Saddle Up at University of Minnesota, Morris

Housing horses on campus offers a respite for students at this small liberal arts college.

By Nancy Dorman-Hickson

Amelia Carlson and Alexia Riley

Amelia Carlson and Alexia Riley

When Amelia Carlson has a stressful day, the University of Minnesota, Morris, student knows just what to do. She heads over to the converted dairy barn that resides amid other campus buildings. There, her horse, Burbank, is always ready for an after-class workout. Cola, owned by student Alexia Riley, might whinny a welcome as well.

Having horses on campus usually involves some kind of equine training program, but a handful of higher-education institutions, such as the Morris-based university, allow a small number of students to have their own horses on campus purely for recreation. “For people who love horses and want to bring them to school, it’s de-stressing,” says Carlson, a philosophy major from Minneapolis, who serves as president of the Saddle Club, the organization through which students apply to house their horses on campus.

The students ride trails—“We have a couple of different pastures,” says Carlson—and they use the campus arena, as well as indoor and outdoor arenas at the local county 4-H fairgrounds. Riding their horses to class, however, is not allowed. Still, Carlson says, when weather permits an impromptu ride, “it’s nice that the horses are right on campus.”

Students are responsible for bringing their own feed, bedding and whatever else is needed, and for the care of their own horses. Other Saddle Club members, however, offer their help just for the love of the big animals.

“The owner will spend time helping [the other students] get to know the horse, what their practices are, how the horse is used to being fed and brushed,” says Julie Kill, current club adviser, who is the campus chemistry lab manager. Kill housed her own steed on campus when she was a student in the 1980s.

The Saddle Club shares its love of horses with non-members too. Occasionally, club members host $1 pony rides on the quad. At Halloween, they convert the barn to a haunted house. And Kill hopes to re-establish a practice that she recalls from her undergrad days—a program that allows the horses to make their own, well, contribution to campus beautification. “When I was a member of the Saddle Club,” she says, “we used the [horse] manure to fertilize flowers on campus.”