Sweet Briar is home to one of the country’s most renowned equestrian programs. For decades, our program has set the standard for collegiate riding. We offer among the finest indoor and outdoor riding facilities and a well-schooled string of horses with wins and placings in USEF-rated competitions.
Although our students have competed and won at championships around the world, we equally value all riders, from beginner to advanced. At Sweet Briar, students ride and compete at all levels. By teaching riding skills and theory, our instructors foster the kind of partnership between rider and mount that leads to lifelong enjoyment of, and respect for, horses.
At all levels of ability, Sweet Briar riders develop into competent horsewomen and well-rounded equestrians who are skilled and knowledgeable in the hunter/jumper discipline.
Areas of Focus
Through 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.