"When I bestride him, I soar, I am a hawk: he trots the air; the earth sings when he touches it; the basest horn of his hoof is more musical than the pipe of Hermes." William Shakespeare, Henry V
For avid equestrians, going to boarding school does not mean having to give up riding. The schools featured below offer outstanding riding programs, allowing for a very unique boarding school experience.
In Southern New England, riding has been an important part of life at Ethel Walker School since the school was established in 1911. In the decades since, thousands of riders have explored hundreds of miles of trails on campus, formed new friendships with horses and their peers, gained new skills under the watchful eyes of accomplished instructors and felt the thrill of a hard earned win. Every Walker's rider becomes a "complete rider" and is exposed to all aspects of equestrian pursuits from equitation, hunters, jumpers, dressage and combined training, to horse care and stable management. The program has gained recognition as one of the leading scholastic equestrian programs in the country. "Whatever your skill level or interest, The Ethel Walker School Riding Program offers you challenges, support and fun." The School is an active participant in the Interscholastic Equestrian Association (IEA), a springboard to collegiate riding. Ethel Walker also offers an equine science class that students may take as an elective course. Students may board their own horse at Walker's or utilize the dozens of school horses available for the lesson program and for lease. We also offer volunteer work at a local equine rescue facility and a local therapeutic riding center.
On the West Coast, eighty-five miles northwest of Los Angeles, The Thacher School in Ojai, CA offers an incomparable boarding school experience for the horse lover. Thacher believes that taking on real responsibility and positive risks builds character, a philosophy that finds its practical application in their horse program. According to the school, the horse program "is a central part of every student's Thacher experience," and from the first week of school, each student is paired with a horse from Thacher's own stables and learns the basics of horsemanship, including maintenance and riding. With the mountains of Los Padres National Forest surrounding the school, camping and outdoor activities are intrinsic to the Thacher experience, and students go on at least one overnight horse-packing trip per year. For those who want to compete, the Thacher Equitation Team participates in English-style events, and in May travels to Arizona to compete in a two-day tri-gymkhana against rivals Fountain Valley and the Orme School.
Further north, near San Francisco, San Domenico School's beautiful 500 acre campus in Marin County, California, offers boarding and day students a unique opportunity to integrate riding into their high school experience. The curriculum is designed exclusively for the girl passionate about riding and includes riding three days per week during school and optional riding outside of school hours. The San Domenico Interscholastic Riding Team competes in state and national competition as well as local horse shows. As an all-girls school, San Domenico appreciates that involvement with horses enables students to develop confidence, assertiveness, and self-esteem by taking on new challenges and overcoming fears.
Verde Valley School's equestrian program boasts some of the most stunning riding terrain in the nation. Located in Sedona, Arizona, and surrounded by thousands of acres of national forest, the school's "backyard" has unlimited potential for learning and adventure. VVS also has a very diverse recreational riding program for the high school level. There are opportunities for bareback riding, jumping, horse camping, playing pato and horse soccer, swimming horses, going on moonlight rides, and galloping endless miles of stunning trails. VVS competes in a local gymkhana circuit, in English schooling shows, and on the national AERC Endurance racing circuit. At the heart of its program is the belief that horses are amazing teachers and master communicators. The program aims to create a strong connection between horse and rider, and to expose students to a variety of riding disciplines, events and terrain with an emphasis on natural horsemanship. VVS has over 25 horses available for its students and boarding a student's personal horse is available as well.
The rolling hills of western Massachusetts also make for a bucolic horseback riding setting. Located in Greenfield, MA, the Stoneleigh Burnham School offers girls "one of the most extensive and challenging scholastic programs in the country." With the stables just steps away from academic buildings and dorms, girls can "ride during the day and visit the barns after class or during a free period." Also unique is the school's proximity to Mount Holyoke College, which hosts a series of horse events and shows throughout the year, giving students access to horsemanship at the collegiate level. The school owns forty horses for lease, but also offers stabling should the student prefer to bring her own. Facilities include a 100' x 200' indoor competition arena with a heated viewing lounge and a 70' x 120' warm up arena, and outdoor paddocks, sand rings, a Derby field, a cross-country course and a bridle path.
In Willoughby, OH, a suburb of Cleveland, both boy and girl horse enthusiasts can partake in the "Blue-Ribbon Program" at the Andrews Osborne Academy. A member of the Interscholastic Equestrian Association, the only high school level league affiliated with the IHSA, or Intercollegiate Horse Show Association, Andrews Osborne honors riders as competitive athletes. Their indoor and outdoor facilities reflect this commitment, and even more so, the school encourages riders who want to go on the road and compete on the national scale. Andrews Osborne is "proud to offer one of the most academically supportive programs in the country", which, for the competitive rider, means never having to choose between riding and academics.
In many ways, horseback riding has everything to do with location. Foxcroft School, situated in the nation's "Horse and Hunt Capital" of Middleburg, VA, could not be better suited to the girl rider bound for secondary school. Set on 500 acres, Foxcroft offers all levels of riders a place to enjoy horses. The founder of the school, Miss Charlotte Haxall Noland, herself a rider and riding instructor, championed the endurance, decision-making and determination that characterize successful riders. To her, horseback riding built character. Foxcroft offers a classical education in equitation and balance seat, and riders compete in hunter/jumper shows, combined training events and the Tri-state Equitation League, an interscholastic association of schools in Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia which Foxcroft has won numerous times. Some also participate in the hunt field. Foxcroft riders make use of three riding rings, three jump courses, a sixty-stall stable (there are 30 school horses; girls may also bring their own), and an indoor ring for yearlong competition. Advanced riders train with well-known professionals and they may take advantage of the School's Exceptional Proficiency Program to compete on the Winter Florida circuit.
For those who are looking for a serious level of equestrianism, the International Riding Academy in Hilton Head, South Carolina, offers a more traditional sports academy setting where the students train daily for local, regional and national competitions, in addition to completing rigorous academic studies. Set in the family-friendly and secure resort setting of Hilton Head Island, SC, home of world-famous golf and tennis academies, the iRiding Academy's mission is to seek highly motivated and talented riders and develop them to their full potential as competitors at the top junior levels, while upholding excellent academic standards and promoting exceptional characters, focusing on five key components: education, character, riding, mental training and motivation. Specializing in hunters and jumpers, iRiding's head trainer, Sandra McCarthy, has a proven record of training her students at the national levels, and she personally works with each student individually and in groups daily. Limited to only 12 riders and integrated into a college preparatory school of 450 students, the International Riding Academy offers a unique opportunity for dedicated riders.