ST. MARY-OF-THE-WOODS, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) — On the far east side of St. Mary-of-the-Woods campus lies the school’s equestrian fields and the School of Equine Studies.

The facilities, and the horses residing within them, are a source of immense pride for school leaders.

“I grew up with horses,” SMWC President Dottie King said, “So it’s really fun for me to come out here and be a part of something that I’ve loved since I was a girl.”

SMWC offers the only baccalaureate program specifically related to horses in Indiana, and offers several different minors and concentrations for interested students, ranging from equine business management to equine science.

Faculty additions like Edward Ferguson, who serves as the chair of the Equine Studies Department, have only expanded the offerings.

“If a student had an interest, even if they were from an inner city and just loved horses and never had a chance to work with horses and thought that dream would never come true, if they come here, that dream can come true,” Ferguson said.

Ferguson, like King, was raised to love horses.

“I grew up on a race horse farm,” Ferguson shared. “My father trained quarter horses and thoroughbreds. He had the world champion running quarter horse in 1976. So, I grew up riding horses. As I got older, we started rodeoing and having to break 20-30 babies every year.”

Ferguson said he hopes to expand the equine facilities in the future to include more space for reproductive procedures, as his background is in equine science and reproduction.

“I’ve revised our equine science degree and added a equine pre-vet,” Ferguson explained. “There is a shortage of equine vets in the United States right now, so having students come here and major in pre-vet, not only do they get the coursework they need for Purdue or Illinois or Ohio State, they get hands-on experience that a lot of vets in vet school don’t even have.”

King has been part of the application process for READI grant funding in order to expand the equestrian facilities on campus to give the general public more awareness of events and other happenings.

“What we’re really hoping is that we become a total equestrian event space for the community,” King said. “We’ll continue to have our own students involved with a lot of the horse programs and we’re looking at equine reproduction and those services will be really valuable to horse owners. In addition, we want to be a place where the community can come and watch a horse show.”

King and Ferguson both believe the equestrian fields and the creatures living on them are a hidden gem in the community.

“We’re already open to the public, people just don’t really know that,” King said. “So as we expand, I think people will learn more and more and feel welcome to come here.”

“This is the best kept secret I’ve ever seen in my life,” Ferguson said.

Visit the SMWC Equine Facilities information page to learn more about the current setup on campus.