Teaching “Old” Horses New Tricks – Asbury University
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Teaching “Old” Horses New Tricks

March 5, 2020

Student riding a horse and stroking its maneAsbury University’s Equine program is known as a high-quality training ground for students interested in all aspects of working with horses, but it is about to take on a whole new side of the industry. The department recently announced that two student teams have been accepted for participation in the 2020 Thoroughbred Makeover and National Symposium, a competition showcasing the abilities of former racehorses that will take place this October at the Kentucky Horse Park in nearby Lexington.

The Thoroughbred Makeover was created by The Retired Racehorse Project, a 501(c)3 charitable organization focused on Thoroughbred horses that have been retired from racing. The program creates new careers—and lives—for these horses by training them in specific categories for competition. To enter, the horses must have competed within the last year.

While Asbury’s equine program may be better known for training horses—such as police mounts which are then purchased for use across the United States and Canada—and for training students in the business and health of horses, the students also have the necessary skills and experience in equine competition for an event of this scale and are well suited to represent Asbury in this way.

“It’s a huge opportunity for our students,” said Wilmore Mayor Harold Rainwater, who also serves as Dean of the Equine Department. “We have two teams of three with a horse each. They will train the horses from now till October, then they will be eligible to compete in the Retired Racehorse Makeover.”

Asbury’s participation was made possible through generous donations from alumni Jeanine Leist McDowell ’69 and Mary Jim Luce ’53. The donations were used to purchase two retired racehorses in collaboration with the Secretariat Center, a horse retraining facility based at the Kentucky Horse Park in nearby Lexington. Asbury’s equine program is already respected across North America, but the hope is that the addition of these retired and well-trained racehorses will add new energy to the stables.

“We’re training for Hunter / Jumper,” said Rainwater, “and there will be about a hundred horses coming to Kentucky to compete in these events.” Fortunately for the odds, the two competing teams from Asbury were selected based on a combination of merit and skill levels. Team one is headed up by Hope Beers ’20 and includes Josie Wooldridge ’21 and Martha Bruckner ’21. Team two comprises Charlotte Copeland ’21, Jessie Maggi ’22 and leader Emma Forsyth ’23.

Despite her status as the youngest student on either team and a freshman at Asbury, Emma Forsyth was chosen for team leader because of her preexisting skills and training, but she is surrounded by peers. Many of the equine program’s finest students were selected to participate in the October competition, and all six will be receiving dedicated time and training in preparation.

“We have a wonderful mix of personalities and riding levels here,” said Jessica Hayes, an adjunct professor in the program, “but they’re a good bunch of young ladies that are going to benefit themselves educationally as well as being a good blend for the Makeover Project.”

The Thoroughbred Makeover and National Symposium will not take place until the first week of October, but Asbury’s teams are already beginning their preparations for their training intensives and the long but rewarding road to the competition.

Read more information about Asbury University’s Equine Program.