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Morgan Horse Farm gets $1 million gift

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By JOHN S. McCRIGHT

WEYBRIDGE — The University of Vermont Morgan Horse Farm in Weybridge last week announced it had received a $1 million gift from the Amy E. Tarrant Foundation — 10 times the amount of the next closest single gift from any individual.

“Through her incredible generosity, Amy Tarrant is helping to ensure the legacy of the UVM Morgans and the one-of-a-kind home of our state animal,” said horse farm director Stephen Davis.

The money will not be used to expand the facility, but maintain its breeding and other operations. Davis said the young stock housing area, on-farm residences and pump house all could receive some attention with the funds, but the money is really to meet the usual needs of the farm. Like many UVM departments, the Morgan Horse Farm supports itself.

“This gift will allow us a little more leeway in planning for operations … and long-term financial planning,” Davis said. “Operationally we are stand alone. Hopefully this will help us maintain the status quo.”

The $1 million will be paid out in equal installments over four years. Of the $250,000 payments, $200,000 will go into an endowment and $50,000 will be used for immediate operating expenses. Once the $800,000 endowment is fully funded the farm will be able to draw down an estimated $36,000 a year in perpetuity.

The farm budgeted $362,584 for operating expenses in 2008, according to a UVM spokesman. Most of the revenues come from a hose breeding operation, plus admissions fees for tours.

Tarrant, the former wife of businessman and 2006 U.S. Senate candidate Rich Tarrant, has a long-time interest in the Morgan Horse Farm. Davis said she remembers visiting the farm as a young child with her family.

“She always wanted a UVM Morgan foal but that wasn’t possible for her family at that time,” he said. Now Tarrant, who splits her time between Vermont and Florida, is “immersed in the horse industry,” Davis said, raising horses and training thoroughbreds. Her past support of UVM has included funding for the Ellen A. Hardacre Equine Center at UVM, named after her mother.

In the past Tarrant sponsored refurbishments to the Morgan Horse Farm’s maternity area.

“The Morgan Horse Farm is one of Vermont’s treasures, and I’m very pleased to be able to help ensure that it’s preserved and maintained for future generations,” Tarrant said in a press release.

The Morgan Horse Farm was given to UVM in 1951 by the federal government, which had operated the Morgan breeding program since receiving the farm from publisher and philanthropist Joseph Battell in 1907. Battell had begun breeding Morgans on the farm in the late 1870s.

Today, the UVM “government” line of Morgan Horse is considered one of the best in the world. In addition to operating a commercial-scale breeding program, the farm serves as a laboratory resource for UVM’s equine science students to learn about foaling, breeding and animal care.

The Morgan Horse Farm was the beneficiary of several $100,000 gifts over the years, according to UVM officials. It also received in 2002 a $365,000 federal grant secured by Sen. James Jeffords to make facilities improvements. A fund-raising campaign in 2001 netted $1.5 million for a Morgan Horse Farm endowment and $500,000 to fund a state-of-the-art fire suppression system.

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