Animal Science Department

College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences

Kent Barnes Takes the Reins as Manager of Oppenheimer Family Equine Center

Cal Poly’s Oppenheimer Family Equine Center is in good hands with Kent Barnes, former longtime stallion manager at Shadwell Farm, taking over as the new equine center manager. 

Barnes began his tenure in Cal Poly’s Animal Science Department on March 1, after 30 years at Shadwell Farm, a 3,200-acre international thoroughbred breeding and racing operation in Lexington, Kentucky. As stallion manager, he oversaw the health and breeding of up to 20 thoroughbred stallions and was responsible for marketing them and selling breeding nominations. 

Barnes and his wife, Vikki, embarked on their new Central Coast adventure in February. After driving a moving van and living in a series of Days Inn across the country from Tennessee to California, they have settled into the Peterson Ranch house in Poly Canyon.   

The Colorado native is a natural for his new career. He grew up riding and competing mostly with quarter horses.  

“I transitioned into racing quarter horses in college but followed the Triple Crown of thoroughbred racing and was fascinated with the pictures of the large Kentucky farms in the Blood Horse and Thoroughbred Record magazines,” he said. “When I was an undergraduate, I worked on the feed/barn crew at the Colorado State University Equine Reproduction Lab and was introduced to the world of handling stallions, collecting semen, and flushing embryos. I knew then that was what I wanted to do.” 

Barnes came to Cal Poly looking for a new challenge and wanting to pass on some of the knowledge he has gained over the years to the next generation of horse lovers. He also wanted the opportunity to learn more. 

As equine center manager, he oversees 14 student employees who are responsible for feeding, cleaning, and giving treatments. He works with the faculty to provide the horses and other materials needed for classes and labs and maintains healthy pastures and safe and clean facilities at the center.   

“I work with the student managers and veterinary staff to see that the commercial broodmare band produces healthy foals and are bred back in a timely fashion,” he said. “The best part of my job is seeing the newborn foals and watching the students succeed in their enterprises. I enjoy showing students how to handle a stallion for teasing and going to the breeding shed. I like teaching them how to bandage a leg or apply a hoof pack.  

“Every day is different,” he continued. “I juggle a lot of duties and must manage my time accordingly. My goals are to accomplish a 100% pregnancy rate with the mares, deliver all healthy foals, hold a record-setting Quarter Horse Enterprise sale, and ensure successful jobs and a higher education placement for our graduates.” 

In the long term, Barnes hopes to revive Cal Poly’s Thoroughbred Enterprise and use his professional connections to place students on some of the large thoroughbred breeding farms in Kentucky.  

Barnes’ career has taken him to various countries, including Australia, Dubai, Ireland, South Africa and Uruguay, where he was able to explore new cities, cultures, and food.   

He describes himself as adventurous, caring and curious and advises students to not get caught in a rut. “Always keep learning, exploring and challenging yourself,” Barnes said. 


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