Does your son or daughter ride? Are you thinking about finding a private school which will suit both your academic requirements and your child's penchant for riding? After all, your daughter began riding in seventh grade. One of your neighbors had a small stable with a couple of horses. She had ridden professionally years ago. Now that she was retired, she had taken on a few riding students and was showing them how to ride as well as how to take care of the horses. Your daughter has participated in several shows and loves riding. So, it makes sense to find a school which will allow her to enjoy her riding as well as give her the college preparatory academic curriculum which she needs.
A quick search of Boarding School Review looking for schools which offer equestrian programs yielded a list of 67 schools. After you filter that list for location, religion, and size, as well as any other criteria which matter to you, you will be able to come up with a short list of schools to visit and evaluate. In the meantime let's look at ten of the schools in my search results so that you can get an idea of what is available. We will inspect schools which have their own equestrian facilities as opposed to schools which offer riding programs based at a local stable not located on campus.
I personally always thought that the Litchfield Hills in Connecticut are as beautiful a place as one could ever want to be in. That is, until I visited the gently rolling hills of Virginia's horse country in the middle and western parts of the state. You get the views and a traditional riding program and then some at Chatham Hall School.
In the school's own words:
"Whether you’ve been riding your whole life or have always wanted to start, you can find a place in our program. The Chatham Hall campus is home to more than 30 horses, three teaching arenas, a permanent hunter trials course, and plenty of trails, making it one of the top equestrian boarding schools."
Reading more about Chatham Hall's riding program made me realize that this is a serious equestrian program with the staff, programs and facilities in place to support the learning of dressage and other traditional riding skills."
A couple of schools on this list offer western-style riding as Colorado Rocky Mountain School does.
The school describes its horsemanship program as follows:
"The CRMS Horse Program reaches back to the school’s ranching history as a means to move students forward into the realm of authentic connection, dedicated care, and meaningful stewardship. The program cultivates interconnected relationships through knowledge, nurturing, and skill. Horses can show us our best selves by responding to both our physical cues and emotional essence."
The school also talks about its students being able to visit local ranches so that they can deepen their knowledge of horses and horsemanship.
Do you see the variety of options which await you? We have looked at Chatham Hall which offers traditional English riding and Colorado Rocky Mountain School which uses the Western approach to riding. The choice of equestrian styles is yours. Let's look at a few more schools.
Culver Academy's riding program has evolved from training which provided horse soldiers to a rather comprehensive program which includes equitation, hunter/jumping and veterinary science. The school has a Horsemanship Department.
"Since 1897, Culver’s Horsemanship Program has been teaching students the qualities of wisdom, courage, moderation, and justice by placing them in the saddle. Cavalry soldiers are no longer in demand so the Horsemanship Department has developed a progressive curriculum designed to develop character and leadership while learning to control and manage the horse. The Department of Horsemanship is a proud member of the elite Culver Summer School 'Center of Excellence' ."
The photographs of FVS students out riding against the backdrop of the Rocky Mountains hint at magical times at this long-established western school. Speaking of western, Fountan Valley School offers both western and English style riding.
"Our school’s equestrian program has been in place for three-quarters of a century and is at the heart of the western experience that FVS provides. It’s a comprehensive program that offers both English and Western riding and our riders do well in local and national competitions."
One of the things which I always appreciated when my daughter was learning how to ride is that she had to take care of her horse. That meant mucking the stables, grooming and feeding. As you can see, Garrison Forest School follows the same approach. The school's riding program is another example of a comprehensive training in horsemanship. One of my students attended Garrison Forest and enjoyed her time there immensely.
"The Garrison Forest Riding Program welcomes riders with any amount of experience. The primary focus of the Riding Program is Hunter Seat Equitation. Students participate in horse shows at the local and upper levels, including A shows. Show-Jumping and Eventing also are offered on a limited basis. The aim is to teach girls to become self-sufficient riders and to do all of their own tacking up, grooming, and preparation for competition and daily riding. "
Riding at Kent School in the Litchfield Hills of Northwestern Connecticut affords your child the experience of working with professionals in a long-established, first-class program. The environs are naturally picturesque and well-suited to riding.
"The Kent riding program offers serious students an opportunity to develop and grow their passion for riding in a co-educational setting. Students have the opportunity to develop their equine skills in a variety of disciplines from beginner to the most advanced. Kent’s riding program offers training and expertise in equitation, jumpers, hunters and combined training."
The Orme School focuses on western-style riding overseen by a seasoned team of professionals. Your child will also enjoy all the related activities in a breathtaking setting.
"The Orme Horsemanship Program is continuing its heritage of a working ranch atmosphere, offering cattle drives, sorting, doctoring cattle, cutting, break-away roping, and team roping activities. Students that thrive in these events, and embrace the discipline and responsibility, are seen in the competition arenas at the Arizona High School Rodeos, and AQHA regional events."
Like The Orme School, Verde Valley School offers the Western style of riding. Your child will spend many happy hours on the trails in this magnificent natural setting.
"Our equestrian program boasts some of the most stunning riding terrain in the nation, and perhaps the world. Surrounded by thousands of acres of National Forest, VVS’s backyard has limitless potential for learning and adventure."
"VVS offers one of the most diverse recreational riding programs at the high school level. At the heart of our equestrian program is the belief that horses are amazing teachers and master communicators, and that riders learn invaluable skills from them. Our goals are to create a strong connection between horse and rider, and to expose our students to a variety of riding disciplines, events and terrain. Ours is a “liberal arts” rather than a specialty or trade school type of program with an emphasis on natural horsemanship."
Horses and mountains are a marvelous combination. So is the combination of Western and English riding programs in Wasatch Academy's equestrian program.
"The Wasatch Academy equestrian program recognizes the importance of horses for many students and provides a range of expert training and guidance. Competitive riders can develop their Western and English riding skills under the tutelage of former champions while recreational riders can explore the many trails that wind through the surrounding mountains. From beginning to advanced, our equestrian program offers something for every student."
Linden Hall, Lititz, Pennsylvania
If my child were really good at riding and had been qualified to compete at the state or regional or national levels, I would be very happy to see that the school was flexible regarding her attending those competitions. According to its website, Linden Hall takes that approach. Look for that kind of flexibility when you evaluate schools. This type of school policy is particularly important when your child excels in a sport or artistic activity and needs to be away from classes to attend a meet or give a recital.
"The Equestrian Education Program at Linden Hall offers a year-round competitive training schedule. Riders may have the opportunity to train and compete in the Southern United States during the winter months. Students are responsible to maintain their academic standing through regular communication with their instructors. Faculty are flexible and responsive to students who must be away from school for elite competitions."
Ethel Walker's equestrian program offers your daughter the opportunity to compete both locally and nationally. The school's professional team and facilities support this established, traditional program.
"Riding has been part of life at Walker’s since its founding in 1911. Our Equestrian Center is on campus, so you are just steps away from your horse and your equestrian activities. Our nationally recognized program emphasizes excellence in riding and academics. We’ll support and challenge you so you can succeed competitively and academically."
"Our Riding program is staffed by accomplished horsewomen who have decades of competition and training experience."
Now, you need to think about one final matter. That is whether your daughter should take her horse to school or merely use one of the school's horses. The distance you have to drive is probably the first consideration. A drive of an hour or two to school with the horse trailer is one thing. A longer drive presents other logistical issues. The advantage of working with and caring for the school's horse is that it is like renting a car. You use it for as long as you need to and then return it. It's not precisely the same, but you get the idea.
As I mentioned at the beginning, I have spotlighted these ten schools to give you an idea of the possibilities for your child who rides. Please do explore all 67 schools which offer riding as an activity. One of them will have what you are looking for.
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