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17 October 2022
by Ferdinand Steinbeis

England's best: our top 5 boarding schools for horseback-riding

Greetings from Richmond!
In this blog post we'll introduce you to von Bülow Education's absolute favourites among the equestrian boarding schools or boarding schools with outstanding equestrian departments in the UK.
The UK has always been one of the global leaders in show jumping and dressage in equestrian sports. Legendary showjumpers like Michael and John Whitaker or the exceptional dressage talent Charlotte Dujardin set new standards at the Olympic Games and beyond. The best equestrian boarding schools in the UK are holistic schools: academic excellence with IB, A-level and GCSE degrees, a wide range of leisure activities and first-class riding lessons go together here. Without travel times, students can get the same level of individual support with their love of equestrian sports as particularly talented riders, and make the most of their educational potential.
The boarding schools' own sport horses are available to every student and many boarding schools also allow students to stable their own horses on site. The riding instructors are usually former or part-time current top athletes themselves. We'll list our top 5 boarding schools with excellent equestrian programs and answer the most common questions we hear about riding lessons at boarding schools. Please feel free to get in touch with us if this post doesn't answer all of your questions.
Equestrianism in action: a young lady at Stonar (photo courtesy of Stonar School)
Boarding schools with particularly good riding lessons in the UK
Horse riding is a sport with a particularly long history and great prestige in the UK. There is a wide choice of boarding schools which offer horse riding as part of their sports programmes. But not all of them offer the level which really challenges and promotes talents. The boarding schools with great equestrian departments we recommend are among the best of their kind in the UK. Many graduates of boarding schools with a specialisation in horse riding have made equestrian sports careers. Even those students who don't make it into professional equestrian sports are guaranteed a huge improvement in their personal riding skills. In addition, a good degree at these English boarding schools opens doors to coveted training places and universities.
Equestrian boarding schools or schools with excellent riding lessons in the UK are not only ideal for experienced riders. Beginners can also get intensive lessons here, which not only include dressage riding and show jumping. Some schools also offer polo with first-class polo horses. Local and national tournaments are just as much a part of the offer at all these boarding schools as relaxed off-road rides and all-encompassing theory and practical lessons on the proper handling and care of horses. Riding lessons, team spirit and responsibility for an animal contribute to the development of the students' personalities.
World-class riding and the best academic achievements: the advantages of equestrian boarding schools in the UK
Our top 5 schools with world-renowned riding lessons offer all the advantages of a normal boarding school in the UK, plus that little extra for riders and horse lovers who want to learn to ride. On our school overview page for mixed boarding schools you'll find all the advantages of British boarding schools, especially for students from Germany. Equestrian boarding schools also have these additional advantages, among others:
  • Horse lovers without riding experience learn the sport from the very beginning under professional conditions.
  • Experienced riders are optimally supported by individual lessons until the set goals are achieved or even exceeded.
  • Traditionally, dressage, eventing and show jumping are offered. Some boarding schools also offer excellent polo programs, off-road riding and relaxed Western riding.
  • Lessons, training and rides take place under optimal conditions with excellent riding horses and equipment for every equestrian sport.
  • All the riding instructors are qualified experts and often former professional athletes. Many boarding schools offer lessons by guest teachers who are top-class leaders in their discipline.
  • The distance to the riding lessons and the associated risks and travel times are eliminated.
  • Looking after the animals promotes a sense of responsibility, care, empathy and self-confidence. Horse riding as a sport promotes cognitive abilities, as well as the ability to solve problems and develop strategies.
  • Riding is a perfect balance to academic teaching and performance requirements.
  • Your own horses can usually be accommodated at the boarding school.
  • There is an opportunity to participate in local, national and sometimes international tournaments.
  • There are partial or full scholarships for riders, academic scholarships and other funding opportunities.
A close bond: a Stonar pupil with her horse (photo courtesy of Stonar School)
Top 5 boarding schools with the best riding lessons in the UK
In our personal von Bülow Top 5 of the equestrian boarding schools or boarding schools with the best equestrian programmes in the UK, you'll find the most famous schools as well as a few insider tips which, due to the extraordinary achievements of their students, should no longer be insider tips.
Grooming time at Bryanston School (photo courtesy of Bryanston School)
1.Stonar School: Britain's best equestrian boarding school
The Stonar School in the beautiful countryside of West Wiltshire is by far the best equestrian boarding school in the UK and looks back on a long equestrian tradition. In the 65 stables with 30 ponies and horses, there are plenty of school-owned riding horses suitable for every ability level of the students. Students can also bring their own horse or pony to ensure that the child and animal work well together. This is how the horse and rider form a harmonious unity to gain self-confidence and improve their personal performance. Accordingly, tailor-made lessons are also offered from absolute beginners to semi-professionals in order to achieve the set goals. The riding instructors of the Stonar School are world-class riders themselves. The riding lessons include not only theory and practical training, but also everything else which plays a role in horse care and keeping. Among other things, dressage, show jumping, eventing and cross-country riding are taught. The Stonar riding team is known not only around the country, but also around the world, and is very successful at the many tournaments in which Stonar students participate.
At Bryanston, most pupils bring their own horses (photo courtesy of Bryanston School)
2.Millfield School: Polo and equestrian excellence with Olympic standards
Millfield School in the southern English country of Somerset is one of the most successful sports boarding schools in the UK. Although academic excellence is also the primary goal at Millfield and is available to all students with 33 possible school subjects and special support for learning disabilities, the real heart of the school is sport. Their equestrian offer is primarily aimed at talented riders who want to perfect their skills. Here you'll find ideal conditions which meet Olympic standards. Among other things, dressage, show jumping, eventing and cross-country riding as well as polo and pony trials are offered.
The equestrian department at Millfield has almost 30 stables for the approximately 10 school-owned horses and the private horses of the students. The riding department of the school employs 15 full-time employees, including twelve qualified riding instructors. Well-known top riders in their disciplines are regularly invited as guest riding instructors. The many riding arenas and halls are excellently equipped. Millfield even organises its own eventing tournament, where 600 participants compete against each other every year – many of them Millfield students. The successes of Millfield's equestrian athletes are remarkable. Millfield has won the national schools' championship in show jumping at the school and the polo championships of the universities several times. Even at Pony Trials, the riders from Millfield are regularly among the best.
A riding outing at Bryanston School(photo courtesy of Bryanston School)
3.Sidcot School: Empathetic, horse-loving and with great riding lessons
Sidcot School in the picturesque county of Somerset is one of the friendliest boarding schools in the UK. In the school founded by Quakers, values like respect, tolerance and empathy are given great importance. Actually, the school is better known as an academic and creative training centre, since the students here are ideally supported with individualised, supportive lessons. In terms of equestrian sports, Sidcot is also an excellent school, which is known in the UK not only because of the success of its students and graduates in tournaments, but also as a first-class horse boarding house which caters to even the most demanding animals. The Sidcot School Equestrian Centre has spacious stables with around 50 boarding horses as well as space for your own horses. Sidcot students can take up equestrian sports as a hobby and register for a riding lesson, or rent horses for rides in the beautiful countryside. For talented riders who want to pursue a professional riding career, experienced trainers are available who perfect their riding skills in individual lessons. The Sidcot Equestrian Centre's repertoire includes dressage, show jumping and cross-country riding. There are regular opportunities to compete in tournaments in and outside the school.
Bryanstonian relaxing with a horse (photo courtesy of Bryanston School)
4.Bryanston School: A rising star for students keen on bringing their own horse
Bryanston School is known beyond the coasts of Great Britain for its overwhelming creative offer. In equestrian sports, however, the school has developed so much in the last 20 years that it can't be missing from our top 5. The equestrian centre in Bryanston is open to the entire school community. Students who see riding as a hobby and a balance to everyday school life will be just as happy here as talented riders with international ambitions. The maxim of the Bryanston School is: riding lessons should not only lead to riding better, but also to gaining life skills.
Bryanston is particularly notable for its combination of qualified riding lessons with the teaching of the biomechanics and performance analysis of horse and rider by Russell Guire, one of the world's most respected experts. As a result, the students gain a knowledge advantage which allows them to develop perfectly and improve their riding skills individually. The successes of recent years, in which former students have achieved considerable success at major international tournaments and have been able to establish themselves as professional equestrian athletes, show that this formula is working well.
The horses are the students' own animals, which are excellently cared for at the Bryanston Equestrian Centre. There are currently no school-owned horses.
A happy Bryanston boy ;-) (photo courtesy of Bryanston School)
5.Lucton School: For beginners, advanced riders and tomorrow's professionals alike
In the midst of Herefordshire's beautiful landscape, the small Lucton School stands not only for academic excellence, but also for perfecting the students' riding skills. The spacious facility is new, meets the highest standards and is of such high quality that the National Schools Association (NSA) is organising a Hickstead Arena Eventing Challenge here. The Lucton School equestrian centre is run by Emma Coates, who is not only a very experienced trainer, but also regularly participates in the Horse of the Year Show with her self-bred show horses. The school has a number of well- trained riding horses and ponies for every skill level as well as enough modern stables for your own horses. Jumping, dressage and eventing are taught at competition level. The school’s young riders regularly participate in local and national tournaments and the school itself organises a show jumping tournament every year. Some Lucton graduates have already started a career in professional equestrian sports.
Do you still have questions about boarding schools in the UK with excellent riding lessons?
In addition to the maximum promotion of your child's equestrian talents, all the boarding schools in our Top 5 offer academic excellence and individual support to get school diplomas with the best possible results. A degree from one of these boarding schools is an international ticket for universities and training places in sought-after companies, if you don't end up becoming a professional rider. Our von Bülow team will be happy to help you find the best boarding school in the UK for your child. How many students share a room? What are exeat weekends? Which school qualifications are possible? Are the degrees recognised in Germany? Answers to these and other frequently asked questions about boarding schools in the UK can be found in the FAQ on mixed boarding schools.
In the von Bülow Blog "News from the island” you can find out everything which is currently worth knowing about the requirements due to Brexit and possible pandemic-related requirements during visits.

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