JWU’s Center for Equine Studies, located just 15 miles from the Providence Campus in Rehoboth, Massachusetts, is one of JWU’s hidden gems. This Week at JWU interviewed John Richards ’96, equine center facilities manager, about what a “day in the life” looks like at the property. Richards has been a staff member for 20 years and claims that no two days in his career have ever been the same.
“It’s been gratifying to see the program grow into what it is today,” he says. “I get to work with horses and young passionate people; plus the facility is gorgeous. There’s something really special about it.” He laughs and adds, “I work for JWU, but the horses ultimately are the ones calling the shots.”
Life at the equine center is not your average farm. The facility is home to currently 28 horses and requires plenty of hands to run the seven days a week, 365 days a year operation. Richards lives full-time in one of the buildings at the equine center, so he is always on call - especially in the event of a storm.
As the barn doors open, the horses know exactly what time it is: breakfast. “It’s like they have never been fed,” he says. ”They are so excited to see you.”
The morning crew starts early and is responsible for turning on the lights and starting the hay process. While the horses are riled up with excitement, the crew supplies them with two types of feed and water, which calms them down. This allows the crew to inspect the horses to make sure there were no injuries overnight. After the first group of 6-12 horses go out for “recess,” the crew supplies wood chips and bedding to the stalls, which can take up to 20 minutes per stall.
“On a good day, the morning routine is complete by 10:30am,” says Richards. “Feeding the horses for lunch can take about one to two hours and wraps up by 1pm.” The last feeding takes place between 9-10pm, followed by the final night check. “Some horses get an upset stomach and require extra attention, so some night checks can be longer than others. Every night is different.”
Winter at the Farm
Although the riding and lab schedule is lighter during the winter term, the horses require just as much care, if not more.
“Besides heat from the arena, the horses are well equipped with sheets or heavy blankets to keep warm,” he says. “To clean the blankets, the Equine Center has an in-house industrial size washing machine, especially since horse blankets are not allowed at laundry mats.”
Due to the thickness of the blankets worn by the horses throughout the winter, Richards mentioned that it is important to keep an extra eye on the horses for weight loss. He also noted that he has to monitor the temperature of certain zones on the property to make sure that water continues to flow.
Richards described that when a bad storm hits, “the horses get more stoic and hunker down. The majority of the time they have impressed me. They brace for the storm and cope with it and are not as wild as people would expect.”
The Character of the Horses
When asked about the behavior of the horses, Richards explained, “Each horse has their own unique personality. It’s like managing a professional sports team. Each horse has different needs.”
The staff members on the property are always using basic first aid because the field is like their playground. He noted that after snowstorms, they love to play in the fresh snow in the field. “Horses are like children,” he says. “Only on nights, holidays and weekends do things happen. You have to be proactive and aware of the horses at all times because things can happen fast and turn significant quite quickly.”
Visiting the Farm
The barn doors are always open for faculty and staff to visit. Consider taking a field trip with your department this spring or summer to see the property or have a staff meeting at a new setting. Please be sure to call ahead. Richards welcomes faculty and staff to bring their family to visit the farm as well.