Students prep horses to be sold

Travel south past Illinois’ sporting facilities and visitors will see — and smell — a different type of campus. This area isn’t occupied by students or professors, but horses. It is the Horse Research Farm, located on St. Mary’s road.

The farm is home to horses owned by the University, student-owned horses and horses leased from private individuals. There are horses with names like One Tequila Two Tequila and Parks Finale. There are horses both young and old, big and small. Some are there to stay, while many are preparing to be sold.

Professor Kevin Kline, who is in charge of the horse farm, leads a group of students through the summer to get 15 young horses ready for three groups of horse sales.

“I offer an informal, hands-on class where students get experience taking care of horses,” Kline said.

The class, under ANSC 294, is focused on preparing horses to be sold.

“The students learn the sale preparation of a standard prep yearling. They work on bathing it, teaching it manners, improving its body condition and just all together getting it ready for sale.”

Several of the students attend one or more of the horse sales, with the first one taking place Aug. 15 at the Land of Lincoln Standardbred Yearling Sale, then two more, with one in September and October.

“I’ve been to plenty of horse races before, but never a sale, so this should be something new and interesting,” said Allison Picken, junior in ACES, who is attending the Aug. 15 sale.

During a good economy, horses tend to sell for up to $80,000, but now the best horses will sell for between $30,000 to 50,000, Kline said.

Once sold, the horses will be used for harness racing, where the horse pulls a two-wheeled cart.

Two of the yearlings preparing for sale, Parks Finale and Minnie Me Troyer, will likely go for the most money because they come from families of successful horses.

“The horses are more valuable if they come from a good family because they are more likely to do well,” Kline said.

Oftentimes for humans, a love of horses runs in the family.

“I think liking horses is just some type of genetic thing, we all like it,” said Christine Dakis, recent graduate in ACES. “If I’m not working with horses then there’s something seriously missing from my life.”

Once the horses are ready for sale, students like farm manager Ivy Hilliker will most likely bring the horses into the ring where they are shown off.

Hilliker, a graduate student in nutrition, runs the farm, making sure everything is under control and caring for any sick horses.

“There’s always something strange going on,” Hilliker said. “But, I’ve always loved horses, they’re really something else.”

Hilliker grew up around horses, but not all student workers are like her.

“I just started working with horses this summer because I want to be a vet and decided to try everything,” said Yurie Kim, junior in ACES. “I was really intimidated at first, but now I know you just have to show the horse who’s boss. But I think after this, I’ll stick to dogs and cats.”

However, Kim did not deny the personal relationship people develop with horses.

“It’s just different than any other type of animal,” Picken said. “They’re so big and you can just wrap your arms around them and they respond to most humans.”

Sometimes the workers become attached to the different horses, making it difficult when they are sold, but recent technology has made it easier for people to keep an eye on the horses. People can set up a virtual stable online through the U.S. Trotting Association, where they can follow how selected horses perform.

“You can always go see them again and keep track of them,” Hilliker said. “They never really leave you.”