Other Riding

6 Best Equestrian High Schools (Book & Saddle Smart)

Graduation with horses
Written by Jessie D.

Yes, You Can Pair Horses with a World-Class Education!

High school can bring a lot of uncertainty and anxiety for both students and their parents. Despite the challenges, it can be one of the most fun and rewarding times of your life, especially when combined with horses! There are several top equestrian high schools in the United States that offer unique experiences for students passionate about horses.

Equestrian high schools are typically boarding schools that provide the unique opportunity to learn from certified trainers and expert clinicians in disciplines ranging from dressage to eventing, Western riding, and more. If you’re considering a high school that offers riding as part of the curriculum, read on for an evaluation of six top programs for a high school experience unlike any other!

School Location Riding Curriculum
Asheville School Asheville, North Carolina Hunter, Jumper, and Trail
Foxcroft School Middleburg, Virginia Hunt Seat Equitation
The Thacher School Ojai, California Extreme Cowboy Competition
Oldfields School Sparks Glencoe, Maryland Three-Day Eventing/Foxhunting
Madeira School McLean, Virginia Interscholastic Equestrian Association (IEA)
Stoneleigh-Burnham School Greenfield, Massachusetts British Horse Society Certification
Woman hugging a horse

Source: Canva

Asheville School

Asheville, North Carolina

Asheville School is a co-educational preparatory boarding school for students grades 9-12. It is situated on 300 acres encircled by the Blue Ridge Mountains and is considered one of the nation’s leading boarding schools with an equestrian program. 

At Asheville School you get more than top academics; you learn life lessons at one of the most beautiful private high schools, through the ears of a horse.

You’ll love it if:

  • You want to wake up each morning overlooking the mountains, with plenty of fresh air and beautiful views.
  • You are looking for opportunities to ride in the ring, on the trails, or at team hunter pace competitions, and/or take jumping lessons. From beginner to advanced, Asheville School has the facilities and instructors to meet your goals.
  • You love history and art in addition to horses. Asheville School is known for its vibrant arts scene and historic architecture. 
  • The Downtown Art District is filled with museums and artwork featuring masters like Renoir.

What to know before you go:

  • You will want to consider either 1) bringing your own horse and boarding at the Asheville School stables or 2) taking private lessons on one of the school-owned lesson horses.
  • Asheville School is one of the few remaining true small boarding schools in America.

Related academic programs:

  • I know we all love horses, but at the Asheville School, you can also join the cooking club, the photography club, or the robotics program.

Learn more:


Foxcroft School

Middleburg, Virginia

Foxcroft School is an all-girls boarding and day school designed to be interdisciplinary, collaborative, and experiential. Nestled on 500 acres in Virginia’s countryside just west of the nation’s capital, Foxcroft’s premiere equestrian program is nationally recognized with fabulous indoor and outdoor facilities.

Foxcroft offers many opportunities for competition. The success of its riders sets this school apart, attracting students from around the globe.

You’ll love it if:

  • You have the desire to compete at the top levels.
  • You’re looking for an equestrian program based on the principles of Hunter Seat Equitation.
  • You want state-of-the-art footing, an outdoor grass arena, a large outdoor sand arena, and two tack rooms… Need I say more?!

What to know before you go:

  • You will live in and around “horse country.” Middleburg is known as the “Nation’s Horse and Hunt Capital” for its foxhunting and steeplechases.

Related academic programs:

  • You might be an equestrian at heart, but Foxcroft School also offers Advanced Placement (AP) classes and an innovative STEM program. So you have to be both a good rider and an excellent student to get in here!

Learn more:


The Thacher School

Ojai, California

The Thacher School’s equestrian program combines English-style equitation with Western horsemanship. It’s one of California’s elite private college preparatory co-educational boarding schools for grades 9-12. So if you’re looking for a weekend horse-packing trip in the Los Padres National Forest or an extreme cowboy competition, this is your school!

Freshman are paired with a horse to ride and care for throughout the school year at this top-notch school.  

You’ll love it if:

  • You’re looking for more Western riding lesson options.
  • You enjoy the fast pace of Gymkhana or a mountain trail ride.
  • Or perhaps you want to trade in your Western tack to join the equestrian team in a hunt seat equitation program. The equestrian team travels to compete against other schools in the Interscholastic Equestrian Association (IEA) across California.

What to know before you go:

  • The charming city of Ojai is about a 30-minute drive to the coast, which means that you will want to bring your riding boots, as well as your swimsuit and flip-flops.

Related academic programs:

  • The Thacher School has a deep regard for sustainability education with programs in beekeeping, water conservation, and horse manure composting. Awesome!
  • Visual Arts include film, digital photography, and graphic design.
  • The dance program combines ballet, modern, and jazz.

Learn more:


Oldfields School

Sparks Glencoe, Maryland

Oldfields School is an independent boarding and day school for girls grades 8-12. The equestrian program is “where learning moves out of the classroom and into the barn.” The program teaches the values and lessons discovered from relationships with horses while maintaining the integrity of the equestrian sport.

Whether you’re looking to dance in the sandbox for a dressage lesson or to compete in hunter/jumper, eventing, or fox hunting competitions, Oldfields School is where you can find your authentic self.

You’ll love it if:

  • You’re looking to learn from certified trainers and expert guest clinicians.
  • You want to compete on the Interscholastic Equestrian Association (IEA) team.
  • You’re a dressage diva or aspire to be one.

What to know before you go:

  • Oldfields School is known to be a small school with “BIG opportunities.” Most classes are under ten students with a five-to-one teacher-to-student ratio.

Related academic programs:

  • The robust liberal arts program includes dance, theater, and music. Visual Arts foster the student’s creativity through courses in drawing, painting, ceramics, photography, and the digital arts.
  • Academics feature Math and Science, from elements of Algebra and basic Physical Science to Calculus and Honors Physics.

Learn more:


Madeira School

McLean, Virginia

The Madeira School is a 376-acre campus just ten miles from Washington, D.C., overlooking the Potomac River. The school provides a curriculum emphasizing real-world experiences and applied learning.

Recognized by the prestigious National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS), the Madeira School and its equestrian program will surely be at the top of your list.

You’ll love it if:

  • You’re looking for on-campus horse shows and clinics throughout the year.
  • You want to join the varsity riding team and compete at Interscholastic Equestrian Association (IEA) competitions and local USEF-rated shows.
  • You’re looking to spend quality time with a vibrant mix of students and boarders at the stables from around the globe.

What to know before you go:

  • Madeira School offers competitive horseback riding in all seasons, so dress appropriately for those East Coast winters.
  • Take your climbing skills to new heights with Madeira’s Calleva ropes challenge course. Now that sounds like fun!

Related academic programs:

  • Academics include STEM and Humanities courses.
  • Madeira’s Co-Curriculum Internship Program sets them apart from other independent schools.

Learn more:


Stoneleigh-Burnham School

Greenfield, Massachusetts

Stoneleigh-Burnham School is the first and only girls’ boarding school in New England to offer the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program. With classes that average just twelve students, every worldview and idea is heard.

Stoneleigh-Burnham is the only secondary school in the U.S. to offer the British Horse Society Certification, and their alumni are as “passionate about horses as they are about the school.”

You’ll love it if:

  • You’re looking for an all-girls school with small classes where you genuinely feel heard.
  • You’re looking for a sense of community. It’s easy to thrive and feel connected when you know more than half the faculty members live on campus and serve as house parents and coaches.
  • You’re looking to become your best self!

What to know before you go:

  • You will work closely with a college counselor to ensure you feel well-prepared to submit college applications.
  • The equestrian facilities include indoor and outdoor riding rings, a European-style Derby Field, and a cross-country course.

Related academic programs:

  • Nationally recognized debate and performing arts programs where students participate in public speaking tournaments and planned cross-examination, Lincoln-Douglas, and parliamentary debates.
  • Stoneleigh-Burnham School’s arts curriculum fosters success in student creativity, including Music Composition, Dance, and Theatre.

Learn more:


Woman with horses

Source: Canva

What is an equestrian high school?

Equestrian high schools are unique educational institutions that combine traditional academic coursework with horse-related activities.

These schools offer students the chance to participate in competitive equestrian sports such as dressage, show jumping, eventing, and more while preparing them for college and life after graduation.

Students benefit from individualized instruction from qualified trainers and clinicians and hands-on experience with various horse breeds.

Equestrian high schools may also provide extracurricular activities beyond the classroom, such as trail rides, competitions, clinics, field trips to local horse farms, and more.

In addition to providing students with an academic education, equestrian high schools focus on developing personal skills such as responsibility, discipline, integrity, and sportsmanship.

Do equestrian high schools offer a solid academic program in addition to horse-related activities?

Yes, equestrian high schools offer a rigorous academic program to prepare students for college and beyond.

Most schools require students to take core classes such as English, math, science, social studies, and foreign language while also offering electives in subjects like art and music.

Many schools offer a variety of extracurricular activities, such as robotics club or forensics, outside of horses, resulting in a well-rounded academic experience.

Are admission requirements for equestrian high schools tough?

Admission requirements vary from school to school, but typically these schools look for students who demonstrate an interest in horses, possess a solid academic background, and have strong independent work habits.

Most schools require an essay that explains why the student wants to attend the school, as well as letters of recommendation from teachers and/or coaches. Many schools also have a riding evaluation component in which students show their ability to handle horses.

Ultimately, these schools are looking for students who are motivated, disciplined, and excited about the opportunity to learn and grow through an equestrian-focused high school experience.

A passion for horses is essential, but so is a commitment to academic excellence.

Should you bring your horse with you or ride a school horse?

This could be an entire blog article in and of itself, as there are so many things to think about here.

Make sure to consider the stress of adapting yourself AND your horse to a new environment and/or climate, the cost of boarding your horse, the current level of riding and soundness of your horse, and the facilities at the school.

But the biggest question is one of commitment; even though you will likely be required to care for a school horse as if it’s your own, there will be additional responsibilities that come with bringing your childhood heart horse.

How expensive are equestrian high schools?

Annual tuition for boarding students runs between $55,000 and $60,000. Costs vary greatly depending on whether you bring your own horse and if you apply for financial assistance.

Do equestrian high schools teach you about running your own horse-related business?

Many equestrian high schools offer courses in horse business management that teach students the basics of running their own stable, farm or business.

In addition to classroom instruction, these schools may also provide hands-on experience, such as internships with local equestrians and field trips to working farms.

These classes give students an understanding of the business side of horse ownership, including topics such as marketing and advertising, financing, insurance, and more.

With this knowledge, students can be better prepared to pursue a successful career in the equestrian industry after graduation.

What other options are there to ride horses in high school?

Many local high schools offer equestrian team events and competitions to students outside campus.

This is a great opportunity to connect with like-minded horse-crazy friends at your local school. For example, La Jolla Country Day School, an independent day school in San Diego, California, has an equestrian team.

Many stables across the country offer riding lessons. You can usually find a local stable that offers lesson horses and schoolmasters to learn on while you attend your current high school.

Participating in 4-H can be a great riding and showing option for middle and high-school-aged kids. You don’t need a registered horse, can try out a variety of equestrian events, and make friends outside of your particular school.

Can you get a scholarship to equestrian boarding schools?

Most high school boarding schools provide some level of financial aid. Thirty-nine percent of students at the Madeira School, for example, receive financial assistance with a total available aid of $3.53 million and an average grant size of $39,572.

Reach out to the financial aid department at the school of your choice for further assistance.

Who’s ready to wear breeches and boots to the dining hall?

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About the author


Jessie D.

Jessie loves riding dressage with her Haflinger gelding Oliver, and they love adding a little sparkle to their tests. She is also an equestrian photographer in the San Diego area.