Pierce horses ride into the sunset

Lindsay Edell used her hands to break  large carrots into pieces while Corrina Jeffers measured six ounces of wheat bran and poured water in a blue plastic bucket.

Jayme Mills stirred all three ingredients together using a metal sweat scraper, and the main course was ready for the 17 guests of honor living in the Equestrian Center.

A going-away party, organized by equine science students who remain uncertain whether they will see their riding classmates again, took place Thursday.

All 17 horses used at Pierce wear two letter D’s on their side, initials representing owner Dave Dohnel, who has had a contract with the school since 1997.

During summer, the animals used for instruction throughout the Spring semester travel to June Lake, Calif., where they become pack horses in the Sierra Nevada mountains.

David E. Williams, associate dean of agriculture, is not familiar with the school’s contract with Dohnel and was unable to comment on the horses’ futures.

“The horses are here until they are not needed,” said Williams.  “Right now, they’re getting ready to go back home.”

Several students, however, expressed that Williams had told them that this group of horses would not be coming back to Pierce in the Fall.

After learning this, students decided to organize a party for the horses they have spent much of their time with.

“They’re not coming back next semester, so we’re spoiling them a little bit,” Edell said.

Like most days, the sun was harsh in the morning. Benches were set up under an uncovered steel tent frame for the event.

Pieces of carrots, squares of sliced watermelon and apples were purchased as special treats.

Jenn Stott was squatting down and feeding the seal brown, Quarter horse named Lobster. She had bathed and groomed him some time before, and now he was picking out all of the watermelon squares and eating them first.

“Look at [Lobster], he’s so cute,” Edell said.

Stott went to Pen 3 and poured a watermelon mixture into the metal feeder for Leon, Lucky, Mac and Tommy to eat. Mac stared at the watermelon for a minute before trying it.

Williams has said that he plans on bringing 24 “push button” Cadillac reining horses to Pierce, according to Mills and Stott.

Stott is concerned about this possibility. Reining horses are trained to slide and spin, and a new rider could easily be shoved off a horse if they send a horse a wrong signal.

“Reining horses are good if you know how to ride. Most of the people that take riding classes here have never touched a horse before,” Stott said. “To us, the idea of it seems like a danger, but if they’re not trained that way that’s fine.”

Stott’s mother, Barbara, took riding classes at Pierce after Jenn enrolled her. She is now the owner of a horse named Sox.

“I knew how expensive they were,” Stott said. “I’m 59-years-old, and I never expected to buy a horse.”

Barbara is thankful to instructors Paddy Warner and Ron Wechsler for teaching her what she knows and even wrote to Warner on her birthday about how grateful she was. Since becoming the owner of Sox, Barbara says she feels healthier.

“My horse makes me laugh; he nudges me,” she said. “I’m outdoors and I’ve built muscles from cleaning stalls. It makes me feel good.”

As the party ended, Jenn Stott, Helene Zinn, Tiffany Colohan, Jayme Mills and Danielle Williamson gathered around the shade casted off by the side of a freight container.

Colohan said she would miss the personalities of all the horses, while Stott said she would miss their tempers and willingness to put up with the beginning riders.

“They’re really intelligent,” Zinn said. “They’re patient with the beginners and they give the advanced riders a challenge.”