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Asbury Equine Center educating students, building nationwide connections

Asbury University Equine Center
Posted at 10:02 AM, Jun 24, 2023

WILMORE, Ky. (LEX 18) — Harold Rainwater may have the best job in Kentucky.

Every day, he gets to tend to the near one hundred horses that call the Asbury University Equine Center Home.

A passion project, really a longshot dream, he started decades ago.

About 30 years ago, Asbury University, Asbury College at that time, acquired this property. I just thought what a place to have a horse program," Rainwater said.

"I went to the administration and I asked them if we could do something here and the word was ‘if you can do it without any money.’ I was naive enough to think I could start a program with no money but I was passionate about it, I was interested in it. I worked fairly hard at it.”

It's been a bit of a balancing act for Rainwater as he splits time between being director of Asbury's equine program and his other job.

This side gig called being mayor of the City of Wilmore.

“I’m the longest serving mayor in Kentucky and the third longest in the United States. I’ve been mayor 47 years," Rainwater said.

For nearly his full tenure as mayor, Rainwater has led the equine program at Asbury, what started as the Horsemanship program 45 years ago.

That initial program that was a part of a Recreation major has now evolved into three different majors Asbury students can work toward if they want to join the world of horses.

Equine Science, Equine Studies and Equine Facilitated Services.

Each one giving students the chance to bond with horses through the curriculum.

“If a horse and you can join up and can train and have a relationship. It could be you’re going to be an equine vet. It can be that you’re going to be a trainer. It could be that you’re going to work with special needs kids. A horse can come along beside you and do all three of those," Rainwater said.

It goes beyond education, the Equine Center is connected to the horsing world in so many other ways.

Chief among them is being the lead university in training horses for police officers.

We are the only university doing what we do. Right now, we have 60 horses out at different departments," Rainwater said

"Lexington, Louisville Bethlehem, Atlanta, you can just go on. Even our horses are making impacts in those communities through their community policing.”

One of the resources helping the center train these horses is the newly opened Bayless Arena, a more than two million dollar training facility to help these young steads prepare for lives alongside first responders.

We wanted every square inch of it to be to train horses. We have 28 stalls. The horses just before they go out to the departments across the United States are in this barn," Rainwater said.

“For Asbury to have the faith and the confidence in this program to build a building that is approaching two million dollars in facility and additions here. It just overwhelms me almost that this is, for the next 50 years will serve Asbury in some major and unique ways."

Leaders with the equine center are also working to break through into the therapeutic space through their Equine Facilitated Services program.

Again relying on the connect horses can make with humans to help those in mental and emotional strife.

It’s using a horse to build relationally with special needs. It’s everything from girls with eating disorders to bullies to post traumatic stress and how you use a horse to help people with that," Rainwater said.

"We’ve found that the horses and the farm has been a great filler of that and how you do that. We’re not here just to be a pacifier or a horse fix.

Everything is built on connection.

Connecting horses to police departments across the country, connecting some of the biggest names in horse racing that leave their horses here, connect students with the resources to start their careers in one of the most important industries in the Bluegrass State.

All of the work done over the years is enough to bring Harold Rainwater to tears.

“I cry a lot. I take these horses very serious and my students very serious," Rainwater said.

"The foundation that we’ve built. The relationships that we’ve built with the industry. We don’t know everything but we know everybody."

If you want to learn more about the Asbury University Equine Center and the programs they offer, click here.