Asheville School is among the approximately 20% of boarding schools in the United States with an equestrian program (boardingschoolreview.com) and offers lessons for riders from beginner to advanced levels.
The current equestrian program was started in 1985 by Jeanne Tyrer, the spouse of longtime Head of School Jack Tyrer. Jeanne Tyrer taught riding lessons and built the program up until her retirement in 1992.
Diane Wilson, the current director of the Equestrian Program, began in her role in 1993. "I am so grateful to Jeanne Tyrer for starting the program," she said. "What a gift it is for our school. I just hope I've held the banner high."
Entering her 26th year as the director of the program, Wilson says that the program is important because it teaches empathy, problem-solving, responsibility, teamwork and leadership skills.
Students not only learn how to safely ride horses, they also learn how to care for them.
"Our beginning students learn how to groom, tack up, and generally take care of the horses," Wilson said. "It's important that they learn those skills as part of Equestrian. Our advanced students take on mentorship roles and teach the beginning students some of these skills."
Because Asheville School is a small school by design, Wilson can tailor the equestrian program to the individual needs of the students. "Each semester, we do things a little differently, because the equestrian program is student-led," she said.
Students ride in the Ireland Riding Ring and on wooded trails throughout the heart of campus. Some choose to participate in Hunter Pace competitions, while others hone their jumping skills.
Asheville School provides horses for any students who are interested in learning equestrian, or students have the option to board their own horses in the Asheville School stables.
"I try to make this a program where students are able to come to the stables, relax, and use the time as a great way to take a break from the rest of high school," Wilson said. "Students can come down and really be themselves."