A winning equestrian program

Welcome to the best equestrian program of any liberal arts college in the country.

We’ve got the complete package at Sweet Briar — and it makes ours the best equestrian program of any liberal arts college in the country.

Riding has always mattered deeply at Sweet Briar, and always will. We believe equestrians become exemplary leaders, in any field. They have remarkable tenacity and discipline, they understand what great teamwork demands, and they’re passionate about empowering and mentoring others.

That’s why we’ve invested in our program to make it one of the best in the nation. We understand why you love to ride—and in our classrooms, experiential learning opportunities, and campus organizations, we’ll build on all the talents, ambitions, and values you bring to riding. Yes, you can ride here. And you can grow here, too. We have great horses, passionate instructors and coaches and a riding center that sets the standard for collegiate programs, all in one extraordinary landscape.

No compromises. All the advantages.

What makes us one of the best equestrian programs? We’ve got the complete package at Sweet Briar—for every rider.

  • Horses that are ready to teach and challenge you, whatever your level.
  • A riding center routinely ranked among the nation’s top facilities, newly renovated and staffed full-time.
  • Trainers and coaches that value your goals—whether you want to win national competitions (which we do for NCEA and IHSA on a regular basis) or become a more confident weekend rider.
  • Classes in horse training and our interdisciplinary equine study certificates— great preparation for careers in horse farm management, veterinary science, teaching, and schooling.
  • A landscape made for equestrians. Our 3,250 acres take you through wooded countryside, foothills, dells, and open fields.

Sweet Briar riders become your second family.

You’ll meet many different kinds of riders at Sweet Briar — with many different plans in mind for after graduation.

But whether you’re competing at a national level or you’re a weekend rider, you’ll all share a love for horses that unites you in ways you never thought possible.

It’s the kind of community that’s hard to keep to yourself. In fact, it’s not unusual for the roommates of riders to tag along on a practice day — and end up on one of our riding teams.

All the hallmarks of an excellent equestrian program. Here are our areas of focus:

Competition

Makayla Benjamin '18Through a combination of flatwork and gymnastics, our program emphasizes the development of a horse for hunter/jumper/equitation competitions. The curriculum includes theory and history of the forward system of riding. Riders learn what is expected of horse and rider in a variety of settings through classwork and competitive experiences.

Recreation

Sweet Briar has much to offer students who wish to ride primarily for enjoyment, recreation or fitness. Riders can improve their partnership with the horse by refining their aids in the ring, enjoy a quiet hack across campus, or don a costume for a Halloween-themed show of fun and games.

Training/Schooling Horses

For riders interested in training concepts, this program emphasizes schooling and re-schooling horses. Schooling classes start with groundwork and natural horsemanship, then progress from there using a systematic approach to both flatwork and jumping to develop skills that are applicable to a range of horses and specialties.

Field Riding

From relaxing walk-and-talks to exhilarating foxhunting, field riding has always been integral to Sweet Briar’s program — and to the foundation of modern-day hunter/jumper riding. Field riding builds partnership and trust between horse and rider, appreciation for the environment and the natural beauty that surrounds us, and fellowship between people from various backgrounds who enjoy the freedom of riding across the countryside.

Riders develop confidence as they explore Sweet Briar’s campus and spectacular trails — our outdoor classroom. For all riders, there are ample opportunities to hack out and participate in hunter paces and hunter trials. Advanced field riders may have the chance to experience an actual hunt with a local club such as the Bedford County Hunt, Farmington Hunt Club and Oak Ridge Fox Hunt Club.

Equine-facilitated Leadership

Sweet Briar Riding is incorporating Equine Facilitated Leadership (EFL) into its curriculum. Instructors will be following the Epala® Model of Equine Facilitated Coaching. EFL is primarily non-mounted work that relies on the horses’ instantaneous response to humans’ physiology and body language in order to teach awareness. This work requires no previous experience with horses.

Equine Studies Certificate

The certificate program is similar to a minor degree. It offers two separate concentrations — management, and teaching and schooling. The program combines a strong liberal arts foundation with preparation for a potential career in equine-related enterprises such as farm/stable management, horse show management and/or training and teaching.

Many riders deepen their knowledge through pre-veterinary courses, internships and independent projects. Students can choose an on-campus position such as teaching assistant or trail guide to gain leadership experience.