South Dakota State University built its present horse barn in 1925, the beginning of a facility that would provide years of educational experience. The barn's purpose was to house draft teams that were used to farm the ground at the SDSU Experiment Station. The Experiment Station was established to help the people of South Dakota develop new agricultural and livestock husbandry practices. The station was diversified in many fields of agriculture, including purebred livestock. The barn was constructed of brick and was designed to accommodate nine teams and eight single drafts. The original structure also consisted of two feed rooms, two tack rooms, and an office.
Morgans and Saddlebreds were raised at the unit into the 1970s. Quarter Horses were added to the University's herd in the 1950s and are still the main focus of activities. Today the horse barn still houses horses and receives heavy usage. Approximately 50 head of Quarter Horses are now housed at the unit.
Every year, the light horses from the unit are presented at Little "I," the South Dakota Horse Fair, and at various activities in the Brookings area. Trail rides at Oak Lake are offered in the spring and fall to members of the Horse Club.
The Belgian drafters represented SDSU at many functions. In 1989, one team took part in the South Dakota Centennial Wagon Train. That particular team, now retired, pulled the SDSU trolley over 1,800 miles, visiting every county seat in eastern South Dakota. The train provided rides to over 2,000 individuals that may not have been able to experience the event on horseback or with their own animals. The drafters have had a presence in 4th of July parades, Festival of Lights Christmas parade, the SDSU homecoming Hobo Day parade, and Little International Livestock Exposition. Little "I" gives students the opportunity to show the University's livestock in fitting, showmanship, and judging competitions. Students manage and operate the unit to acquire hands-on learning and to gain valuable experience for the job market. While learning the proper methods for working with the animals, safety is the main concern for the employees, students, and equine residents.
Students wishing to work at the facility may obtain an application at the front desk in the Animal Science Complex.