Rutgers ESC Announces 2012 Spirit of the Horse Award Winner

The Equine Science Center (ESC) at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, has named leading New Jersey attorney Liz Durkin as the 2012 recipient of the Center's "Spirit of the Horse" award. Durkin received the award during the Equine Science Center Update on Dec. 8. Sandy Denarski, chair of the Rutgers University Board for Equine Advancement, and ESC Director Karyn Malinowski, PhD presented the award.

The "Spirit of the Horse" award recognizes individuals whose lives have been profoundly changed because of their involvement with horses and who have acknowledged the impact by giving back to the horse industry.

"Liz Durkin's passion for horses is palpable, as is her commitment to philanthropy," said Malinowski. "With her profound love of horses, Ms. Durkin wholeheartedly embraces the Equine Science Center's mission of better horse care through research and education."

The lifelong animal lover was already a graduate of Seton Hall Law School when she took her first riding lesson in 1987. By 1994, she had been victorious at the National Horse Show, just one highlight of more than 20 years competing as a rider and as an owner on the A-circuit.

Over more than two decades, horses have come to shape Durkin's life personally, professionally, and morally. A transactional attorney of 25 years' standing, she has carved a significant role in the area of equine law, helping horse owners to navigate issues from business deals to estate planning to buying, selling, and breeding. For Durkin, however, the most important contract is always the one with the horse.

"We ask them to do things for our benefit," she explained. "They compete, they hunt, they hunter pace, they provide pleasure rides. Our end of that partnership is that we are in turn their stewards. It is our responsibility to take care of them."

As the owner of a 140-acre preserved horse farm in Warren County, N.J., Durkin currently serves as the steward of nine horses and two rescued ponies. Besides purchasing six horses from the Young Horse Teaching and Research Program auction, additionally, she has sponsored R.U. Levi, a mustang adopted through the program led by Sarah Ralston, VMD, PhD, Dipl. ACVN, associate director of teaching at the ESC. Thanks to Ralston's advocacy and Ms. Durkin's generosity, Levi now serves as a teaching horse for veterinary students learning about Wobbler syndrome at the University of Pennsylvania's New Bolton Center.

Durkin also serves on the board of the Equine Science Center and on the Animal Law Committee of the New Jersey State Bar Association.

When it comes to the focus of the ESC, Durkin can capture her commitment in few words: "I have a very simple philosophy. I am all about the horse."

For additional information about the Spirit of the Horse award, please contact Tiffany Cody at or 848/932-9419.

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