Sweet Briar College Celebrates 100 Years of Equestrian Excellence

Britt Larson-Jackson ’22 in the Howell Lykes Colton Stables at Sweet Briar College.

By Savannah Mannes
Photos by Cassie Foster Evans, Sweet Briar College

Looking for a proven pathway to turn your equestrian passion into a profession? Sweet Briar College has been helping riders become leading women for more than a century.

Located in the heart of horse country in Sweet Briar, VA, the 130-acre Rogers Riding Center is the heart of the equestrian program within the liberal arts institution. For 100 years, Sweet Briar’s riding program has made a tradition of producing top equestrians and exemplary leaders. 

Sweet Briar’s equestrian facility features the 120 x 300 Robin S. Cramer Hall, which is one of the largest indoor college arenas in the country. The facility also features a heated viewing area in the indoor arena, covered lunging area, and several teaching and schooling fields. The Howell Lykes Colton Stables was renovated in 2020 with the donation from Richard C. Colton Jr. It was renamed in his mother’s honor. The campus is built on 2,840 acres in the countryside of Virginia, providing serenity to students and horses. The equestrian facility is located conveniently on campus with no commute. The pristine facility is home to 50 college-owned horses and stalls are available for students to bring their own horses to board. 

Shannon Huth ’23 rides on Sweet Briar’s campus

Sweet Briar’s unique riding program allows students of all riding levels. Director of Riding Mimi Wroten told The Plaid Horse what sets Sweet Briar’s riding program apart from the rest. 

“There are many areas the students can learn and explore,” said Wroten. “The areas of focus for the riding program are competition, recreation, training and schooling horses, field riding, equine-facilitated leadership and the Equine Studies Certificate. The riding classes are built into the student’s academic class schedule. Students have the option to bring their personal horse with them to college. The Equine Studies Certificate is offered in two concentrations—management, and teaching and schooling.” 

The riding program offers both the NCEA and IHSA teams but also takes students to local and rated horse shows off campus. 

“We have a great program that is very inclusive and gives lots of opportunities to riders of all levels, from beginning-level riders to those competing at the NCEA level. Our facility is beautiful and the fact that we have miles of trails and fields to ride in adds to what makes Sweet Briar special,” said Wroten. “I also believe that our knowledgeable and experienced faculty and staff, as well as an amazing group of horses to learn from, make Sweet Briar a superior program.” 

The IHSA is the most popular riding team at the college since riders of all levels have an opportunity to compete. The National Collegiate Equestrian Association team regularly competes against Division 1 schools. 

During the current 2020-2021 NCEA season, the Sweet Briar Vixens rank number one in Single Discipline rankings. In the 2019-2020 IHSA season, the Vixens won the Zone 4, Region 4 Regional Championship for the third consecutive season. In May 2018, Sweet Briar dual team rider, Makayla Benjamin, claimed the coveted Cacchione Cup. Today, the IHSA Team consists of 30 student athletes and the NCEA Team has 6 student athletes, and college alumni are leaders in the many avenues of the equestrian industry. 

“Sweet Briar College has been helping riders become leading women for more than a century,” says college president Meredith Woo. “With so many different areas to explore and learn in the riding program, students are able to grow and thrive. Many students choose to continue onto grad school after graduation. Our student applicants have a 93% graduate school acceptance rate over the last 12 years. Sweet Briar was most recently named as one of the nation’s Most Innovative Schools, according to the 2021 Best Colleges rankings by U.S. News & World Report.”

Every rider at Sweet Briar College has opportunities to meet their full potential in and out of the ring. “The success of our riders while in the show ring, the classroom, and after graduation confirm how our standard of excellence continues to support and develop leaders through the sport of equestrian,” added Wroten. “All of us in the Sweet Briar riding program love helping in the process and seeing their successes along the way. Sweet Briar provides equal opportunity and the perfect environment to support and allow our students to grow into their full potential.”  

*This story was originally published in the April 2021 issue of The Plaid Horse. Click here to read it now and subscribe for issues delivered straight to your door!