Demonstrating the power of philanthropy – coupled with a lot of persistence – the newest addition to the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center (EMC) hospital complex is finally underway. 

The Jane and Stephen Hale Equine Performance Evaluation Center will become an integral part of the equine athletic evaluation and treatment complex at the hospital. Linked to the Youngkin Equine Soundness Clinic and the Equine Podiatry Center by covered walkways, the new indoor arena will complement and enhance the capabilities of these existing diagnostic and treatment areas.

“The addition of a covered arena with hard, medium, and soft surfaces for the dynamic portion of soundness exams, and a safe enclosed riding area for under saddle lameness examinations and upper airway dynamic endoscopy will expand and enhance our performance evaluations” said Jennifer Barrett, Theodora Ayer Randolph Professor of Equine Surgery

The groundbreaking ceremony for the ambitious project was held in 2019, but the proposed construction was dogged by the COVID-19 pandemic and its knock-on effect on the supply chain. Virginia Tech officials also worked with Loudoun County officials and the Commonwealth of Virginia to meet construction requirements necessitated by the site’s location  on a limestone aquifer. 

EMC, located at Morven Park in Leesburg, Virginia,  is one of three hospitals of the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine. Others include the Veterinary Teaching Hospital at Blacksburg and the Animal Cancer Care and Research Center at Roanoke.

The new indoor arena will enhance the center’s sports medicine capabilities that are already available to equine athletes by integrating lameness evaluations, the center’s impressive imaging modalities, therapeutic podiatry, and heart and lung evaluations.

These interconnected facilities will promote a collaborative, multidisciplinary approach to diagnosis and treatment, with specialists from different fields working together to solve sometimes complex athletic limiting issues in the horse. 

Artist rendering of the indoor arena.
Exterior rendering of the indoor arena. Photo courtesy of Blackburn Architects, P.C.
Artist rendering of the indoor arena.
Interior rendering of the indoor arena. Photo courtesy of Blackburn Architects, P.C.

 “Three different surfaces inside the indoor arena will support not only the evaluation and diagnosis of lameness issues but will also provide the ideal environment for EMC clinicians to evaluate the heart and respiratory tract, which can also adversely affect a horse’s ability to perform at the peak of their athletic ability,” said Michael Erskine (DVM, ‘88) EMC director and Jean Ellen Shehan Professor.

Aimee and Frank Batten, Jr., provided the generous initial challenge gift to encourage and inspire others to support and fund the project, which was followed by several significant donations. Their support of the overall vision of an athletic wellness complex was the final piece of a bold strategic business plan that was set to create an undercover, enclosed space for the evaluation and treatment of athletic-related injuries in the horse, complementing existing facilities and comprehensive diagnostic imaging capabilities already in place. 

Joe May ’62 and Bobby May were inspired by the Battens and the generosity of others to work with EMC to designate a gift from the estate of Stephen and Jane Hale to fulfill the match goal. The Battens had no desire to name the new facility and were delighted to have their match challenge met and supported naming the new facility after the Hales.  

Jane and Stephen Hale were long-term clients of the equine center, well respected by the local community, and owned and operated an equine facility in Lovettsville, Virginia.  As trustee of the Hales’ estate, Joe May supported the vision and embraced the opportunity to name a significant equine diagnostic facility after the Hales.

“We are incredibly grateful for the continued support from our loyal donors who share the EMC’s vision of sustaining the progression of the facility as a premier equine medical center on the Eastern Seaboard, ” said Stacey Ahner, EMC director of major gifts.

The indoor arena – projected to be completed in late fall 2023 – will provide a safe, year-round, weatherproof diagnostic area where horses can be evaluated under saddle, in hand, and on the lunge line, made possible by generous philanthropic support from visionary individuals who value the availability of top-notch equine clinical care in the region.

Written by Sharon Peart for the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine.


Andrew Mann
Director of Communications and Marketing