Bethany College Equestrian Program Forging a Special Bond to Nature
WHEELING — On most days, motorists driving on W.Va. 88 through Oglebay Park will see horses grazing in the turnout pastures of a facility that not only serves as the home for Bethany’s Equestrian program but offers much more.
The facility, which includes a main stable area that houses 27 horses, has indoor and outdoor rings, provides several acres of turnout pastures, and requires a tremendous amount of year-round care, is certainly a labor of love by Bethany students who are involved with the facility year-round. Nearly 20 students either work through a work study program or volunteer their time through the school’s equestrian club to take care of the horses and facility that offers public lessons, trail rides and camps.
Whether it’s feeding the horses or cleaning the stalls, the horses have to be maintained every day.
“Feed, water, hay, and cleaning stalls” are involved daily, according to Beth Johnson, who serves as head coach of Bethany College’s Hunt Seat Equestrian Team. “So we have a staff that takes care of that.”
She said nearly half of the horses boarded at the stables belong to Bethany College, while the other half belong to private owners.
“The gem of this place is our outdoor arena, that’s where we host an Intercollegiate Horse Show,” Johnson explained.
She said more than a dozen regional colleges compete in the event.
“Not every college has their own facility like we have here. So we’re really lucky,” she added.
She said a Bethany student competed in the highest class you can qualify in during the national finals just a few years ago in Lexington, Ky. She said the college has a tremendous relationship with Oglebay Park, which allows the school to lease the facility.
Whether it’s being involved in a Horse Lover’s Camp or a group trail ride, there is something very therapeutic about being around horses, according to Johnson, who also serves as an adjunct faculty member at Bethany and teaches Introduction to Riding.
“If you’re a horse person, then the barn is where you go for your therapy,” said Johnson, who grew up around horses from a very young age. “Everybody who works here has a deep love of horses.”
She said the stables provide the public the chance to have access to horses who otherwise may not have that opportunity on a regular basis. Johnson said while the facility offers rates on a variety of activities, and anyone can stop by “just to pet a horse” during their hours of operation.
“And what better setting can you have than Oglebay Park?” she added.
Alex Grumski, who got involved with working with horses during her freshman year at Bethany College about six years ago and became a riding instructor nearly two years ago, said it has been an amazing experience.
“I enjoy teaching. I also love being around my horses. I’ve worked with them for about six years now, so I have a really good connection with most of them. They all have their own personality,” Grumski explained. “I knew I wanted to work with animals. I want to be a large animal vet and I just fell in love with horses when I first started at Bethany,” she added.
Julie Roxby of Wellsburg, whose daughter Kaelynn has been taking horse lessons for several years at the stables, said being around horses has been an amazing experience for her daughter.
“They’re a beautiful animal and she’s always loved them since she’s been a young girl,” Roxby explained. “We started doing lessons and the lessons entail learning to care of the horses — because our goal is to get a horse one day,” she said. “Right now we come up once a week. She would like to do it everyday if she could,” Roxby added.
For more information about the stables or reservations, call 304-243-4042.