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Morrisville State College Western Riding Arena Named In Honor of Retired Equine Instructor

MORRISVILLE, N.Y.— For nearly 20 years, Lewis “Spike” Holmes taught students in Morrisville State College’s equine racing and management, western (stock seat) program, how to ride.

His inspiriting voice was a constant at the western indoor riding arena where he devoted endless hours and energy sharing his affinity for horses, teaching and riding.

Faculty, staff and students gathered there recently to honor Holmes, naming the indoor western arena of the Equine Complex, the Lewis “Spike” Holmes Western Riding Arena.

“This was an easy decision to honor Spike,” Christopher Nyberg, Dean of the School of Agriculture and Natural Resources, said. “We were blessed to have someone who has been a national champion, world champion and leader in the industry come and have a second career with us at Morrisville State College.”

Holmes, an equine instructor bridled with equestrian honors, grew up surrounded by horses on a family farm. He graduated from Morrisville State College’s agricultural business program and started teaching there in 1989.

His intent was to stay for only a year, but his admiration for the classroom took him in a different direction. Holmes sold his business where he had trained and raised horses for 16 years, to focus on teaching.

“He was a great teacher and horseman who could really inspire people,” Bonnie Miller, Equine Science Department chair and director of Western Studies, said.

Although he officially retired last year, Holmes continues to motivate and encourage students, returning to the ring to help them hone their riding skills and prepare for events and competitions.

He recently helped students prepare for the Central New York Reining Competition hosted by Morrisville State College and competed in the event with them.

“Spike has elevated the visibility and credibility of the (college’s western) program immensely,” Ray Cross, president of Morrisville State College, said. “He has honored us with his dedication and service for many years.”

His commitment was also evident in many other arenas, not just at Morrisville State College.

“He stayed active in the industry, competing and judging and was current on techniques, making him a great asset to his students,” Miller said.

A revered judge in the equine industry for more than 30 years, Holmes holds judge’s cards for the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA), National Reining Horse Association (NRHA), and the American Paint Horse Association (APHA) and the National Snaffle Bit Association (NSBA).

His accolades include judging some of the most prestigious NRHA classes including NRHA Futurity and championship shows, in addition to being selected as one of five international equine professionals to judge the first-ever Olympic trials in reining for the United States Equestrian Team in 1999.

He also judged the All-American Quarter Horse Congress, the world’s largest single-breed horse show, and APHA World shows. In addition to judging shows in the United States, Holmes judged the Swiss Classic in Switzerland and the Austrian Challenge Cup.

His dedication and leadership in the equine industry also led to him receiving the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA) Lifetime Achievement Award, while his numerous industry connections funneled new ideas and techniques into the classroom and arena.

Holmes and his wife, Sylvia, live in Delphi Falls, N.Y.

Morrisville State College offers one of the most diverse Equine Science Programs, with specializations in breeding, western, hunt seat, draft/driving, thoroughbred racing, standardbred racing, and business.

Students can try out to be part of the Equestrian Team, which competes in Region II (Western) and Region III (Hunt Seat) of the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA).

Degrees offered are a bachelor of technology degree in equine science and two associate degrees in equine racing management and equine and science management. An Equine Breeding and Training Center, a 34,000 square-foot breeding and hunter/jumper facility, includes a breeding and foaling barn, hunter/jumper barn, stallion barn, a complete breeding laboratory, collection area, laptop classroom and three indoor riding arenas.

In addition to the Equine Breeding and Training Center, the college has an 80-acre Equine Center complete with paddocks, stables, and the only half-mile harness racing track on a college campus in the nation. Additional stables include a draft horse barn with a covered round pen and runouts. Construction will begin soon on an equine rehabilitation facility in the Town of Nelson on Route 20.

Morrisville State College, considered to be one of the most technologically advanced colleges in the nation for its ThinkPad University program and wireless technology initiative, offers more than 80 bachelor and associate degrees and options.

The Morrisville State College Norwich Campus offers associate degree programs in accounting, business, computer systems technology, office administration, liberal arts transfer, nursing, early childhood, criminal justice and human services to south central New York residents and employers. Students may also apply coursework to other associate or bachelor degrees at the main campus.