Equestrian Center Frequently Asked Questions

General | Physical Education Riding Classes | Other Riding | The Teams | Boarding

Riding General

Where is the Equestrian Center in relation to the main campus?
Located on Park Street, about 1/8 mile east of College Street, the Equestrian Center is a 5-10 minute walk from the heart of the campus. Campus Map.

When can I come visit the Equestrian Center? What are the best times for my visit?
Any time is a good time for a visit, but please let us know you are coming. Scheduling your visit at a quieter time of year will help to ensure more personal attention from both the students and the instructors. Late May and early June are ideal times to meet with one of the instructors. Fall and spring are the busiest times of year around the barn and, so advance appointments with whomever you would like to meet are critical. For more information, we encourage you to contact the Office of Admission. They will help you coordinate your visit with all of the people you’d like to meet.

Be sure to ask about our Focus on Riding. This designated weekend in November is specially designed for prospective students who ride. You can meet with Equestrian Center staff, stay overnight with team members, and observe team practices.

What are the hours of operation at the Equestrian Center?

  • Monday–Thursday: 6:30 a.m.–8:30 p.m.
  • Friday–Sunday: 6:30 a.m.–8:00 p.m.
  • Visitors are welcome between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.

A motion-sensitive alarm is set in the evening to protect the horses and the tack. Special arrangements can be made for horses requiring late-night medical attention.

Are there opportunities for student employment at Mount Holyoke? Can I work off my board or lessons? Can I be an instructor?
Students receiving financial aid from Student Financial Services may be able to complete some of their work-study at the barn. These students usually help with tidying the barn and night check before the barn closes for the evening. There are a limited number of positions available. At this time, we do not have a program for students to work off their board or their lessons. Occasionally, students who are Massachusetts licensed instructors are able to teach some lower-level lessons.  Pony Club members and students with proven equine experience may apply to be either paid or volunteer teaching assistants as well.

Is it difficult to balance academics and riding at Mount Holyoke?
Mount Holyoke College is an academically challenging institution. It does take discipline to balance class work and any extracurricular activities. While the curriculum is rigorous, most of our serious riders have balanced riding and academics in the past—they will continue to get plenty of practice doing this at Mount Holyoke. In fact, often students find that structuring their days with activities can help to keep them focused on academic priorities.

Physical Education Riding Classes

Do you have to participate on a team to ride at the Mount Holyoke Equestrian Center?
No. While the dressage, western, and hunter seat equitation teams are excellent ways to increase the amount of riding a student does at Mount Holyoke, being on a team is certainly not a required part of the program. A student may join a team, take a physical education riding class or, depending on instructor and horse availability, simply choose to take private lessons.  Riders may also elect to participate in our Community Riding Program which offers lessons on most Saturdays and there are several horse showing opportunities.

What equipment do I have to bring to ride at Mount Holyoke?
All Mount Holyoke school horses have their own set of tack, so there is no need to bring your own saddle or bridle. Beginning riders may borrow a Mount Holyoke helmet until they are able to invest in their own. All riders are expected to wear proper footwear—boots with a hard sole and small heel—when mounted. Riders may choose from tall boots or half chaps with paddock boots. During the fall and spring months, riders are expected to wear breeches. During the coldest months, full chaps with jeans are permitted.

What kinds of riding may I participate in at Mount Holyoke?
Mount Holyoke offers instruction in hunter seat equitation, dressage and western. Several of our instructors are experienced eventing riders and coaches. While it is not our main focus, eventing riders will find excellent instruction at Mount Holyoke.

How much experience do I need to have to ride at Mount Holyoke?
None. The Mount Holyoke Equestrian Center has a very strong beginner-riding program. Lessons are taught to riders of all levels. An individual new to riding may even try out for one of the riding teams. Students who have never ridden will be taught basic control of the horse while mounted and while on the ground. They will learn grooming techniques, parts of the tack and other important horsemanship skills.

Are there scholarships available for riding at Mount Holyoke?
There are modest scholarships available to offset the cost of riding lessons students are cautioned about relying on a scholarship to pay for their riding class as the funds vary from semester to semester and there are no guarantees that applicants will receive one. Applications are available in the spring and fall. However, there are no riding scholarships that will cover academic tuition, as the College does not offer athletic merit scholarships.

Can I take private lessons at Mount Holyoke even if I do not have my own horse?
Private instruction on a horse owned by Mount Holyoke may be available depending on the level of enrollment in all group riding classes and team practices.  These lessons are extremely limited and may not be available each semester.  Inquire the first week of classes with your instructor.

What is the student-to-instructor ratio in most classes?
Intermediate and advanced classes have limits of 8 riders per 1 instructor.  Beginner classes are limited to 6:1 per group.

May I ride with different instructors?
Each riding class is taught by one riding instructor throughout the semester. Students may choose to take several riding classes and ride with several instructors. Students may also choose to take hunter seat, dressage and/or Western lessons with different instructors. Students are obviously welcome to change instructors from semester to semester.

What types of horses are available at Mount Holyoke?
We have horses of all levels. We are fortunate enough to have several nice dressage horses capable of teaching students some upper-level movements. The hunter seat horses vary in ability from walk-trot all the way up to A-circuit equitation, hunter and jumper horses. We have several western trained horses too including a well-trained Reiner.  No matter your level, we have a horse that will suit you.

How much do the Mount Holyoke school horses work?
On average, each Mount Holyoke school horse puts in two lessons per day. Classes run Monday through Thursday. The horses do flatwork two days and jumping two days. Fridays are reserved for team practice lessons. The “schoolies” may be used for horse shows or community riding lessons on Saturday, and they have Sundays off to relax.

Other Riding

Can a student come to the barn and ride for pleasure without being enrolled in a riding class or a member of a riding team?
Unfortunately, we cannot allow students to come ride the Mount Holyoke school horses for pleasure without participating in some sort of structured riding class or team. “Hacking” is sometimes available at the beginning and end of each term for students either on a team or enrolled in a riding class. Students not involved with the Mount Holyoke program may ride a privately owned boarder horse at the owner’s discretion or may sign up for a community lesson on a weekly basis.

Are outside clinics offered at Mount Holyoke?
Clinics are offered at the Mount Holyoke Equestrian Center.  Some clinics are limited to team riders while others are open to all riders.    We also stress educational opportunities at area facilities.  Clinicians at MHC have included Lendon Grey, Axle Steiner, Linda Langmeier, Eric Horgan, Mark Weissbecker, Michael Page, Patricia Harnois, Jeffrey Wells, Karen Healey, Chris Kappler, Anne Kursinski, Steven Heinecke, Roel Theunissen, Sarah Geikie, Max Gaywler, Udo Lange, Christolot Boylen and Henk Van Bergen.

Are there horse shows at Mount Holyoke? When are they, and may students compete in them?
There are several shows held at Mount Holyoke throughout the year, including a series of hunter shows and jumper shows. In addition, there is a dressage show in the winter and another in the spring. Students may ride Mount Holyoke school horses (for an additional fee), depending on availability, in any of these shows. Students interested are encouraged to speak to the staff as early as possible to discuss fees and terms.

Does Mount Holyoke have horses available for lease?
During both January-term and the summer, certain school horses are available for lease on and off the property. Specifics regarding each lease should be arranged with the staff as early as possible.

The Teams

How many people try out for the dressage and equitation teams each season?
Each fall, 70-80 riders try out for the hunter seat equitation team. Around 25 try out for the dressage team and about 30 are evaluated for the western team.  Tryouts are also held in the Spring. There are approximately 40 spots available on the equitation team and about 14 competing member spots on the dressage team.  The western and the dressage team are open to all riders, however, there are limited competing spots for each.

Do I need competition experience to try out for either the dressage or equitation team?
No competition experience whatsoever is required to make a team. Some of the most successful riders at Mount Holyoke have come here never having been to a horse show. All riders are encouraged to try out.  Having stated the above, if you don’t make the competition roster for a team, we encourage you to enroll in a p.e. riding class and tryout again the next semester.

Can students try out for both teams?
Yes, and many do. It is possible to balance an active membership on more than one team.. All of the coaches are very flexible and willing to work together to make both the teams a pleasant and positive experience for everyone.

When are tryouts held?
Tryouts are held twice a year for both the dressage and the equitation teams. Typically, tryouts are held the first weekend of both the fall and spring semesters. The western team holds evaluation tryouts also in the fall and spring. Schedules for each semester are available on the web and at the Equestrian Center prior to tryouts.

How many times a week does each team practice?
In addition to each rider’s normal lesson schedule, each team will practice at least once a week. Each team will practice more immediately prior to large competitions. Practices are based on each individual team member’s academic schedule. Members of the hunter seat equitation team are required to take a physical education riding class. Dressage and Western team members are not required to take a physical education class, but must ride at least once a week in addition to practice.

Can I be on another team and still be on the equitation or dressage team? The crew team, for example.
Yes and no. The hunter seat equitation team is a varsity sport, whereas the dressage and western teams are a club sport. (These differences apply primarily to how the sports are funded and organized, not to how competitive the teams are.) Students are permitted to participate in only one varsity team per season. Thus, a rider may join the crew team and be a member of the dressage team. But she must choose between the hunter seat equitation team and the crew team.

What is the IHSA?
The Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA) is an organization that brings together the best collegiate riders in the country. Mount Holyoke's team has won the national title several times, and most recently won the reserve national championship in 2007. The IHSA supports riders of all levels and abilities.

How many people make the team in each level?
Neither coach has a predetermined number of riders that will fill each division. Some divisions are generally larger than others. This is usually because a greater number of people qualify for certain divisions. All riders are encouraged to try out even if a large number of other people have already signed up. Any rider who is confused about which division to try out for should speak to one of the coaches as early as possible.


How much does it cost to board a horse at Mount Holyoke? What is included in the board, and what will I be expected to do for my horse?
Board is currently $975 per month. This includes daily turnout for up to two hours, a clean stall with fresh bedding, clean water, hay and grain. Mount Holyoke feeds several types of Poulin brand grain. The staff can also feed your horse a grain of your choosing, but you must provide it at your own expense. Mount Holyoke will also feed prepackaged supplements. We recommend SmartPak. As a boarder, you will be responsible for changing your horse’s blankets, daily grooming and being present for both the vet and the farrier. For additional fees, the barn staff may be able to assist in boots and blanketing. More about fees and services.

Can I bring my horse with me to Mount Holyoke?
Yes. The Mount Holyoke Equestrian Center reserves approximately 20 stalls per school year for students to bring their own horses. A boarding application must be completed for each horse that a student wishes to bring to Mount Holyoke. It is usually due in April. Each boarder is evaluated based on her horse’s manners/vices, a written essay and interest in participating in Mount Holyoke programs and events. If a boarder is not accepted, she will be placed on a wait list. Owners are notified in May.

Is transportation to and from horse shows available through Mount Holyoke?
There are several reputable shippers that make frequent stops at Mount Holyoke. Speaking to a staff member is the best way to find a suitable shipper for your horse. Mount Holyoke does not provide shipping.

Do many students go to shows off campus?
Some students travel to attend shows, and some of the instructors at Mount Holyoke travel to area horse shows, as well. Many of the Fall regional and national finals are held after school has begun, so there is always a group of riders heading out on those weekends. Any rider interested in taking part in these shows should speak with an instructor for more details.