AU Equine Dept. Grabs National Spotlight

A program built on excellence and consistent attention to detail had an opportunity to shine recently as the Asbury University Police Mounts participated in the Indianapolis 500 parade before a nationwide audience.

Eight of Asbury’s horses and their student trainers were spotted briefly on “Good Morning America” and seen at length on regional news coverage.

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The possibility of appearing in the parade was first introduced last October by a member of Indianapolis’ mounted police unit, who was impressed by Asbury’s horses and students at an annual mounted police colloquium in Lexington, Ky. Confident of their skills and training, he provided a registration packet for the parade and facilitated housing Asbury’s horses in the unit’s barn for the weekend when the University was accepted as a participant.

His confidence turned out to be well-placed. Eight of Asbury’s police mount horses and 11 students — several of whom returned from an equine-oriented mission trip in Brazil just hours before leaving for Indianapolis — navigated highway overpasses, large diesel trucks, parade balloons and more with a professional attitude. They even earned a "thumbs-up" from members of the Indiana Horse Council who accompanied them throughout the parade route.

“There was an entire marching band right behind us, but even the young horses didn’t flick an ear,” said Siobhan Adkins, an instructor in Asbury’s Equine Department and one of the founders of the Police Mount training program. “The horses enjoyed the adventure. We’ve trained them from weanlings to look for the fun in the scary. When we do obstacles and training days, we tell the trainers to keep it light and fun, so when the horses face stressful and scary things in life, they have confidence. The parade was actually the result of years of work.”

The parade was also the result of months of logistical preparation, beginning with carefully managing the horses’ diets for optimum health and shiny coats, polishing each piece of tack, and assembling a thorough packing list that included everything from the horses’ food to pitch forks to keep the parade route clean behind them. The payoff of all the hard work is the opportunity to build relationships and invest in the educational process — for students and horses — at Asbury.

“The officers we stayed with are planning to come and visit to see how we train, and they could potentially purchase one of our horses down the road,” said Stephanie Keeley, who also instructs in the Equine Department. “It’s a benefit for the horses, because the parade is a huge advantage in their training. It benefits our students by building their confidence as trainers, and students really view this as an opportunity to be an ambassador for the University.”

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