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October 1, 2001

New Horsebarn Hill Arena Opened

A new multipurpose indoor arena on Horsebarn Hill Road was formally opened during Family Weekend. The Sept. 23 dedication event was marked by a spectacular display given by UConn's riders and horses to a standing-room-only crowd.

Completed in August, the 120 by 220-foot indoor arena is one of the largest of its kind among land grant universities. It will house equestrian and other animal science events, such as livestock shows, and provide a facility for the University's equestrian and polo teams to practice and compete. The $1.7 million facility, including equipment and furnishings, was funded through private gifts, with a portion from UConn 2000.

Kirklyn Kerr, dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, who spoke during the dedication, emphasized the importance of the new facility to the college's academic programs in animal science.

The Department of Animal Science has about 240 undergraduate majors and 40 graduate students. About 150 students participate in the equine program, which includes nine formal classes in equine science and is run by three faculty members and two staff. The University maintains about 85 horses, mostly Morgans.

Chancellor John D. Petersen said the new facility will also enable the college to expand its outreach activities, working with groups such as 4-H and Future Farmers of America.

Cameron Faustman, professor and interim head of animal science, said the non-technical aspects of the equine program - including the horse practicum, equestrian riding events and polo practicum and team - offer opportunities for camaraderie and taking responsibilit y that are an important part of a student's learning.

The college will continue to use the Ratcliffe Hicks indoor arena and the outdoor polo arena. Kerr said the new facility, just 300 feet away from the stables, will help ensure students' safety from traffic and winter weather. It will also reduce the time it takes students to reach the arena and give them more time in class.

The Horsebarn Hill Arena has been planned for many years. Jim Dinger, an associate professor of animal science who coaches polo, said he has been hoping for a new arena since he joined the University 24 years ago.

Nancy Weiss, director of development and alumni relations for the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, spearheaded the fund-raising drive for the arena. She said the facility "is the culmination of a lot of dreams and a lot of efforts over the years." Most of the funds for the arena came from the estates of Arthur Lorentzon '27, Ratcliffe Hicks, and Frances Osborne Kellogg, together with some proceeds from the sale of the New Haven County Extension Center. Additional private gifts have provided items such as a scoreboard and bleachers.

Weiss said efforts will continue to raise funds for further items, including classrooms and a covered walkway from the stables, and to purchase equipment to broadcast polo matches and other events to cable and closed circuit TV. Larry Wasiele, the sculptor who created the husky dog statue outside Gampel Pavilion, designed a horse and rider sculpture for the arena.

After the speeches, members of the varsity women's polo team pitted their skills against alumnae from previous national championship teams in a fast-paced game, followed by demonstrations of driving, equitation, including jumping, and mounted gymnastics.

The UConn Drill Team dedicated its performance of synchronized riding to music to those who lost their lives in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C. Two riders held aloft the American and state flags, and each of the 12 horses was decked out for the occasion with leg bandages in red, white and blue.

Elizabeth Omara-Otunnu

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