At the heart of Cal Poly Pomona’s main campus are green pastures where anyone can see groups of horses run, play and graze. If a passerby is lucky, a curious horse will come up to the fence looking for attention.
In response to the demands that arose due to COVID-19, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation provided $75,000 to the W.K. Kellogg Arabian Horse Center to help maintain the pastures and support the student assistants who continue to care for the horses on campus.
“When you’re on a farm, routines can’t change and the daily needs of the horses continue,” said John Lambert, executive director of the Horse Center. “The horses really don’t have a clue that the world is dealing with a pandemic. Horses rely on us to keep them on a schedule and make sure they are taken care of.”
Many of the center’s programs are paused until the university can safely have in-person instruction. Horses not being used for student programs are grazing in the pastures at the same time as the breeding horses, foals and retired horses, increasing the need for efficient watering equipment to maintain the fields. There are 17 pastures in total, each at about two acres, the size of approximately two football fields. A group of six to eight horses rotate every 10 to 12 days to a new pasture, each of which takes about three to four weeks to grow.
“If we can keep up the efficiency, we can keep the grass growing,” Lambert said. “If you fall behind 48 hours, it’s a domino effect. There will be pastures where the grass won’t recover enough, and the horses won’t be able to graze.”
The W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s gift was tapped to purchase three high-volume, semi-automatic watering reels. The horses grazing on the pastures are on a 100 percent grass diet and graze 24 hours a day. The new equipment will take significantly less time to set up, providing the staff an opportunity to focus on other tasks to care for the horses.
A portion of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation gift will also help to cover stipends for more than 15 students, who’s responsibilities include feeding all the horses, cleaning the stalls, giving the horses their medication, assisting with breeding and all other essential needs.
“All of these things are happening during COVID-19, and without the students, we wouldn’t be able to accomplish all of these tasks,” Lambert said.
Natalie Moreno, a junior studying nutrition, is one of the students working at the Horse Center. She plans to switch to animal sciences with an equine science minor. Moreno wants to work as a small animal veterinarian, but her experience working at Cal Poly Pomona – in the swine and sheep units, bottle feeding baby lambs, and now taking care of the horses – created opportunities for her to explore working with larger animals.
“My experience has opened up more avenues for my future, and the professors helped to increase my animal knowledge.” Moreno said. “The extra support will help students tremendously, especially during this time when people are struggling financially.”
The W.K. Kellogg Foundation was founded in 1930 by the well-known cereal magnate, Will Keith Kellogg, the same entrepreneur who established the Horse Center in 1925. Based in his hometown in Battle Creek, Michigan, the private foundation works with communities to ensure students reach their full potential in school, work and life. The Horse Center continues to maintain an Arabian horse breeding program – 10 foals are expected next year.