Asbury opens Bayless Arena

Published 9:57 am Friday, November 4, 2022

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Gillian Stawiszynski

Contributing Writer

Wilmore’s Asbury University is expanding multiple equine-related programs with the addition of a new 29,000-square-foot-facility.

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In May, the university broke ground for the Henry and Elsie Bayless Arena on its 343-acre equine property. On Thursday, October 27, students, faculty, and speakers came for a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Asbury University President Dr. Kevin Brown, Board of Trustees Chair Larry Brown, Provost Dr. Timothy Wooster, Dean Dr. Vins Sutlive, and Equine Program Director Harold Rainwater attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony. They announced the expansion of the Police Mount Training Program, Western Riding Program, Equine Assisted Services (EAS), and the return of Horse Boarding services.

Of these programs, Western Riding and Police Mount Training will move into the new 26-stall arena.

Asbury has had clubs for students interested in Western Riding in the past, but has never offered classes for that style of riding.

Wilmore Mayor and Equine Program Director Harold Rainwater said the Western program starts in January.

“We hope that it increases the number [of students], especially now that the students who want to ride western will have that option. Western basically is just a term meaning a different saddle, a different style,” said Rainwater. “You stop differently in Western. You jog instead of trot. You lope instead of canter. So, the terminology is a bit different, but it’s still good riding.”

Jesse Westfall, a world-renowned trainer, will teach the Western Riding classes. The program will provide courses that escalate in difficulty to improve students’ Western Riding skills.

The university has sold 50 horses throughout the 15 years it has run the Police Mount Training Program. Asbury students train horses for 3 to 4 years to then sell the horses to police departments across the United States. Some of Asbury’s returning customers are Grand Rapids, Indianapolis, Lexington, Atlanta, Louisville, Bethlehem, and Cobb County, Georgia departments.

The Bayless Arena will free up space for Asbury’s EAS program to use a smaller, 15-year-old facility. Rainwater said the size is better for smaller groups that use these services. This program has 17 student majors and is about a year old.

Rainwater said therapy is the primary goal of EAS, “to help the person cope better, deal better, to understand better, just to improve life.”

According to Rainwater, EAS serves wounded veterans, children with Down Syndrome riding in the Special Olympics, bullied children, and children with autism.

“It’s a big area with autism- where you take a relational horse with a person joining up improves the quality of life,” he said.

With the new facility, Asbury can now bring back its boarding program, which allows students to bring their horses while attending university. Students’ horses will board in a seven-year-old 20-stall barn.