SDSU Horse Club hosts 17th annual petting zoo

Cathryn Bauer, Reporter

The SDSU Horse Club hosted its annual petting zoo this past Saturday at the SDSU Horse Unit for the Brookings community. The event was meant to expose children to different species of animals and give SDSU students the opportunity to be role models in the community.

Jen Eide, the current Horse Unit barn manager, said this petting zoo has been going on since close to 2005. Eide believes what makes this event so successful is that it’s free and open to everybody.

“It’s a family activity and doesn’t cost anything. We’re trying to serve the middle to low class in the Brookings community,” Eide said.

A few weeks prior to the event, the club dispersed flyers to several elementary schools and daycares in the community. According to Nicole Matter, the current Horse Club president, the club printed and delivered about 1,200 flyers to invite Brookings families and their children to the event.

The Petting Zoo has animals such as goats, show steers, miniature ponies, sheep, Belgian draft horses, donkeys and the SDSU Horse Unit horses, as well as events that children enjoyed like going on pony rides, brushing and petting horses, sitting on the western saddle, practicing with the roping dummies, and even barrel racing with stick horses.

Mary Christensen is the coordinator of Agricultural Leadership, Education, Communication and Science for the College of Ag, Food and Environmental Sciences (CAFES) and brought her three children to Saturday’s event. She agreed that this event provides a positive representation of what CAFES clubs have to offer to the community and to CAFES students.

“There are many layers to this event. It’s a great opportunity for members and students to get involved while having a positive impact on the community and the college,” Christensen said.

The event had 25-30 students volunteering at the 3-hour event. The volunteers consisted of current club members, the officer team and Horse Unit employees. To maintain safety during the pony rides Horse Club members helmeted and led children around during the ride, and many of the children got to experience their first time on horseback. First-year Horse Club member Megan VanDenHemel, who was in charge of putting helmets on kids for the pony rides, plans to help in the future.  

“I enjoy working with kids, and this event is a great way to provide hands-on experience.” VanDenHemel stated.

Prior to the event, families were encouraged to bring donations for the Brookings Humane Society and Brookings Food Pantry. The club was able to collect and donate 380 food items to the Brookings Food Pantry and $158 to the Brookings Humane Society.

Samantha Javier is the shelter coordinator for the Humane Society and expressed her appreciation for the support of the SDSU Horse Club. Javier said the money donated will go towards much-needed medical and feeding supplies to help take care of the animals.

“I appreciate the support, since we are already working a lot with SDSU students. It’s nice to have that relationship of both people and support.” she said. 

Carmen Paulson is the current equine professor at SDSU and the Horse Club adviser and has been helping with the petting zoo since 2018.

“It’s a very good public relations event that challenges public speaking, pushes students out of their comfort zones with children of all ages,” Paulson said. “And the horses are that common ground for student and child.”