Milo Opens New Equestrian Center

Milo Adventist Academy horses are no longer housed in greenhouses turned into makeshift barns in Days Creek. The new barn, created in the former Thunderbird wood factory, has 15 stalls, a classroom, an office, a tack room and a large indoor arena where students can work with their horses in all kinds of weather. An existing structure adjacent to the pasture has been expanded to provide an outdoor shelter for the horses.

Junior Hannah LaRiccia says her horse, Calypso, loves being at Milo. He is one of 13 horses housed in the new equestrian facility. The old arena was just an empty field, and, according to LaRiccia, sometimes the mud would go up to the horses’ knees. Now the horsemanship class can continue their work without weather-related disruptions.

Ten students are enrolled in the beginning and advanced classes. The courses teach participants how to properly care for their horses, including grooming, health care, feeding, cleaning of stalls, tacking up and how to communicate with the animals. LaRiccia believes taking horsemanship “gives students confidence, learning to work with something instead of against it.”

Freshman Austin Spencer says, “I love spending time with horses and learning more about them, and especially riding.”

This year students can sign up for recreational riding even if they are not enrolled in the class. “It’s a complete de-stresser,” LaRiccia says. “Getting out there in nature on horseback, you can see how beautiful Milo really is.”

In addition to academic and recreational opportunities, the equestrian program provides jobs. Six students work five to 10 hours each week feeding, sweeping stalls, doctoring, bringing horses in and out from pasture, and assisting the horsemanship program director, Dannia Birth. Wranglers give one-on-one instruction under Birth’s supervision and lead out in recreational riding. Freshman Tori Obersinner says, “I love working as a wrangler so that I can spend more time with the horses.”

Birth got her first horse when she was 8 years old. As a student at Milo in the mid 1990s, she and several classmates got permission to bring their horses to Milo and enjoyed riding in their spare time. Later she directed the horse program at Camp Heritage in Missouri for two summers. LaRiccia appreciates how much Birth loves and cares for the horses at Milo and is happy they are in good hands. Junior Katie Beth Miller adds that Birth is “patient and willing to work with people’s different abilities.”

Milo’s equestrian staff dreams of having an outdoor arena and a hot-water wash rack so they can bathe the horses in the winter. Their most urgent need is to obtain more floor mats to keep the horses from slipping on the concrete and sand to improve footing in the arena.

For more information on Milo Adventist Academy’s horse program, visit

February 26, 2015 / Oregon Conference