CSU’s new equine hospital opens

Colorado State University initiated its new, state-of-the-art equine hospital on Monday, Nov. 1, 2021 during a festive grand opening event. An 8-foot-tall Michael Stutz horseheads sculpture called “Double Equus” welcomed members of the public, CSU dignitaries, clinicians, students and more.

The “Double Equus” sculptures created by Michael Stutz stand 8 feet tall and welcome visitors at the entrance of the Johnson Family Equine Hospital. Photo by Kellen Bakovich

Among the attendees were Christopher Kawcak, DVM and professor of surgery for the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. Dr. Kawcak, a horse owner as well as director of CSU equine clinical services, has been instrumental throughout the design and construction phases of the Helen and Arthur E. Johnson Family Equine Hospital.

Dr. Christopher Kawcak, professor of Clinical Sciences, Veterinary Teaching Hospital, Colorado State University, is photographed in 2014. Photo by John Eisele/CSU Photography

Located on six acres just north of CSU’s James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital at the South Medical Campus, the new facility begins its tenure fully operational in its quest to advance regenerative treatments for animals and people alike.


What today is an impressive mega-campus of eclectic buildings and colleges, CSU’s veterinary structures began its growth in the early 1900s with a single hospital on Laurel Street. Horses were the primary concern for its staff, although cows and small animals such as dogs also received healing treatment.

In that and prior eras, horses were not primarily recreational/companion animals. Although a few were raced or used on ranches, their lot in life for most was limited to plowing fields, hauling heavy freight wagons or coaches, and as a means of transportation both under-saddle and in-harness. During World Wars I and II, they were drafted by the military to battle (and many to die) beside young men likewise conscripted for service to their respective countries.

In the early 1900s, the vet hospital was on Laurel Street. Photo courtesy CSU

An old, anonymous poem says it all:

Look back at our struggle for freedom,

Trace our present day’s strength to its source,

And you’ll see that mans’ pathway to glory

Is strewn with the bones of a horse.

Needless to say, hard work often causes harsh injuries. As time and horses marched on, diagnostic techniques greatly improved. Today’s technologies make even the finest diagnostics and treatments of a century ago seem primitive in comparison.


In mid-2015, a generous gift of $10 million to CSU from the Johnson Foundation launched plans for a hospital complex projected to be among the world’s best in teaching veterinary students, promoting discoveries in equine medicine, and providing specialty care for equines. Six years later, the project stands completed and celebrated with an open house.

Hard and soft surface arenas for lameness evaluations complement diagnostic imaging technology under a full array of services. These include general and emergency care; internal medicine; surgery; reproduction; dentistry; dermatology; neurology; cardiology; ophthalmology; orthopedic, sports medicine and rehabilitation.

The opening of the new Helen and Arthur E. Johnson Family Equine Hospital at Colorado State University was held on Nov. 1, 2021. Photo by Joe A. Mendoza/CSU Photography

Within the hospital’s approximate 180,000 square feet can be found special features that include a high-resolution computed tomography (CT) scanner to diagnose disease/injury to the head or neck through a low-stress means for standing patients. Horses don’t fare well if prone for extended periods of time. Remaining upright while sedated for a procedure reduces risk, speeds recovery and increases efficiency of the entire experience.

Eight isolation stalls are situated to provide the highest possible level of biosecurity for horses with infectious diseases.

The opening of the new Helen and Arthur E. Johnson Family Equine Hospital at Colorado State University was held on Nov. 1, 2021. Photo by Joe A. Mendoza/CSU Photography

The new hospital will provide more than 25 equine clinicians to care for up to 4,000 equine patients annually. Additionally, veterinary students (approximately 550 at a time) in the CSU Doctor of Veterinary Medicine Program will better benefit from the facilities and its many up-to-date research and treatment methods.

Equine sports medicine and rehabilitation will address lamenesses from musculoskeletal injury or disease.

An equine veterinary technician works with a patient undergoing evaluation for lameness. Photo courtesy CSU

Because the new hospital space is entirely dedicated to equines, it will allow horse owners to be more involved in their animal’s care. When the Voss Teaching Hospital opened back in the 1980s, horse patients were primarily financial assets rather than important family members in need of veterinary assistance.

While many equines still ‘pay their own way’ (by racing/cattle work/on show circuits, etc.), most are considered companion animals. Today’s educated owners have the knowledge to properly maintain them and seek out professionals with equal or greater means to come alongside.

A 6-day-old foal recieves a check-up at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital. Photo by John Eisele/CSU Photography

Said Dr. Kawcak, “We wanted to make sure it wasn’t just comfortable for horses, but comfortable for people as well.”

Those comfort measures even include a separate, on-site equine pharmacy and plenty of room for owners to remain with their horses throughout exams.

The new space provides comprehensive care in a common space. Faculty clinicians, third- and fourth-year vet students, veterinary technicians and others can enjoy direct access to mentors and peers; making collaboration far easier.


Helen K. and Arthur E. Johnson began a philanthropic foundation in 1948 that, more than seven decades later, includes four generations of the Johnson family. This private family foundation has assisted hundreds of nonprofit organizations throughout Colorado and beyond.


Johnson granddaughter Lynn Campion trains and rides Western performance horses. She is author of two books, “Rodeo: Behind the Scenes at America’s Most Exciting Sport,” and “Training and Showing the Cutting Horse.”

Campion greatly appreciates first-hand CSU’s cutting-edge equine research and treatment. She serves as chairman of the board of trustees for the Helen K. and Arthur E. Johnson Foundation.

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