Front and center off Sawmill Road. There it sat. A line of red steel barns, with vibrant green grass paddocks between them. There is a big green tractor and four round bales of hay sitting beside the parking area. I met with Abby Simon outside the first barn. She smiled bright, with an Ohio State equestrian team grey ball cap covering her short blonde hair. She shook my hand firmly and immediately invited me into the barn. There was a radio in the barn playing music that was unmistakably country. I took a deep breath through my nose, expecting the scent of the horses to overtake me, but it didn’t. As I walked into the barn, I realized why. Each stall was freshly cleaned and the aisle way was swept. The barn hardly looked like a barn being so well kept. This farm was clearly different from others, this was a Columbus farm.
Surrounded by shopping centers and restaurants, sits The Ohio State University’s Department of Animal Sciences Equine Facility. Their unique location and constant handling, makes the horses far less sensitive to the urban world than a regular farm horse would be.
Abby Simon, a third-year student of Ohio State and an Animal Sciences major, works and is conducting intern research at the Equine Facility. “This is a great place for us [students] to be,” She made a great point. This farm is an Ohio State specialty giving students a rare experience working on a farm in Columbus. There are a dozen students that work with the horses every day with the supervision of two equine scientists that oversee the students in their work.
Their stalls were labeled with their name, their vet, their hay poundage, grain amount and any supplements they take. “They all have regular vet checks, and we constantly update their diets,” Abby said, “We want their training to go well and sometimes making that happen is as easy as keeping them feeling good.” The individual care they give clearly makes a difference in the horses’ personality.
One of the 12 students that works with the horses is Katelyn Maloney, a fourth year in animal sciences. At the farm her specialty is working with the breeding stallions, collecting semen, and training foals. The foal trainers each follow the “50 Times Rule”. “We pet them 50 times down their left side, 50 down the right, 50 along the neck, 50 on their face,” she said, “It takes time, but it helps them feel comfortable being near people, they really grow to trust us.”
“Student’s get a cool experience, but the horses have a different perspective when being shown than their competitors,” Abby said.
She explained that horses are raised and trained at the facility and then sold at the “Buckeye Bananza sale” each spring. The Buckeye Bananza sale is where students showcase the horses and their progress through their training. The horses are then sold at auction to a variety of buyers. Buyers often comment on the difference between their horses and others for sale. “It’s cool, we get to hear about how our training and handling is making them successful after they leave,” she said.
Bradley Collins a fourth-year student at Ohio State, transferred from the ATI branch after two years and worked at the Buckeye Bananza sale for three years. “A lot of buyers mention how well trained the horses are,” Bradley said.
“I think being so close to people and having people visiting and touring their barn makes them puppy like,” Bradley said.
These animals have so much experience in a city, they have been desensitized to the things most horses would fear or at least react to. They have travelled as far from their wild roots as they could. These horses aren’t just horses, they’re modern, urban and beautiful.