For young horse lovers looking to attend a boarding school, the decision about where to attend often comes down to the school’s riding program. That’s why we researched dozens of schools to find the 30 best boarding schools for young equestrians. To narrow down our list, we considered a variety of factors, including:
- academic reputation
- equestrian facilities
- lesson programs
- the existence of an equestrian team and/or opportunities to compete
- whether or not one may bring their own horse to school
- any other special factors that set the school apart from the rest
Keep scrolling for our list of the best boarding schools for horse lovers.
Andrews Osborne Academy
Located in the suburbs of Cleveland, the Andrews Osborne Academy is an excellent choice of boarding school for young equestrians. Horseback riding is a competitive sport at the Academy. Students compete in Interscholastic Equestrian Association shows both locally and nationally. Especially ambitious riders can be sure they won’t need to choose between riding or academics. As Andrews Osborne states on its website, it is “proud to offer one of the most academically supportive [equestrian] programs in the country.” Students may choose to bring their own horse or lease a school horse.
Asheville, North Carolina
No matter what a young equestrian’s experience level, the Asheville School has something to offer. The school’s Equestrian Program offers riding lessons for beginners through advanced levels as part of their rigorous curriculum. Students take daily English-style riding lessons, and are encouraged to attend horse shows, organized trail rides, gymkhana, and hunter paces. Students may bring their own horse to board at Asheville School Stables, or borrow a school-owned horse.
Wolfeboro, New Hampshire
Established in 1820, Brewster Academy is one of the oldest schools on our list and one of the most modern. The Academy has become world-renowned for its unique technology-rich learning environment and a unique curriculum which is personalized for each student. One such way Brewster students can unplug is by participating in the competitive equestrian program. The program is offered in fall, winter, and spring. It’s open to students of at least jumping ability. Students ride six days a week with a trainer, attend various seminars and clinics, and compete at both local and national horse shows.
New Milford, Connecticut
The Canterbury School in New Milford, Connecticut, is a co-ed boarding school. It was founded in 1915 by lay Roman Catholics, by whom the school is still managed. The school is well-known for fostering academic rigor, spiritual growth, artistic enrichment, and athletic development. While equestrian sports are not the main focus of the Canterbury School, the riding program is top notch. Located just down the road from campus is Quiet Rein Farm, where students may participate in private or group lessons. Students may choose to board their own horse, or ride one of the farm’s 12 lesson horses. Canterbury equestrians who choose to be competitive frequently participate in regularly sanctioned horse shows.
Located right in the midst of Virginia horse country, Chatham Hall has always been a leader in girls’ college-prep education. The Episcopal boarding school offers a riding program for any girl interested in horses. The program takes a holistic approach to riding by focusing on the American Forward System of Riding. Students learn the theories behind mounted and unmounted instruction, and benefit from a fitness plan and sports psychology. Those who choose to may compete as members of the equestrian team, which travels to shows both local and national. Girls who own their own horse may board it on campus, though school horses are also available for borrow or lease.
Colorado Rocky Mountain School
Colorado Rocky Mountain School is a coed boarding school that describes itself as “an ideal learning environment for high school students because of its intentional, research-based programming, deliberate size, and unrivaled geographic location.” Students interested in horses may participate in the school’s horsemanship program. Riding lessons are offered the first two quarters of the school year, and students are divided into two groups: beginners and intermediate/advanced. Lessons are twice per week. Opportunities include learning English or Western riding, participating in clinics, volunteering at a therapeutic riding center, working with a recently adopted wild mustang, and even participating in a Grand Canyon pack trip.
Culver Academies, located in Indiana, is comprised of Culver Girls Academy and Culver Military Academy. The college-prep boarding school focuses on leadership, rigorous academics, and character-based education. Horses play a vital role. It was initially established to train future cavalry soldiers. However, today the Horsemanship Program exists to “teach students the qualities of wisdom, courage, moderation, and justice by placing them in the saddle.” Equitation and Jumping teams compete in recognized shows throughout the Midwest. Four different honor organizations — Black Horse Troop, Equestriennes, Lancers, and Summer Mounted Drill Team focus on teamwork and attention to detail. Interestingly, the Black Horse Troop has appeared in more Presidential Inaugural Parades than any other high school organization, public or private. The Troop has marched in myriad parades across the country, including a recent Pegasus Parade, a Kentucky Derby kick-off event.
Dana Hall School
The Dana Hall School in Massachusetts is an all-girls boarding school offering a comprehensive riding program that is sure to thrill any young equestrian. Conveniently, the Karen Stives ’68 Equestrian Center is located right on campus, and offers students anything they may need or want when it comes to horses and riding. A lesson program offers private, semi-private, or group lessons based on each rider’s individual skill level. Advanced riders are taught by Olympic Silver Medalist Greg Best. Those interested in showing can do so at A-rated shows all around the East Coast, including some shows in Canada and the Winter Equestrian Festival Florida circuit.
Ethel Walker School
Not only is Ethel Walker School considered one of the best boarding schools for equestrians, it’s also considered to be one of the top boarding schools in the country. For more than 100 years, Walker’s, as it’s known, has been welcoming girls in grades 6-12 (though only grades 9-12 are boarders). Though not every girl at Ethel Walker School attends for the equestrian opportunities, it is certainly a draw for many. Walker’s prides itself on creating “complete riders” out of all of its horse-loving students. Girls are exposed to all facets of equestrian sports — from equitation, horse care, and stable management, to jumpers and combined training. Students may board their own horse at the school’s on-campus stable, or use one of the dozens of school-owned mounts. Those who are interested may also compete in Interscholastic Equestrian Association shows.
For those looking to choose a boarding school based on its equestrian offerings, consider Foxcroft School, which is located in one of the best known horse countries in the United States. The all-girls school is situated on 500 acres, and includes as part of its campus:
- three outdoor arenas
- an indoor arena
- three jump courses
- a 60-stall barn
Riding lessons teach classical equitation and balance seat, and those who want to may compete in hunters, jumpers, or combined training. Students may bring their own horse to Foxcroft or lease one of the 30 school-owned horses.
Garrison Forest School
Owings Mills, Maryland
Founded in 1910, Garrison Forest School seeks to “empower girls to realize their full potential and to live lives of purpose.” This top-notch boarding school is located on a gorgeous 110-acre campus which includes university-level riding facilities. Garrison offers horse-loving students an Equestrian Institute, a rigorous training program that can be tailored to each girl’s equine interest. The program includes:
- boarding for one’s own horse or pony
- upwards of three lessons per week
- one rated show each month
- 2-3 weeks on the Winter Circuit
- a month field trip
- a wellness program
Needless to say, Garrison Forest School is an excellent choice of boarding school for any student hoping to focus on professional riding.
Young equestrians interested in dressage would do well to look into Gould Academy, located in Bethel, Maine. This elite coed boarding school offers horse-loving students an equestrian team with two seasons, fall and spring. Riders work with a top-rated riding instructor to hone their equitation skills. They also learn about equine anatomy, stable management, and the proper care of horses. Lessons take place in an arena, and on the trail for a “real world” riding experience. The team competes in two shows each term.
Founded in 1853, the Grier School is an all-girls boarding school located amidst the Appalachian Mountains in Pennsylvania. The school offers horse lovers several programs where they develop their riding talent and horsemanship skills. Students may take 2-5 lessons each week in either English (hunter/jumper) or Western (horsemanship and reining). Varsity teams compete in a variety of shows each season ranging from casual schooling shows to rated competitions. Students who simply wish to spend time around horses may do so in the recreational riding program, which allows students to:
- take lessons
- participate in organized group rides
- brush up on any skills they may want to develop.
Hawai’i Preparatory Academy
National Geographic described the northern side of the island of Hawai’i as “one of the best places in the world to live and play.” We think the students at Hawai’i Preparatory Academy would agree, especially those involved in the coed boarding school’s equestrian program. Any student, regardless of riding ability or experience, is allowed to participate in the program, which provides students with lessons multiple times each week. Once each year, students have the opportunity to go on a horseback camping trip to a remote part of Mauna Kea — an experience many students describe as “unforgettable.” While the equestrian program emphasizes horsemanship and equitation, it is not extremely competitive. Those who choose to may participate in schooling shows and play days put together by the Academy.
Kents Hill School
Kents Hill, Maine
For more than two decades, Kents Hill School has been offering its horse-loving students a top-notch equestrian program. Participating students ride at a nearby facility four to five days per week in lessons which focus on:
- the general care of horses
- overall safety
Students may board their own horse, or use a school horse. The facility consists of a show-quality barn, two outdoor arenas, and one indoor arena.
Kimball Union Academy
Meriden, New Hampshire
Kimball Union Academy is a coeducational boarding school located in Meriden, New Hampshire. It offers its horse-loving students an excellent equestrian program which “focuses on the development of sound riding skills and a love of equestrian sports.” Participating students have the chance to experience a variety of riding disciplines, including:
- trail riding
- mounted games
Riders head to nearby Ring Brook Farm five days per week during school hours to spend time with the horses. While four of the days are spent in the saddle, the fifth day is reserved for unmounted horsemanship activities such as grooming and stable management.
The Madeira School
The Madeira School in McLean, Virginia has hosted an equestrian program for more than 70 years. The program is open to young equestrians of any ability level. Staff instructors are committed to helping each rider develop her own skills and talent. Students who enroll in the equestrian program as part of their curriculum take two lessons per week in hunter-seat equitation. Skills in stable management are also incorporated into the program. Those who wish may join Madeira’s varsity riding team and compete in:
- Interscholastic Equestrian Association shows
- United States Equestrian Federation rated shows
- local schooling shows.
Millbrook, New York
Millbrook School, located in Dutchess County, New York, is a coed college preparatory boarding school. Students may choose to participate in a number of recreational sports, one option of which is riding. Each student may tailor his or her riding experience to their own personal goals. Beginning and intermediate riders may take lessons in:
- show jumping
- and/or field hunting at nearby Kildare Stables
These riders take lessons four days per week and need only provide their own boots and helmets. For more advanced riders, there is Coole Park, a full-service facility which has relationships with a number of professional riders. Students may take lessons in show jumping, dressage, and/or cross country.
Miss Hall’s School
Located in Massachetts’s beautiful Berkshire Hills, Miss Hall’s School is one of the most respected college-prep boarding schools in the U.S. Founded in 1898, this all-girls school offers riding as a varsity sport. Participating students train at nearby Berkshire Equestrian Center where they take lessons four times per week. The team competes in a number of Interscholastic Equestrian Association shows each season, and also hosts its own show to showcase each rider’s individual talent and growth.
Missouri Military Academy
As horsemanship tends to foster discipline and personal growth, it should come as no surprise that its Equestrian Program has long been an important part of education at the Missouri Military Academy. Program events occur at the Academy’s “Back Campus,” that is, a 300-acre stretch of woods and land. Participating cadets take lessons, learn basic safety around horses, and become responsible for caring for horses. Cadets often ride the same horse each day to encourage a special bond.
New Hampton School
New Hampton, New Hampshire
New Hampshire’s New Hampton School has been a leader in college prep education since its founding in 1821. Today, New Hampton is known for its globally focused and rigorous academic curriculum. This excellence extends to its competitive equestrian team, whose members ride and compete three seasons each academic year. Members of the team ride at least five days a week with a trainer who coaches them in the disciplines of:
- show jumping
This unique three-discipline program allows students to become well-rounded riders. Besides training and competing in various shows throughout the season, the team routinely participates in clinics with top international instructors.
Oak Hill Academy
Mouth of Wilson, Virginia
Oak Hill Academy is a coed boarding school located in Mouth of Wilson, Virginia and affiliated with the Baptist church. It offers its horse-loving students a more casual approach to riding and horses. The Academy’s Equestrian Program is multi-faceted, allowing students to decide just how involved they want to get. Some may choose only to participate in recreational trail rides and lessons. Others may choose to compete on the national level as a member of the school’s equestrian team. A Horsemanship class is offered for elective credit, and teaches students the basics of equine care and stable management. Riding lessons can be arranged for saddle seat or western, and students may use their own horse or a school horse.
Oldfields School was founded in 1867 by Anna Austen McColloch, who sought to provide a place for young ladies to make the most of their potential, both academic and personal. Horsemanship has always been a vital part of Ms. McColloch’s vision, and riding has been offered at Oldfields for more than 150 years. The riding program is open to beginning riders up to advanced, and each student is encouraged to reach her own personal riding goals. Besides lessons, students compete:
- in horse shows
- take place in fox hunts
- participate in professionally led riding clinics.
The Orme School
The Orme School has an interesting history. It began as a one-room school to educate the three Orme children and the children of the ranch hands on the family farm. Today it’s a top-ranked boarding and day school built on the principles of solid academics and community service. Horsemanship plays an inherent role in the Orme education, and is a major draw for prospective students interested in western-style riding. Each student takes place in the Horsemanship Program, a one-of-a-kind curriculum that includes:
- team roping activities
- cattle drives
- the opportunity to compete in regional events and high school rodeos
The Orme School campus includes four separate arenas, a show-quality barn and mare motel with capacity for up to 80 horses, and three round pens.
The Rectory School
Located in Pomfret, Connecticut is The Rectory School, a junior boarding school for children grades Kindergarten thru 9th (although only grades 5-9 are boarding). Founded in 1920, The Rectory School prides itself on educating students in small classes that can provide each child with individualized attention. This philosophy extends to the equestrian program, a unique program among junior boarding schools. Students who choose to join the equestrian team participate in lessons to learn the basics of:
- equine behavior
- horse handling
- equine anatomy.
San Domenico School
San Anselmo, California
The San Domenico School is a co-ed school located in San Anselmo, a small town situated just outside of San Francisco in Marin County. At San Domenico, students have the unique opportunity to make equestrian sports a major part of their education. Students may choose to incorporate three riding classes per week into their curriculum, but may also ride outside of school hours. The school’s riding team competes in local shows, plus state and national competitions.
- an indoor arena with heated viewing lounge
- a cross-country course
- a Derby field,
- a bridle path for leisurely hacks
Students may board their own horse, or lease one of the school’s 40 lesson horses. While many students choose only to partake in the school’s lesson program, others enjoy competing at various shows throughout the season. Interestingly, Stoneleigh-Burnham is the only American secondary school to offer British Horse Society Certification.
The Thacher School
According to its website, The Thacher School commits “to the belief that demands in the academic classrooms, when combined with those of mountains and horses, of sports and the arts, produce independent minds, strong bodies, and powerful character.” Speaking of horses, Thacher students have what has been called “an incomparable boarding school experience for the horse lover.” Indeed, Thacher’s equestrian program is an integral part to this education. From their first week on campus, each student is paired with a school horse. Over the course of their education, students take lessons, learning the basics of horsemanship and stable management, ride in a variety of environments, and even take part in an annual overnight horse-packing trip. Students who choose to may join the Thacher Equitation Team, which competes in horse shows.
Verde Valley School
Young equestrians who prefer a more casual, and perhaps even more adventurous, approach to riding would do well to consider Verde Valley School. Located in beautiful Sedona, Arizona, this coeducation boarding school offers its students a diverse recreational riding program. Jumping, equitation, gymkhana, and endurance racing are all options in the program. Thanks to the surrounding landscapes, opportunities include:
- swimming horses
- horse soccer
- horse camping
- moonlight rides
- trail riding
This program does not focus on competition. Rather, students are encouraged to form a bond with their horse(s), and become a well-rounded rider.
Saxtons River, Vermont
- hunt seat or dressage
They’re also encouraged to participate in at least one competition each season. Students may choose to board their own horses at the Academy’s Winchester Stables, or they may be provided with a school horse. Founded in 1876, Vermont Academy is a coed boarding school known for its rich traditions and focus on:
- the arts
- global citizenship.