WHEELING - A new partnership with Oglebay Stables is giving the students of the steadily growing equine studies program at Bethany College the chance to put on their riding boots and go out and share their love of horses with the community.
Previously located at a small farm near the college campus, the move to Oglebay Park allows the almost decade-old program room to expand even further and gives students a chance to have a hands-on experience with riding, hosting shows and stable management.
"Coming here as a freshman and having been here through so many changes, I think now that we are able to give every student a hands-on opportunity and put them in real-life situations, the quality of student that comes out of this program now is so different." Stephanie Jacobs, a Bethany equine studies student, said.
BRINGING PROGRAM INTO THE COMMUNITY — Amy McGreal, left, and Jeanette Gue, barn managers at Oglebay Stables, take out Steele for a morning walk. Oglebay Resort and Conference Center has recently partnered up with Bethany College to benefit the college’s equine studies and riding programs and to bring the program into the community. -- Sarah Harmon
According to Amanda Stewart, director of the equine studies program at Bethany, the new facility will allow the students to have a greater number of horses and have a space large enough to host riding shows for the first time.
Jacob Arbaugh, a junior minoring in equine studies, said the new facility allows him to experience situations, such as holding a show, that he has only learned in the classroom so far.
"The outdoor arena is huge and you can do a standing circle or a jump anywhere. It's a lot easier and I'm super excited to get a show there," he said.
In addition to riding, Stewart said students have been learning to manage a boarding operation for years, but now students in management classes will be able see the actual financial and physical management of a stable property. Stewart said the hands-on, heavily involved experience from working at the stables gives her confidence her students will succeed in their careers after graduation.
"What's really fun is to see the students. Now they are comfortable enough if they want to change something with the management or if there's something they want to do differently, a lot of times they just do it now," Stewart said. "That's what you want. I want them to walk away and have no worries. I know that any of my kids that are out there, no matter what were to happen, they can take care of those issues."
Stewart also said the larger facility and convenient location will allow the program to easily connect with members of the community.
"It's such a wonderful location that things like therapeutic riding and community service can be at the forefront," Stewart said. "I think the students would agree that the horses are a big part of what we do, but we view the horses as a way to reach people. We are much more visible now."
"The remarkable thing about the equine studies program is that it really pushes our students into the world," Darin Fields, vice president of academic affairs and dean of the faculty, said. "They can say, 'I'm not spending all my time in the classroom just learning about it, I'm actually out there with hundreds of bales of hay and doing all the hard work.' That's invaluable and Oglebay gives us a venue to expand these experiences. It helps Oglebay and it helps us. It's a win from every perspective."
The Oglebay facility includes a barn that houses 27 horses, an outdoor arena and riding trails. Oglebay Stables offers riding lessons to the public as well as pony and trail rides.