he said.

"But we will do everything to make sure those people boarding their horses and students taking lessons will have as smooth a transition as possible."