Mount Holyoke Riding Program


Mount Holyoke’s liberal arts curriculum seeks to develop in each student an awareness and understanding of the need for physical activity. Riding is one of the many offerings in the Department of Physical Education and Athletics. Classes meet once or twice weekly to earn physical education units toward the required amount for graduation.

A physically demanding discipline, riding offers numerous benefits. Among them are improvement in balance, coordination, and a sense of rhythm. Emotional gains are found in increased self-awareness, self-confidence, self-discipline, mental acuity, and persistence in the pursuit of excellence. The challenge of working in partnership with the horse toward a high level of performance involves infinite patience, and the end result can be wonderfully rewarding. The staff at the Equestrian Center focuses on developing not only outstanding riders but also informed, caring horsewomen.

Class Offerings:

Mount Holyoke offers riding to students of all levels of experience. The beginner classes assume no prior riding experience. The advanced riding classes cover basic dressage - the foundation of good flatwork - and increasingly difficult jumping skills.  A variety of intermediate levels are offered as well.  Classes that focus strictly on dressage, including test riding, and Western style classes are also offered.

Beginning Riding (PE 051) and Beginning Riding Western and (PE 055)

For those with no prior formal riding instruction. Students learn safety procedures in handling, grooming, and tacking up. They learn to control the horse at the walk and trot/jog, and are introduced to the canter/lope.

Advanced Beginning Riding (PE 052) 

For riders that have completed PE 051 or 055.  A continuation of learning to ride at the basic level with an eye toward developing confidence, coordination and further competence at the walk, trot and canter.  Riders will learn the jumping position in preparation for learning jumping skills.

Basic Horsemanship (PE 150)

This is a non-credit course offering students an opportunity to learn about horses and their care from the ground.  Topics such as handling, grooming, feeding, farrier, tack care, basic first aid, and etc. will be covered.  This course is a great way to be introduced to horses in order to gain knowledge, confidence, and to being around them.

Low Intermediate Riding (PE 151)

For riders capable of controlling a horse at the walk, trot, and canter and with the competence level to start work over very low jumps. Students learn improved control of the horse on the flat and will be introduced to the proper jumping technique. Focus on the rider includes developing a stable position and balance.

Intermediate Riding (PE 251)

For riders capable of riding on the flat and over two-foot jumps while maintaining control over the horse. Students work to improve effective use of the aids to influence the horse and continue to develop a secure position and balance.

Intermediate General Riding (PE 250)

For riders who have intermediate riding skills who would like to explore different styles of riding on the flat.  This class encourages riders to embrace the joy and fun of riding by offering a wide perspective of training techniques, hunt seat, games, bareback, trail and Western.

Introduction to Dressage (PE 252)

For riders with a solid mastery of basic riding at all three gaits. Students learn how to begin to put a horse on the bit and how to correctly and confidently ride basic dressage movements.

Intermediate Western (PE 255)

For riders with some western riding experience who can walk, jog and lope.  Students will further refine their aids and communication with their mount in the Western style.

High Intermediate Riding (PE 351)

For riders with secure positions who are comfortable riding over a three-foot course. The class emphasizes maintaining proper position and balance at all gaits. Students learn to persuasively influence the horse’s movements through proper riding technique.

Intermediate Dressage (PE 352)

For riders with some  dressage experience who can ride competently at the Training level.  Students gain more confidence and skills controlling horses in all three gaits and correctly riding the dressage movements required at Training Level and above.

Modified Intermediate Riding (PE 354)

For riders who are highly competent on the flat and/or in their dressage knowledge but have little or no jumping experience.  Riders will continue to be challenged with their riding skills on the flat and will be introduced to the joys and techniques of jumping fundamentals in a step by step basis.


Advanced Western (PE 355)

For riders who are working on advanced techniques in their western riding.  Riders will work to perfect their horsemanship, trail and pleasure, and will be introduced to reining techniques as well.

Advanced Riding (PE 451)

For riders with confirmed, effective positions who are comfortable negotiating a 3’6” course of reasonable complexity. Students learn to refine their leg, seat, and hand aids to create harmonious communication with the horse on the flat and over fences.

Advanced Dressage (PE 452)

For riders with significant dressage experience capable of executing at least all First Level movements on a suitable horse and for riders who have higher level experience .  Riders should also be comfortable riding different mounts. Advanced riders gain improved understanding of forwardness, straightness, rhythm, obedience, and suppleness. The goal is to refine application of the aids through a balanced and effective seat.

Bringing Dressage Theory to Life (PE 455)

For advanced dressage riders who are looking to delve further into the theory behind the classical training methods found in dressage.   Riders will ride one time per week and meet one time per week for intensive lecture and discussion.

Private and Semiprivate Lessons

Private and semiprivate lessons are available to students on a limited basis. Students may use their own horses or, depending on availability, may be able to use a Mount Holyoke school horse. These lessons must be arranged at or after the beginning of each semester with the instructor. Depending on instructor availability, students may arrange to receive physical education credits for a series of lessons.