Arabian horses a living reminder of remarkable man

July 28, 2010

A university is coming to terms with a remarkable $US42 million gift. At its roots is a shared vision on the role of education and an appreciation for the beauty of the Arab horse. Neil Clarkson reports.

W.K. Kellogg with one of his arabians in 1928.

Will Kellogg with Fasal and 12-day-old Pep, the future trick horse, in the original Kellogg House Stables in 1929.

A California university puts on regular Arabian horse shows in recognition of the important legacy of cereal magnate Will Kellogg.

The American philanthropist, better known as W.K. Kellogg, cherished his Arabian horses, which he kept on his 800-acre ranch near Pomona.

He began Sunday exhibitions to showcase the intelligence and versatility of the breed in 1926 - a tradition which is carried on by Cal Poly Pomona, the university of 20,000 students which now stands on the site of Kellogg's ranch.

In 1949, two years before Kellogg's death at the age of 91, the land was gifted to California's state college system for use as a campus, reflecting his belief that "education offers the greatest opportunity for really improving one generation over another".

Cal Poly Pomona, which has grown to cover 1438 acres on the eastern edge of Los Angeles County, has long upheld the ideals of Kellogg.

Its W.K. Kellogg Arabian Horse Centre is a key part of its campus and continues to use bloodlines favoured by Kellogg.

The university's long commitment to improving access to tertiary education has seen it receive millions of dollars over the years from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

This week, the foundation awarded a $US42 million endowment to the university - the largest cash gift in the history of the California State University system.

The university, which has eight colleges and a faculty of 3000, will use interest earned from the donation to extend and bolster educational opportunities for current and aspiring students.

The donation was to mark the 150th anniversary of Kellogg's birth.

The money, to be given over five years, will provide a huge boost to the university's ability to reach out and serve under-represented communities in Southern California, including first-generation college students and their families, military veterans and emancipated foster youth.

Will Kellogg and actor Tom Mix with trick horse Pep.
"Mr Kellogg was a strong believer in higher education, and his vision of 'investing in people' has translated into the foundation's fundamental belief that access to a high-quality education is vital to enhancing the lives of vulnerable youth," foundation chairman Sterling Speirn said.

University president Michael Ortiz described the endowment as transformational. "With these resources we will be able to change lives and contribute to the economic growth and prosperity of the region."

The gift comes at a challenging time for public universities in California, with state support shrinking and concern over the future of higher education growing.

Cal Poly Pomona has long strived to reach out to young people who have grown up thinking that college is for 'other people'.

University chancellor Charles Reed said the Kellogg Foundation had been a remarkable benefactor for the university, saying the money would make an extraordinary difference to the lives of countless students.

Kellogg's family shares a rich history with the university.

In the 1920s, Kellogg established a winter home in the rolling hills of what is now the northern edge of the campus.

He invited the public to the ranch to enjoy performances by his prized Arabian horses, which he lent to Hollywood for use in movies.

Cal Poly Pomona has carried on what it calls a Southern California tradition.

The original Kellogg stables remain an iconic part of Cal Poly Pomona's campus.

Public shows, organised through the Arabian Horse Centre, are held on the first Sunday of each month during the school year, from October to May, in a specially designed arena with covered stands. The horses are shown off to more than 11,000 guests of all ages each year.

In addition to the Sunday shows, others are staged on Thursday mornings during autumn and spring for school children.

The programme features Arabian horses, under English and western tack.

The intelligence and versatility of the breed is showcased through tricks, and the show includes a demonstration of driving.

Training and handling are accomplished entirely by the university's students and staff.

Many of the most iconic buildings on the campus date from the property's days as a horse ranch.

The Arabian Horse Centre occupied the original Kellogg stables before the opening of the current facilities in the mid-1970s.

It is home to about 150 Arabian horses used in the teaching of equine science, outreach activities and research. Its breeding and training programmes are internationally recognised.

The centre includes 38 acres of irrigated pasture, three barns, foaling stalls, a breeding area, veterinary clinic, farrier shop, four arenas and a grandstand.

Its breeding programme produces 10-15 foals a year, which are offered for sale to the public.

Aside from the Sunday and Thursday shows, the centre's horses are also exhibited by students and trainers in competitive all-Arabian horse shows at state and national level, and they take part in the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Parade.

The centre is home to hundreds of ribbons and trophies won by the horses.

The centre is also home to the W.K. Kellogg Arabian Horse Library, one of the world's largest public collections on the Arabian horse. The library houses thousands of manuscripts, rare books and photographs, and current and out-of-print periodicals and stud books from all over the world.

Footage is from "The Kellogg Dream", a video produced for the W.K. Kellogg Foundation by Joe Burnham (1983).