By Lynnette Cagle, Contributing Writer

They’re easy to identify – mud-stained jeans and boots send a not-so-subtle signal that equine students are around – but they’re not so easy to find. Especially on warm, sunny days, it is difficult to track down an equine student on campus. It’s understandable. They have a pair of barns and expansive fields filled with dozens of beautiful horses. Up on the distant palisades where the Asbury barns reside, equine majors and minors have created a haven where horse lovers can work, play and learn in ideal fashion.

What about the rest of campus? There are plenty of students who like horses and want to work with them but aren’t studying in the Equine Program. There are also students who would like to get to know the equine majors, but they don’t get the chance. There is a chasm between the Equine Program and the rest of Asbury; however, the program is taking strides to overcome both the physical distance and the disconnect between students.

The first barrier that prevents a stronger connection between the equine program and campus is the distance. The barns aren’t on campus – one has to drive 5 to 10 minutes on winding, narrow roads to get there. The farm isn’t closer because, according to Mary Vandevort, a junior double majoring in Equine Studies and Psychology, the space needed by the program can’t be found anywhere closer to campus. While Asbury can’t lessen the physical distance between campus and the barns, they strive to shorten the gap. Whenever the Equine Program hosts special events, Asbury provides a shuttle system so students who don’t have a car can get to the property and back, and there are plenty of parking spaces for visitors taking their own cars.

Special events are one way the Equine Program tries to connect the equine students to campus and the community. Trail rides, held most Saturdays when the weather allows, are offered at a low price of $10 for an hour on horseback. These are open to anyone and are a great opportunity to spend time with the horses and the Trail Club, which is the team that organizes and leads the trail rides.

Another way that the Equine Program reaches out to campus is through Sunset Worship, a monthly event that is held in the warmer months. “Sunset Worship is a student-led evening of community worship and reflecting on who God is and His love for us as we watch the sun sink slowly over the Palisades River Valley,” said Kiana Linn, a junior Equine Studies major emphasizing in Equitation and Training. “I try to attend Sunset Worship as often as possible, as I cherish those beautiful moments spent enjoying the beauty of nature, the companionship of friends, and the presence of our Lord.”

Other ways of getting in touch with the program include taking the beginner horseback riding class offered as a PE credit. Since students must fulfill the PE credit anyways, horseback riding is a fun way to do that. Student can also connect with the equine program by attending one of the many special events that the program hosts, such as Draft Horse Day or square dancing.

“Sometimes we complain that we don’t feel connected to campus,” confesses Vandevort about herself and her fellow equine majors, “but it’s also partially our fault because we spend a lot of time out there, even when we don’t necessarily need to. If we want to be part of campus, well, we have to put in the effort to do that.”

Sophomore Laura Millis, an Equine Management major, believes that integration between all the majors can bring connection. “An effective way to bridge the gap between equiners and non-equiners is to create a social relations club,” Millis suggested. “We could have media com majors film the horses and their trainers. English majors could write equine inspired publishings, psych majors could conduct research on the farm, and the list goes on. Both parties could teach each other something new about their field. The equine farm is constantly bustling with activity, and we’re always open for visitors. We are all here to learn and sharpen each other, and what better way to do that than to converge our passions?” Even without an official club, students can do this now. “Selected students who are willing to spend time in another ‘culture’ could really bridge the gap between equine and non-equine students!” Millis said.

Closing the chasm between the Equine Program and the rest of campus will take time, but it’s worth the effort. “Get to know us!” Linn said. “Although we may have a reputation for being opinionated or tough, we’re really just a bunch of wonderful, hard-working people who are always willing to lend a hand. We love to have fun and we love what we do!”