Freshmen at Thacher School, a coed boarding school in Ojai, California, begin learning the value of teamwork and the power of true friendship on their very first day of school, thanks to the Horse Program. Each student is partnered with a horse that lives on the property, an idea that traces back to the school’s founding in the late 19th century, when horses were the chief means of transportation.
Today, all freshmen are required to care for their animals’ needs throughout the year, responsibilities that include mucking out stalls, twice-a-day feedings, training, exercising, and a variety of activities designed to build strong, dedicated relationships between horse and rider. The program also helps students build self-esteem and become self-reliant problem solvers; asked to take on challenges and competitions, they learn to master themselves as they master their horses.
As students advance to higher grades, they may choose to become part of the Thacher Equitation Team; others might participate in extreme cowboy competitions or gymkhanas in California and Arizona. Whatever paths they choose, the lessons learned through teamwork and competition are there to guide them.