Horse park set to host inaugural open house event

Published 10:41 am Tuesday, May 31, 2011

FRANKLIN FURNACE — The Ohio Horse Park is gearing up for a community event that organizers say will hopefully make the public more aware of all that it has to offer.

Ohio University Southen’s horse park was opened in the mid-1990s, but Kelly Hall, director of equine studies, said Saturday’s inaugural open house event will show the community how the park has grown and will continue to serve the community.

“Basically the whole focus of this is to showcase the park, let people know what we do, let them know how we serve the community, about just want everyone to see that we’re an active part of the community and that we want them to know who we are and what we do.”

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The open house will be from 3 to 5 p.m. Tours will be available for all the buildings on site and demonstrations of the various programs offered at the park. There will also be a barbeque meal served. The new director of development at OUS, Matt Ward, will also be introduced.

The therapeutic riding program is one that Hall is particularly proud to show off. She said the horse park works with children and teens with a variety of disabilities.

“Riding a horse stimulates the part of the brain responsible for speech, so we have worked with kids who are non-verbal. It helps them make sounds and start to communicate,” Hall said. “We work with some kids who have been abused. It makes them feel empowered. If they can pilot around a 1,000-pound horse, there is a real sense of empowerment and independence in being able to do that.”

Hall also said therapeutic riding incorporates spelling and vocabulary, counting and flash cards.

“Our ultimate goal is to teach them skills they can use the other six days of the week when they’re not with us,” she said. Information about joining the program will be available at the open house on Saturday.

For people interested in becoming an equine studies major at OUS, the open house will offer a scholarship show with scholarship money sponsored by SunCoke Energy. The show is open to anyone that has at least an intermediate level of riding or is already in the equine studies program. Participants will be placed in one of eight classes and compete in different disciplines of riding.

Hall said she hopes the open house event will help expand the equine studies department to 50 active, full-time students. Right now, she said, there are about 32 full and part-time students.

Just last year, Hall got approval for the OUS equines studies department to be recognized to certify students to be riding instructors.

“That was a big goal of mine and I was so happy when it went through,” said Hall. “I can already see that it is attracting students. I’m getting more calls specifically because we’re an approved university. That’s going to be a recruiting tool for us as well.”

Hall said OUS is one of only four universities to have such an accreditation.

The horse park will offer guided and self-guided tours and van transport to the various building on site. The park is located in Franklin Furnace at 400 Bobcat Lane.

“I just think that we are a well-kept secret,” Hall said. “I just think if people can come and see our college students learning to become instructors, teaching kids with challenges and teens with challenges, it is very inspiring.”