History and happenings of CPP Arabian horses

Whether you know it or not, the simple definition of a “bronco” is a rebellious horse that is wild or untamed. Cal Poly Pomona takes pride that the bronco represents the school and is the campus mascot.

However, the horses at CPP are anything but wild. They are trained and cared for by students and staff members over at the W.K. Kellogg Arabian Horse Center. 

Students can join the CPP Horse Show Team, which is a member of the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA). This organization is a class that students can join through the add/drop period after attending the first meeting of the semester. 

A second organization students can join is the Horsemanship Club. This club is open to those interested in horses and equestrian activities. They will learn to care for the 65 Arabian horses and assist the Horse Show Team at the Sunday shows. The club has 70 members and there are around 50 members on the Horse Show Team. 

“It’s mostly safety and handling the horses. Really hands on,” said Jeanne Brooks, the director of the W.K. Kellogg Arabian Horse Center.

Brooks cared for her family’s Arabian horse every day, going to the barn after school to take care of him until the horse was 34 years old. The average life expectancy of an Arabian horse is 25-30 years, though there are the rare occasions when they live to be 40. 

Brooks holds a master’s in business administration. She started a farm with over 50 Arabian horses in her home state of Tennessee and managed it for around 11 to 12 years before taking her current job in 2015. 

“I’ve always heard about the Kellogg Arabians, just growing up in the industry. It has a hugely famous reputation and history,” Brooks said. 

Her hands-on experience is passed on to the student handlers that join the different organizations. She assists the Horse Show Team in its competitions and oversees the instruction in the Horsemanship Club. 

However, Brooks leaves the Sunday shows to the students. They create the script and decide what will be featured at each show, which usually occurs on the first Sunday of each month.

The history of the Sunday shows dates back to 1926. After W.K. Kellogg purchased the land in 1925, he built the stables that are currently standing in the University Plaza. Visitors would consistently come by to see the Arabian horses every Sunday. 

A performance ring and bleachers were added in 1931 west of the stables. This area in now what is currently known as University Park. 

In May 1932, Kellogg donated both the land and horses to the University of California. From then on until the start of World War II, the Arabian horses were featured in Hollywood films and special exhibitions. Celebrities would attend the Sunday shows and take pictures with the horses. 

An Arabian horse known as King John was featured in the 1934 film “The Scarlet Empress,” which starred Marlene Dietrich. King John is also the model for Prince Charming’s steed in Disney’s 1937 animated film, “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” 

The Sunday Shows were discontinued during World War II and the land became a remount station in 1943 to provide horses for the war. After the war, the tension about what to do with the land led to another pause in Sunday show performances, the last being on Nov. 22, 1948. Eventually, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation stepped in and took ownership in 1949. 

Its first Sunday horse show was on March 12, 1950; the Arabians entertained almost 3,000 attendees. The tradition continued until Dec. 16, 1973 when the land was given for remodeling, which is now CPP’s University Plaza. The horses were moved the following year to their current facility. 

The W.K. Kellogg Arabian Horse Library is full of information about the history of not only the Arabian horses, but also the history of the CPP campus. 

“There’s a lot of history here, a lot of information. And I think that it could be utilized more,” said Elizabeth Gomez, assistant archivist at the library. 

Cal Poly Pomona students train and care for their horses at the Arabian Horse Center. 

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