WCC’s Equestrian Program will eventually be taught at the Equestrian Center of the permanent WCC campus. In the meantime, it is conducted at a local rodeo arena here in Lander. Three times a week, WCC freshmen study horse behavior and horse care, as well as practice the skill of riding horses under the expert tutelage of an equine instructor. As with our COR course, no special experience or skills are necessary (we'll give you that!), only a willingness to learn.
Cherry Hill, an internationally known instructor, horse trainer, and author, rightly contends that horseback riding is more than physical discipline: “Becoming an effective rider involves intellectual, physical, moral, and emotional development. It has the potential to enhance all aspects of life. I feel very strongly that riding has helped me to become a better person. When I approach riding with dedication, I see positive changes in myself; I have seen similar changes take place in other riders of all ages and skill levels.”
Wyoming Catholic College considers the Equestrian Program an important and integral part of its liberal education curriculum, and it certainly provides occasion for the students to get to know themselves better. Socrates reminds us that part of wisdom is to “know thyself.” Paradoxically, this advice is best kept not by looking within for some elusive “self,” but by interacting in lively ways with God’s creation.
The horse, one of God’s noblest creatures, is a living, conscious being operating at a high level of animal intelligence; it has a character of sorts, and emotions, “a mind of its own”; it is no mere machine whose buttons can be pressed for instant results. Learning to understand and work with a horse is a particularly effective way of learning humility, co-adaptation, and respect. Moreover, the horse has been inextricably bound up with Western civilization for thousands of years and, closer to home, has defined the character of the American West, especially in Wyoming. Here we see a part of our collective cultural identity too precious to lose.