BY SISSY WICKES
Imagine a high school student finishing a rigorous academic day, grabbing their backpack, and heading out into the blue sky and mountain vistas at Fountain Valley School of Colorado in Colorado Springs. A quick stop at a dorm room and they are headed to the barn for an afternoon of riding. This is the Fountain Valley School where riding, both English and Western, has been a cornerstone of the school’s identity for decades.
Fountain Valley was established in 1930 as the western United States’ answer to the elite boarding schools of the east. A college preparatory school, it offers a rigorous academic program with AP and Honors courses, an option of boarding or day school, and a close-knit, supportive student body. With around 240 students, Fountain Valley provides a 6:1 student-teacher ratio, small class size, and a wide array of course choices.
For the equestrian high schooler, riding is offered at every level and in two disciplines, English and Western. The riding program is an afternoon sport, allowing students to ride five days per week and earn varsity letters. Riders may choose one season of riding and participate in the more than twenty other sports offered, or they may choose to ride for all three athletic seasons.
The school stables more than sixty horses for use by the program or a student may bring their own horse to board. The facility boasts thirty-three stalls, a recently donated spacious indoor arena, four outdoor rings, a covered ring, and large turnout – alll of these amenities and 1,100 acres of open prairie for trail riding.
Fountain Valley employs qualified, experienced TCP instructors for every level from the first-time rider up to top-level competitors. In addition to participating in local and A-rated shows, the English Riding Program also sponsors a large, highly competitive and successful IEA (Interscholastic Equestrian Association) Team that has qualified for and won multiple years at Zones, Regionals and Nationals. “There’s so much available here,” says senior Grace E., who has ridden at Fountain Valley all four years. “The talented horses, the facilities, the instruction… the personal attention that each rider gets five days a week, plus the opportunity for lots of shows on the weekends. And [Riding Director] Mrs. Hanna is an expert at finding each rider’s little quirks and flaws, making you a better rider.”
Horsemanship and stable management with a hands-on approach are integral to the Fountain Valley program. Senior Michaela Edwards, who will be trying out for the Stanford University riding team when she arrives there in the fall, says, “The program is not just about the riding. You learn how to take care of the horse and become thoroughly well rounded. We run the barn, feed the horses, blanket them, clean their stalls. We learn how to take care of a horse’s medical needs, like wrapping their legs, giving them their vaccines and doing their deworming. There are so many opportunities to improve yourself as a rider, a horseman, and a person.”
In addition to IEA, riders have the opportunity to compete in Colorado Hunter and Jumper Association (CHJA) shows toward qualifying for the CHJA Medal Finals. The USEF “A” recognized Summer in the Rockies series hunter/ jumper shows are also on the calendar. Talented clinicians such as Bernie Traurig, Joanne Warring, Julie Winkel, and Nick Karazissis have offered their services over the years. Many Fountain Valley alumni have gone on to ride in NCAA and IHSA college programs as well as becoming professional riders, trainers, and veterinarians in the industry.
Fountain Valley School of Colorado offers an education and experience that combines intellectual challenge with a spirit of adventure and exploration. Set on a 1,100- acre ranch at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, Pikes Peak is front and center, a daily reminder of the opportunities Colorado so generously offers. Students and faculty embrace the opportunities the spectacular setting offers, as well as the independence, confidence and resilience that living in the West inspires. Fountain Valley is the perfect choice for high school students who would like to experience the wonders of the Rocky’s, earn a top-flight education, and pursue their equestrian goals.
About the Author: Sissy is a Princeton University graduate, a lifelong rider and trainer, a USEF R rated judge, a freelance journalist and an autism advocate. Her illustrious resume includes extensive show hunter and jumper experience. She lives with her family in Unionville, PA and Wellington, FL.
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