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Horses part of student life at U of M Morris
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Tracey Headley has owned her horse Nickolai for four years. When she considered colleges to attend, she choose UMM because the school allowed her to board a horse on campus. (MPR Photo/TIm Post )
This is a busy time of year for college students. They've got finals to worry about. Some will graduate or take a summer job. And of course, students need to squeeze in an active social life. Homework and tests are important, but you've got to make time for your friends. For about 20 students at the University of Minnesota, Morris, those friends are horses. Morris is the only college in Minnesota that allows students to board their horses on campus.

Morris, Minn. — The University of Minnesota, Morris is a liberal arts college now, but it began life as a school of agriculture. Strolling around campus, it's easy to spot remnants of the past.

On one end of campus, near some residence halls, there's a huge tan-colored barn. Years ago it would have been full of dairy cows. But these days it's home to a dozen horses owned by students.

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Image UMM students and their horses

The folks here claim this is the only college in Minnesota where a student can keep a horse on campus.

Tracey Headley is a freshman pre-med student. Headley's owned her horse Nickolai for about four years. When she went off to school, she refused to leave him behind in her hometown of Holdingford.

"I thought about other campuses like Duluth or the Twin Cities, but they didn't have anything for Nikky, so I couldn't go without him," Headley said.

Boarding a horse at the university in Morris doesn't cost much -- it's only $120 dollars a year. Some private stables charge several hundred dollars a month.

This isn't some kind of horse-sitting service, though. To belong to the saddle club on campus, students need to provide all their horse's needs, like food and medicine.

Between classes, they pitch in on chores and help take care of other horses. When their work is done, whether in the classroom or the barn, students trot off with their horses to ride in the fields beyond campus.

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Image Kathryn Gonier-Klopfleisch

It's too rainy and cold to ride today. So sophomore Alicia Dahlen from Bloomington is working on her horse, giving him a pedicure, of sorts. 18-year old Solo is getting ready for a weekend show. Dahlen says she's obsessed with her horse. And with her full schedule, a 1,500 lb. obsession can be tough to squeeze in.

"It does definitely get in the way, and sometimes it's hard to balance. Sometimes I have to call friends and see if they can come and feed him or groom him," said Dahlen. "For the most part you just really have to plan out your day. This is when I have to feed him, and this when I have to go to class -- and usually you're OK."

Campus saddle club advisor Kathryn Gonier-Klopfleish says the extra work has proved too much for some students. They left the club to concentrate on their studies. But for other students, added duties can actually help keep them on track.

"You can't be one of those people that says on a Thursday, 'Oh man, I have four tests tomorrow, I'd better get studying,' and then forget that you have a horse that needs to be fed and cared for," Gonier-Klopfleish said. "You have to plan ahead so you make sure that your horse gets what it needs, in the schedule that it's used to getting it."

The usual image of college students just doesn't fit in the barn. Here, saddles and horse grooming are as important as tests and parties.

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