Dusty, a 12.2 Ex moor Pony with a neck as thick as a tree trunk who thought that the only purpose of a green field was to get to the other end as quickly as possible. It’s good to know that independent schools are continuing to allow four-legged friends through their gates, and are setting up new and outstanding equestrian centers, propelling their young riders even as far as the Olympics.
The full, working and DIY liveries help encourage pupils to take responsibility for the care of the horses alongside their BHS, Diploma or physical education GCSE qualifications. Fortnightly Pony Club meetings at nearby Co worth Park give pupils the opportunity to work towards tests and badges and learn about all aspects of horse and stable management.
The school takes a group three times a week to various local polo venues for coaching and chukkas. Mayfield’s riding department has seen beginners become international competitors thanks to a winning combination of experienced teachers, brilliant facilities and a competitive spirit.
Mill field is a veritable playground for horsey types, and offers one of the best opportunities for a combined equestrian and academic education. Sixth-formers are able to take their BTEC Diploma in Equine Management and pupils can use some of their weekly sports and activities sessions to ride.
BTEC's pupils are expected to manage the day-to-day care of their horses, and they are given priority for space in the assisted livery. The Equestrian Center is British Horse Society approved with 23 stables, a large floodlit outdoor school and a full set of BSA jumps, not to mention the surrounding 160-acre estate, perfect for hacking.
More experienced riders can take advantage of specialist training in dressage, show jumping and cross-country, and school teams are frequently successful at SEA competitions. Beginners can book lessons at their leisure and there are impressive competition opportunities available for more experienced riders, including Sonar’s prestigious Inter-schools One Day Event Championships, which are hosted on site.
Pupils benefit from use of the nearby Beaufort Polo Club and weekly visits to the local stables. The school’s farm has pigs, chickens and a herd of prize-winning Hereford cattle, as well as an abundance of ponies, which the children can ride at their leisure.
The new ménage means children can learn throughout the year, and there are regular triathlon competitions with local pony clubs. Hanford is famous for its galloping matrons who get the girls up Ham Hill while most pupils around the country are sleeping soundly.
Once a year the local hunt turns up for sausage rolls and non-alcoholic punch outside the dreamy Elizabethan manor house. Every morning at Knight on House the 7.30am bell signals the start of an urgent hair-tying, welly-donning race to bring in one of the 14 ‘boarding’ ponies from the field.
Riders are encouraged to learn about everything from grooming to mucking out, and the more advanced have excellent competition opportunities, with the school repeatedly qualifying for national finals. Bodkin Moor has long inspired writers and artists with its wild, untouched character, and riding out is one of the best ways to experience it for yourself.
Liberty Trails offers the opportunity to try your hand at Western riding on American Quarter Horses, without having to get on a plane to the States. Instead, you can unleash your inner cowboy across the wild and rugged landscape of Dartmoor, with its heather-strewn high ground and secluded valleys that remain largely untouched by man.
All the trails they use can be reached without setting a hoof on the public highway, so that even complete beginners can ride out safely. The Mendips' bridleway network allows access to thousands of acres of forestry and moorland, with spectacular views across seven counties.
Novices riders can sit back and enjoy the scenery or watch out for the herds of Ex moor ponies that have been brought in to graze the upland heath, while for more experienced riders there are plenty of open tracks for a good canter. At 1518 feet above sea level, Flash is reputedly the highest village in England, which means that there are some pretty amazing views over the surrounding countryside.
Northfield can cater for beginners and experienced riders alike, meaning everyone can enjoy beauty spots such as Three Shires Head, where a bridge over the river marks the point where the counties of Cheshire, Stafford shire and Derbyshire meet. This area historically caused problems for the local constabulary as ‘hawkers’ travelling from fair to fair used to squat on the land at Flash, and engage in outlawed practices such as prize fighting and producing counterfeit money.
When the police arrived to arrest them, the hawkers simply escaped over the border to the next county. Located in the small coastal Cambrian village of Beecroft, Murthwaite Green is just a short ride away from the beach: five miles of golden sand and shallow water that is the perfect place for a flat-out gallop.
If you’ve had your fill of spectacular views and would like to try something a bit different, then the Center of Horseback Combat will be happy to oblige. The center also holds regular practice sessions throughout the summer months for established horse archers who have completed at least the half-day course.
Located in the central region of Mull, visitors to Killiechronan can benefit from some of the island’s most breathtaking scenery. The reinforms are an excellent location for riding, with some of the world’s most dramatic mountains, rivers and glens to explore.
Newton more offers various rides to suit a range of abilities, from short treks that focus on allowing riders to enjoy the scenery, to longer hacks where experienced riders can enjoy some fast canters. For non-riders who would still like to explore the Reinforms from a different perspective, Newton more also offers carriage rides (for 4-5 people) through the estate.
They offer 2 to 6-day organized guided rides, or if you prefer you and your friends can borrow some of their superb horses and set off on a 2 to 7-day self-guided journey across Wales. Freeman provide route maps and equipment, and will also arrange accommodation for each night.
In these beautiful surroundings you can easily ride all day without seeing another soul, save maybe a friendly sheep or red kite. Novice riders can opt for the 3-day ‘Onto the Trail’ holiday, which is the perfect introduction to riding on open hills.
Ride along the clifftop overlooking the fabulous Dorset coastline and explore the beach around Old Harry Rocks. This hidden and completely unspoiled beach offers horse riders seclusion and beauty.
Previously named British beach of the week by The Telegraph, it offers solitude and a variety of wildlife and birds. With a history of shipwrecks, Knack Sands is an intriguing and appealing beach for horse riders.
Located at the top of the Lizard Peninsula, it is a lovely golden-sand beach, with excellent clean water for having a bathe in after your ride. If your child has spent every waking hour of the summer holidays in jodhpurs, pinning new rosettes to their bedroom wall, they probably don’t find the prospect of heading off to school for a horse -free academic year very inspiring.
Fear not as a surprising number of prep and senior schools have the facilities to ensure that pupils get their academic and equestrian fill. ‘We have quite a few ponies to suit all abilities, from beginners to competition riders,’ says Frances Cat tell, Head of Riding, who adds that riding, training and mucking out fits seamlessly into the pupils’ day here, with lessons available as part of the curriculum, as well as opportunities most mornings and evenings, with competitions or hacking on offer every weekend.
Pupils have their own puppy show, where they learn how to judge hounds, get their hunting colors ties and prizes where relevant. The yard, situated alongside the mansion’s original walled garden, is picturesque and its quiet and secluded location allows pupils to get away from the hurly-burly of day-to-day- school life.
Offering full and part livery, stables and grazing, supervised off-road hacking, lessons with BHS qualified instructors, a horse walker and fiber sand canter track, there are also plans afoot for a new onsite equine arena. ‘For horse -lovers this is a dream come true,’ states our review of this co-ed independent school for pupils aged 2 to 18.
Currently, home to 13 ponies (there’s room for 15), owned by existing or ex pupils, the Grade 1 listed red brick stables is highly sought after. That said, lessons are available to all and take place in the school’s arena, their show jumping field, their cross-country course and also span right across the Dorset countryside.
Arriving here will leave you in no doubt as to the importance of equestrian life at this independent school for 5-18 year-old girls, with horses grazing peacefully on either side of the drive. ‘And we have 19 of the school’s 54 acres, as well as a 60×40m all-weather flood-lit arena and hacking track round the ground, training with BASIS and UKCCL2 coaches,’ explains equestrian manager, Rachael Maclean.
Over 100 of the 260 girls have something to do with the Equestrian Center and previous pupils include four star international event rider Louisa Milne Home and champion conditional jockey Lucy Alexanders. ‘We offer training for BHS exams for girls who are looking to build a career in the equestrian world,’ says Maclean.
‘It is also an important area of common ground as the shared interest in ponies, chickens and dogs can help bring together even the most unlikely of friendships,’ says Johnston. Facilities in this nine-acre girls’ prep school include indoor riding school, manege and junior cross-country course, with lots of different jumps for different abilities.
Not too long ago, Sid cot leaned more towards providing qualifications (BTEC, BHS) and opportunities for students to ride for pleasure, than to identify and kick on promising competitive riders. It is now geared up for pupils to bring their horses to school and develops riders to aspire to (often national level) competitions.