By Taylor DiSabatino, Contributing Writer

The equine program continues to be a popular major at Asbury; however, many students aren’t aware of the significance of the program that sits just a few miles down the road.

The equine program started 30 years ago and grew from four students with an equine major to 124 in just nine years.

It all started with Harold Rainwater, the mayor of Wilmore and head of the equine department. He held a class at his house over 30 years ago for a few students to learn about horses, but he was still looking for a facility to start his dream of building a God-filled place for students to learn about horses.

The equine property that Asbury currently owns was purchased 20 years ago. Rainwater realized that that property was where his dream would start to take shape. “Not just start a horse program, but have the horses to impact the students,” Rainwater said of the process creating the program. “This idea was not about horses, but about the students.”

This dream began with three horses and thin barbed wire around a field. “We didn’t know we didn’t have what we needed. We had fun, and we were building a dream,” said Rainwater. This spirit of contentment and optimism led the equine program to be the immense success it is today.

“In the winter of 1998, we started the first horseback riding class, and in 2002 we added a minor in equine,” said Rainwater. “When it first started, only two students enrolled in the minor, and one student dropped out. The next fall, there were 11 students, and over the next three years the program grew to 37 minors in 2006.” With such a large number of minors, a major was put into the works.

At first only four students declared to be an equine major in 2007. This grew about five to 10 students every year. One of the biggest reasons the program grew was due to the creation of the indoor ring. Having an indoor ring is vital if you want any sort of equine program anywhere, especially in Kentucky.

In 2010, Asbury had 50 majors and minors in the equine program. With the growth of the program, Marty Bilderback was hired as another faculty member to assist Rainwater.

Now, in 2015, we have 124 majors learning and spending their time out at the barn learning about horses and the God who created them.

Senior Brittany Vogel says that the program is growing by 20 percent each year. She also says that, at the moment, the equine program is overwhelmed and overcome with joy with the new faces around the barn. In order to manage the barn and horses, they hired David McIlrath and Jesse Westfall to help train horses and riders.

This dream began with three horses and thin barbed wire around a field.

Another addition is Dr. Gary Wilson, who “has a ton of experience and is so incredibly willing to share it,” said Vogel.

The program has many clubs and activities to suit every student’s needs. “I joined the Western Club at Asbury because the girls who were leading it are dedicated to God,” said junior Jessica Bennett. “We start each clinic praying to God and honor him in our training.”

“Asbury’s training programs are the whole reason I came to Asbury,” said junior Emily Anderson. “Seeing an equine program so Christ-centered sealed to deal for me to come.”

There are plans to build a boarder barn and pasture, so the boarders can have a special place to care for and house their horses.

Despite the rapid growth of the equine program, with new clubs and classes being created, God is always kept at the center. Rainwater coined its slogan: “God, People, Horses, in that order. All in one place.”