Writer: D'Lyn Ford
LAS CRUCES - With a tip of the hat to decades of horse-rich tradition, New Mexico State University unveiled its new Equine Education Center at an April 24 grand opening ceremony for supporters, students and faculty.
Students who had yearned for space to stow their saddles and the basic creature comforts of restroom and locker facilities proudly showed visitors through the new center on Stewart Street on the southwest edge of campus.
"I think this is just a tremendous opportunity for our students," said Mark Wise, head of NMSU's animal and range sciences department. "It gives them a home, a place where they can come out of the weather and learn. We're very grateful for all the people who have supported the center and look forward to having a lot more activity in this part of campus."
Construction began June 25, 2002 for the 3,885-square-foot facility, which houses a classroom, tack room, locker rooms and offices for instructors and coaches.
Former state Sen. Fernando Macias, who sponsored legislation to fund the center's construction, toured the tack room with equestrian team member Rachel Rosencrans. Funding for the project came from $100,000 in severance taxes from the state Legislature and $500,000 from a general obligation bond New Mexico voters approved in 2000, supplemented with private donations from supporters.
"Everybody looks to New Mexico State as a leader in horse activities, horse research and horse show teams," said Martha Sayles, a renowned judge and longtime 4-H horse volunteer from Las Cruces. "This facility is just the best thing that could happen to New Mexico State and to the horse program here."
NMSU offers a minor in horse management, with classes in introductory horse science, horse production, applied horsemanship, and Western and English equitation. Even beginners can take riding courses to fulfill physical education requirements.
A colorful display of ribbons, rosettes and trophies showcased the success of NMSU's equestrian team, which won national titles in Western equitation in 1995 and 1998 and a reserve championship in 1997. The university competes in Intercollegiate Horse Show Association events with about 300 member schools nationwide.
During the festivities, junior Megan Duff, one of two riders who will represent NMSU at national competition May 1-4 in Murfreesboro, Tenn., browsed through a team scrapbook. "If everything works out, I'll make the final round at nationals on Sunday, and then return home Monday about three hours before my first final exam," she said.
Duff will represent NMSU in the American Quarter Horse Association high-point rider class. Kristi Gottsponer will compete in four alumni riding events: Western horsemanship, reining, hunt seat flat and over fences.
NMSU's women's rodeo team, which is leading the national standings this year, will look to add to its legacy at the College National Finals Rodeo June 8-14 in Casper, Wyo.
"In fact, the equestrian and women's rodeo titles are the only three national championships that have been won by athletes at New Mexico State University, and so we're very proud that the winners were out of the College of Agriculture and Home Economics," said Jerry Schickedanz, dean of the College of Agriculture and Home Economics..
However, NMSU's hoof dreams don't end with the center's construction.
"My long-term vision for this part of campus is to add an enclosed arena," Schickedanz said. Plans call for a 1,000-seat, totally enclosed arena where equestrian, livestock, 4-H and FFA events could be held on campus. Those interested in the project can contact Barbara Wise, development officer, at (505) 646-4136 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
© 2013 New Mexico State University Board of Regents
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