WVU Davis College opens new Equine Education Center

MORGANTOWN — Kicking off an evening of celebration, Dan Robison, dean of the WVU Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design, congratulated the college on being nothing short of fantastic.

Co-hosting with WVU Extension Services, a “Grateful Gathering” was held Saturday to commemorate and dedicate the new Hazel Ruby McQuain Equine Education and Resource Center at the J.W. Ruby Research Farm in Reedsville.

The Hazel Ruby McQuain Charitable Trust gave $ 6.7 million to the farm in order to offer students and others who use the farm an updated and modern facility. The gift was made alongside a campaign conducted by the WVU Foundation that was the largest private fundraising campaign in the university’s history, totaling more than $1.2 billion.

“When WVU was founded in 1867, everything done on these farms was done with horses, so we’ve been in this business a long time, so having this new equine facility is just remarkable,” Robison said.

There was an honor roll of guest speakers before the end of the program which included a ribbon cutting. Nora McDonald, professor emeritus of fashion, dress and merchandising, spoke Saturday evening. She and her husband, Bill McDonald, a microbiologist, have combined a total commitment to WVU of more than 90 years.

President E. Gordon Gee made an appearance, and said he was sure Mrs. Ruby was smiling down on everyone there that evening.

“What a wonderful occasion. We’ve been celebrating the last few days because the fact that the people of this university, the people of this state, and the friends of our institution around the world have donated $1.2 billion to this institution, and this is part of this,” he said.

He said education does not necessarily need to be only what we read. He said it also needs to be that which we put our hands on, to make a difference.

“And that’s precisely what we’re doing tonight,” he continued.

After the ribbon cutting ceremony, guests could take a tour of the farm. The event also featured live music, food and STEM programs for children.

The farm received a new updated building, which will now hold classrooms for students. It also received a new, larger arena for horses, as well as a new building housing

48 new stalls.

Dr. Crystal Smith, teaching associate professor of Animal and Nutritional Sciences said they were super excited and so very grateful for the new facility. She said they know how fortunate they are to have gotten such a huge gift from the Ruby Foundation.

“We’ve been able to make it go really far and get a lot of bang for our buck in terms of adding the classroom spaces. The new arena, that’s definitely an upgrade from what we have, and kind of expanding our capabilities for teaching and to host weekend events,” she said.

On the teaching side of the program, Smith said every day someone is learning at the farm. She said there are working students who are at the farm daily. Classes are hosted every day.

But the educational opportunities don’t stop there. WVU typically rents the facility out for two weekends a month, from March through November, for everything from their own equestrian team competitions to high school equestrian team competitions and even to the Quarter Horse Association.

“It’s basically all over the board. We’re set up to do a variety of disciples with the footing that we have and the arena that we have,” she said.

Alongside the new 48 stalls in the new building, there are still 44 other stalls in their older barn. Now with the extra space and new facilities, the farm would like to increase its weekend activities.

In terms of teaching, WVU wants to up the amount and quality of the programs it can offer to its students. During Phase II of the project, more pasture space for the animals and a larger number of teaching horses will also be added.

The equine program at WVU is the only teaching program of its kind in this part of the state. Smith said WVU has seen more kids coming to college with an interest in horses and that number continues to grow. The school offers an equine studies minor with three career focus tracks: E

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quine management, equine science or equine assisted therapy.

Follow The Dominion Post on Twitter DominionPostWV. Email Sarah Marino: smarino@dominionpost.com.

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