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To facilitate a growing horse herd — and student body — Utah State University needed a new barn on its 26-acre South Farm.

SALT LAKE CITY — To facilitate a growing horse herd — and student body — Utah State University needed a new barn on its 26-acre South Farm.

The Utah State Board of Regents recently authorized construction of the $1.8 million barn, which USU officials say is needed to serve its School of Veterinary Medicine and growing undergraduate equine programs.

The new barn will also enable the university to host horse shows and competitions.

"Students in USU's School of Veterinary Medicine work with faculty who specialize in equine medicine, and they gain important experience with horses," said Ken White, dean of the College of Agriculture and Applied Sciences.

"We simply need more space to accommodate all these growing programs and to continue to provide a healthy environment for our horses and those that come to participate in special events," said White.

The 20,000-square-foot metal barn will be designed, built, operated and maintained using institutional funds from the veterinary school. No state funds will be spent on the facility or its maintenance, according to Board of Regents documents.

The South Farm's equine education center includes classrooms, a riding arena and barn space. USU officials hope to break ground on the new barn this fall and complete construction by March.

Equine Education Center manager D.J. Anderson said the new barn will have 51 stalls, three tack rooms and two wash bays. Open areas will allow for saddling and unsaddling horses, lab activities, and space for ferriers to trim or balance hooves or shoe horses.

"Currently there are about 90 horses here, just about 90 head. As our programs grow, our numbers grow a little bit each year," Anderson said.

The program moved to its current facility in 2010, he said.

"When we came out here, we had 30 horses. Now in 2018, we have right around 90," Anderson said.

Some of the horses were bred and born at the South Farm, while others were purchased by the university for specific program needs.

"We have about 10 to 15 foals a year. A lot of those horses are sold as either yearlings or started 2-year-olds through the production sale, which happens toward the end of April every year," he said.

Anderson said interest in USU's Equine Science and Management program has grown since the start of USU's School of Veterinary Science in 2012, in a regional partnership with Washington State University.

Under the Washington–Idaho–Montana–Utah, or WIMU, Regional Program, 30 USU students complete two years in veterinary medicine in Utah then finish their four-year Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degrees at Washington State University.

In 2011, the Utah Legislature passed HB57, which allowed USU to establish a veterinary education program in partnership with Washington State.

Of 30 students accepted into the program each year, 20 must be Utah residents, according to the legislation.

Numbers of students enrolled as Equine Science and Management majors have grown steadily since 2014 when 65 students were enrolled in that emphasis. That number is up to 103 in 2018.

Meanwhile, students enrolled in classes to earn a minor in equine-assisted activities and therapy rose from 13 the fall of 2017 to 22 enrolled for fall 2018.

USU's equine-assisted therapies program provides opportunities for people with physical and mental disabilities to interact with horses to improve their physical and emotional wellbeing, White said.

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"Our extension equine programs for 4-H youth are growing, as well as the Extension Ride Utah program that helps military veterans and their families to share a trail ride and counseling to help with some difficult adjustments and emotional challenges," said White, who is also vice president of USU Extension.

USU Extension operates through a cooperative agreement between the United States Department of Agriculture, Utah State University and county governments. It provides research-based programs and resources to improve the lives of individuals, families and communities across the state, according to the extension website.