Whether you choose to ride or not, horses are quintessential to the Sweet Briar experience. The friendly animals and serene setting make the barn nearly impossible to resist, which explains why nearly 30 percent of students are involved with the riding center. As a reminiscing senior, I’m sharing a few ways to fully utilize your precious time here and ensure that you are taking advantage of everything that the Sweet Briar riding program has to offer.
Work at the barn.
Working at the barn is a fun opportunity to earn some cash, and a respectable excuse to spend even more time at the barn. With more than 50 horses and an expansive facility, there are many different jobs to fill, from cleaning tack to assisting with turnout before the barn closes to braiding and grooming horses.
Compete in a show with your favorite Sweet Briar horse (or your own!).
The riding center offers lots of opportunities to compete on and off campus. If you prefer to compete individually, this is a great option and an exciting way to show off your skills on a particular horse. If you’re someone who loves being dressed to the nines with a shiny, braided horse and allowing your show nerves to bring out the best in you, this is something you can’t miss out on.
Take advantage of independent riding.
One special perk to riding at Sweet Briar is the opportunity to ride independently on the College’s horses. If you’re currently taking a riding class and have independent riding qualifications, you can sign up for additional rides throughout the week at no added cost. With the barn just a 3-minute drive from the main campus and shuttles offered regularly, it’s something you just cannot pass up. There is no better way to take a step back from the day’s stresses than to have a leisurely ride — plus it’s a great way to work on skills learned in your lesson.
Explore the trails on horseback.
Sweet Briar’s campus scenery is second to none, and the best way to experience it is on your favorite trusty steed. Just sign up at the barn a few days in advance and head off with your friends on one of the many trails — there are 18 miles of them! The horses love to get out in the open, and there’s really no way to not to be smiling from ear to ear while bopping through pristine open fields with friends and ponies.
Set goals — and conquer them!
Treat your precious time here as a springboard for continued success, both in and outside the ring. The skills you learn and experience you gain will be endlessly valuable for the rest of your life, but only if you actively set goals for yourself and work each ride to reach them. Communicate your goals to your instructor or coach and work diligently toward them. Whether you hope to better understand a confusing horse, perfect your sitting trot or earn a blue ribbon at the next show, keeping your instructor in the loop is crucial to your success.
Just have fun!
Although competing and winning is fun, Sweet Briar’s riding program has much more to offer than just blue ribbons. It’s easy to get carried away in the chase, but don’t let it distance you from what makes the unique sport of riding so special. Looking back at my time here, my fondest memories are those made in the tack room with friends and on lazy Sunday afternoon trail rides.
The Sweet Briar riding experience is something truly special, and if you’re lucky enough to be part of it, I hope you’ll take my advice and make the most of your short time here.
Annabeth Griffin is a philosophy and economics double major and mathematics minor from Dallas, Texas. She can be seen all over campus as the president of the Class of 2018, an IHSA riding team member, the Ethics Bowl team captain, a philosophy subject tutor, a student admissions ambassador and president of the Chung Mungs.