Performance Horse Sales

Cal Poly Animal Science

History of Cal Poly's Equine Center

 Thoroughbreds Quarter Horses At Stud sign

The History of the Cal Poly Equine Program

The California Polytechnic School was established in 1901 and the Horse Unit was quickly developed by 1903. Originally, the Horse Unit was located where the current Transportation Pool is and was used for the breeding, training, and selling of registered Percheron horses. These horses were used for farming programs and provided students with a “Learn By Doing” opportunity in horse husbandry. Cal Poly’s tradition of excellence started early; in 1905, five mares and fillies, including a mare named Patroness, won blue ribbons at the California State Fair in Sacramento. In 1927, Cal Poly exhibited the Champion Group of Percheron Mares.
Beginning in the 1940s, Percherons were phased out in favor of tractors and Cal Poly adapted by beginning to breed Thoroughbreds. The California Thoroughbred Breeder’s Association (CTBA) was instrumental in jumpstarting the program. Prominent breeders including C.E. Cooper, A.T. Jergins, C.E. Perkins, and Bing Crosby, donated mares to get the program off the ground. The CTBA also made provisions for annual stallion services and other resources needed to keep the program active and to educate students for future work in the industry.
Lyman Bennion, head of the Animal Husbandry Department in the late 1940s, also oversaw operation of the Thoroughbred program. He taught the first lecture-laboratory equine production class until 1954. Animal Husbandry students were hired on a part-time basis to live and work at the Horse Unit, providing a true “Learn By Doing” experience that is continued today.


Enterprises are a crucial part of both the Animal Science Department and Cal Poly’s “Learn By Doing” motto. They are designed to give students “real world” experience by mirroring standard industry practices. The first enterprises started in 1924 when President Ben Crandall authorized “earn while learning” programs that allowed students starting and training horses to keep a portion of the profits.
Current Enterprises at the Equine Center include the Mare Care Enterprise, Foaling Enterprise, Breeding Enterprise, Thoroughbred Enterprise, Mustang Enterprise, Sales Prep Enterprise, Packing Enterprise, and Quarter Horse Enterprise. Cal Poly offers the unique opportunity to participate in all aspects of horse husbandry, a claim that few other schools in the United States can make. A complete list of current enterprises can be found on the Animal Science Department's Equine Science page. 

The Thoroughbred Program

The Thoroughbred Program became self-supporting with the donation of an Argentinian Thoroughbred stallion, *Zuncho, by Mr. Walter T. Wells in the 1940s. During World War II, racing and travel were restricted, so most of the Cal Poly mares were bred exclusively to *Zuncho until the early 1950s. Beginning in 1945 and continuing until 1975, the Thoroughbred yearlings were sold at CTBA sales at Del Mar and the Cow Palace.
From 1976 until 1995, the Thoroughbreds were sold as two year olds after going through the TB Two-Year-Old-In-Training Enterprise established by Bill Gibford. Students not only ran the program but also received a small portion of the profits.
The current Thoroughbred Enterprise markets yearlings at the annual Barretts October Yearling Sale in Pomona, California. Students are responsible for maintaining the Thoroughbred broodmares, handling the foals, and preparing the yearlings for the sale, from which they will head to the racetrack. Rubyintheruff (Tribal Rule x Rubina), a 2008 Cal Poly filly has won over $106,000 on the track, while her full sister Reigning Rubies has won $25,000.

The Quarter Horse Program

Bras D'Or

Bill Gibford developed the Quarter Horse Program in 1955. A Quarter Horse stallion named Bras D’Or was purchased to stand at stud and Katie Peake donated five mares by the Hall of Fame stallion Driftwood to start the breeding herd. The next year, Bill started the “Colt Class” as preparation for the training of the Cal Poly Quarter Horses.
The years between 1955 and 1961 saw huge changes for the equine program. In 1960, the Horse Unit moved to its current location at the north end of campus. Bill Gibford restructured the educational program, adding AH 131 Basic Equitation, AH 232 Elements of Horse Production, and AH 333 Horse Husbandry, the precursors to the modern ASCI 214 Equine Management, ASCI 224 Equine Science, and ASCI 333 Equine Reproduction. The “colt class,” AH 434 Specialized Horse Enterprises, was added in 1956 as a way to introduce students to training young horses. 1960 also saw the expansion of the equine faculty, when Jim Flanagan, graduate and previous student manager of the Horse Unit, was hired as a teacher and advisor to the Cutting and Reining Horse Club.
In 1967, Robert Hadley replaced Jim Flanagan on the equine faculty. Bob Hadley had the foresight to breed a Cal Poly mare, Barred’s Star, to the up and coming Doc Bar. Their foal, Doc’s Star Barred, was shown by Bob Hadley at the 1975 National Cutting Horse Futurity. His offspring were very successful in both cutting and reining. Doc’s Star Barred then stood stud at Cal Poly until 1981, when he was sold for $150,000 and breeding rights.
Several other stallions have stood at stud at Cal Poly. Doc O Chex (Doc O Lena x Princesa Nan) was donated in 1987 and Docs Peppy Lee (Little Peppy x Doc’s Yuba Lee) was donated in 1989. In 1988, Phil Feinberg donated five shares of the syndicated stallion Smart Cash Cutter (Smart Little Lena x Miss Cash Cutter), World Champion Snaffle Bit Futurity finalist and Reserve Champion at a Snaffle Bit Stakes. Smart Cash Cutter was also one of the first Smart Little Lena sons to stand stud in California. Currently, Cal Poly stands Hot Pepper Cat (High Brow Cat x Olena Pep) at stud. Previous Cal Poly stallions included As Smart as the Fox, who was donated in 2003 by the MorDo Ranch, and Cinderellas Fox (As Smart As The Fox x Cinderella Chex).  Backdoor Cat (High Brow Cat x Genuine Democo) currently resides at Cal Poly, and was donated by Jill Moulton and Dr. Craig Juratsch in 2007. For more information, please see the Stallion page.

The Quarter Horse Enterprise

Beginning in 1978, Jack Leslie and six student-riders began selling the Cal Poly bred Quarter Horses at the World Champion Bit Futurity and Pacific Coast Cutting Futurity. The Quarter Horse Enterprise was student run and included the breeding, training and selling of the top bred Cal Poly horses. The QHE continued to sell horses at the Futurity until 2010. At the same time, the Ranch Horse Enterprise was developed. It started in 1986 with the donation of ten Quarter Horse fillies from Bill Reeds. He continued to donate fillies for the next two years, establishing a broodmare herd of ranch-bred, rather than performance, horses. Their offspring were also trained by students and sold either by private sale or at auctions like the Templeton Stock Yard. Eventually, the Quarter Horse and Ranch Horse enterprises merged, with the top six horses going to the Futurities and the rest being sold locally.  In 1996, Gene Armstrong decided to bring the sale to Cal Poly. The Ranch Horse Sale auctioned off both Cal Poly bred horses and donated horses that had been started by students and continued until 2012.
Closely intertwined with the Quarter Horse Enterprise is the Breeding Enterprise. Roger Hunt began breeding Cal Poly mares using Artificial Insemination (AI) around 1984. Mr. Hunt took a short course at Colorado State University in Artificial Insemination in order to stay current on the technology. For many years, both Roger Hunt and Mike Lund continued going to Colorado for the courses and often brought students along. The Enterprise formally started in 1985 when Mike Lund noticed the student interest in breeding. From Day 1, students were performing the majority of procedures, from collecting the stallion and analyzing the semen to breeding the mares and foaling them out the next spring. The Equine Center was a full-time breeding facility, breeding Cal Poly and outside mares to Cal Poly stallions or cooled and shipped semen from outside stallions. At its peak, 125 mares were being bred in a single year. Cal Poly was also on the cutting edge of technology. Even in the late 1980s, student senior projects were focusing on embryo transfer techniques.


Equine Center Supervisor

Irini Pateras

Equine Center Faculty


Carl Beck


Lyman Bennion


Ralph Hoover


Jack Alego


Bill Gibford


Jim Flanagan



Gene Armstrong


Bob Hadley


Jack Leslie


Kelly Anderson Riccitelli



Roger Hunt


Mike Lund


Katy Murphy


Pete Agalos


Alaina Parsons


Natalie Baker


Julie Yuhas-Volk 2016-2019
Noah Nelson 2019-2020
Kent Barnes 2020-2021
Lou Moore-Jacobsen 2021-2022
Irini Pateras 2023-Present

 Facilities Timeline

For a complete description of the Equine Center facilities, check out the Facilities page.

1902 – The Horse Unit was developed.

1913 – Cal Poly owned 16 Percherons and 5 Clydesdales.

1940 – A Stallion Barn, Mare Barn, and paddock were built for the new Thoroughbred program.

1960 – The Horse Unit moved to its present location on the north end of campus at the end of Via Carta Road.

1960 – The Student Horse Barn was built. It is currently under construction to become a 40 stall barn. 

2003 - The Hay Barn was built to store a year's worth of hay for the Equine Center.

2005 - The 40 Stall Barn for riding horses and nutrition studies was completed.

2005 - The 13 Stall Barn was completed adjacent to the Breeding Shed.

2008 - The Breeding Shed received a face lift and new stocks to hold the horses for treatments.

2018 - Construction completed on the Oppenheimer Family Equine Center, paving the way for a new covered riding arena, foaling barn, stallion barn, and hay barn. The project was funded by the $20 million donation made to the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences (CAFES), from longtime Cal Poly supporters Peter and Mary Beth Oppenheimer in 2014.

2022 - The 2022 Cal Poly Performance Horse Sale was the leading university horse sale in the nation.



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