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Families, horses don costumes for Trick-or-Trot

Adults and children of all ages donned their Halloween costumes for the eighth-annual Trick-or-Trot held at the J. Franklin Witter Teaching & Research Center on Friday.

Participants wearing costumes ranging from R2-D2 to Nintendo characters were able to meet the university’s 14 standardbred horses while enjoying plenty of candy and other treats.

The University of Maine Standardbred Drill Team — a group of students who practice and perform choreographed routines with the university-owned standardbred horses known as the “UMares” — holds the event every year.

“It’s awesome. It’s one of our biggest events,” Alison Folsom, a fourth-year animal and veterinary sciences student and the president of the team, said. “A lot of kids don’t have opportunities to come out and see horses and sheep.”

According to the Witter Farm website, the horses are former harness racers that were donated to the university, re-trained and sold as recreational horses. Many of the horses also got into the spirit of things with costumes of their own.

There were also two rams and 17 ewes and lambs on display. The sheep are supported by the recently-established Ewe Maine Icelandics club.

Other than meeting the animals, activities included palm readings, limbo dancing, a guessing game and a spider maze.

“It’s a good experience for the horses,” Poulin said. “They get to meet kids and it helps with their retraining program.” The horses are often used for therapy, research and teaching.

Poulin also said that many people do not know the farm exists and the event helps to put them on the map.

According to the Witter Farm website, the center was constructed in the early 1970s and has since grown to accommodate dairy cattle, sheep and horses. They even grow and harvest their own feed for their animals. The facility was closed from 1996 to 1998 for renovations and repairs.

The center is named for late professor Dr. J. Franklin Witter. Witter taught many courses and was the chairman of what was then the animal pathology department. He specialized in the diseases of cattle, poultry and general wildlife and also maintained the university’s agricultural facility.

The volunteers were made up of the drill team, the sheep club and UMADCOWS, a group that promotes and practices the management of the 80 registered Holstein cows held at Witter.

“I have been with the farm since this past summer,” worker and second year pre-veterinary student Jessica Pollard said.

Many students work at the research center, but clubs often volunteer their time to the animals and the Trick-or-Trot event itself.

“I’m a part of the sheep club so I got wrangled into it,” Anastasia Russo, a fourth-year animal science student who was operating one of the sheep pens, said.

The Standardbred Drill Team performs at the Bangor Historic Track and Raceway as well as Scarborough Downs. In the past, they have performed at the Common Ground Fair and for many youth horse clubs.

Witter Farm is used for many animal and veterinary science classes and is open from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. every day.


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