Horsing around at inaugural Red Barn Field Day

Feb. 27, 2024, 12:04 a.m.

Stanford’s Red Barn buzzed with activity on Saturday afternoon as over 100 students and family members attended the barn’s inaugural Field Day. On a rare sunny day in February, the barn opened its gates for a two-hour family weekend extravaganza including barn tours, a photo booth, a treat feeding station and pony rides.

The Red Barn’s tidy grounds far on west campus are home to two barns and almost 100 horses. One of the barns is the oldest building on campus, left mostly unchanged from Stanford’s time as a stock farm. The barn also hosts statues commemorating Electioneer, the prized stallion owned by Stanford’s founder Leland Stanford, who starred in “The Horse in Motion,” a famous photo series taken by Eadweard Muybridge on the barn’s grounds.

The event was organized by the Stanford Equestrian Team. At the helm of the proceedings was the team’s outreach officer Novia Liu ’25, who patrolled the grounds with a walkie-talkie and a smile. 

“We’re so grateful to have this beautiful place and all these wonderful horses, and we understand that the majority of people don’t get the chance to see this,” Liu said. “The whole goal of this event was to bring people out and make it as accessible as possible.” 

The purpose of the event was to allow students, some of whom who’ve never had the chance to interact with horses, to meet the animals in a “safe, stress-free way,” Liu said. Many students arrived at the barn’s gates with their parents and younger siblings in tow.

According to Liu, 307 students filled out the interest form before the team closed it, and they accepted a total of 160 visitors — only so many people can safely be on the grounds at a time, she explained. The pony rides were even more limited, open only to those over 18 years old and quick enough to register for the available 40 spots or be pulled from the waitlist.

Liu said she was pleasantly surprised by the demand, and the team plans to hold another event spring quarter to “accommodate all the interest in a safe way.”

The event is part of the team’s ongoing efforts to introduce the Stanford community to the barn, which was “completely shut down” during the COVID-19 lockdown according to equestrian team co-president Megan King ’23 M.A. ’24. The barn is still closed to the public, but the team has begun inviting students to enjoy the facilities through dorm tours and class visits. 

“It’s a balance because we have to keep the horses and the people safe,” King said. 

Attendants were briefed on barn rules at the gate before entering, and team members and a coach led groups around the grounds. Under the instruction of the guides, visitors were allowed to pet certain horses and, for the lucky 40 participants, ride around a covered arena for a few minutes at a time.

The barn also hosts quarterly 1-unit classes for students, which this spring quarter include two PHYSWELL horsemanship classes and a family medicine class, “Medicine & Horsemanship: An Outdoor, Equine Assisted Learning Course for Doctor-Patient Relationship.”

Suhani Chaudary ’27 had heard about horseback riding classes on campus before, but Saturday’s event was the first time she had visited the barn. After enjoying her tour of the barn, she said, “I’d definitely be interested in taking a class.” 

Chaudary was not the only Stanford student — current or past — who was awed by the barn. Robert Borthwick ’87 was visiting the barn for the second time, after his daughter, Alex Borthwick ’25 signed them up for the event. 

“It’s a great way to introduce people to a place they wouldn’t walk by accidentally,” Robert Borthwick said. “I’d forgotten how beautiful the old barns are.”

Cameron Duran '24 is a vol. 265 Arts & Life Managing Editor. Contact The Daily’s Arts & Life section at arts ‘at’ stanforddaily.com.

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