Horse-averse parents don't really have a chance if their children are enrolled in San Domenico School, an independent Pre-K through 12th grade academy in Marin County's beautiful San Anselmo. Nestled in a green, tree-lined valley,
San Domenico's 33-stall barn and three-arena facility are fully on view from the driveway as prospective and existing students come and go
to and from school.
Riding is an elective part of the PE curriculum for all grades and the riding school provides top-notch instruction led by veteran trainer Lisa Durbrow. In 2009, San Domenico made the program even more irresistible by joining the Interscholastic Equestrian Association. This season, the school fields both middle school and high school teams that are poised to carry on San Domenico's successful start in the league.
Committed to excellence in education and preparing the next generation of leaders, San Domenico views the Riding School as an important part of its overall mission. School administrators know that riding and horsemanship opportunities enrich students' daily lives in many ways, Lisa notes. Developing focus and communication skills are just a few of many benefits, not the least of which is simply being outdoors and interacting with an animal, she adds.
Many San Domenico students enjoy their first equestrian experience as part of a PE class. These are taught during the normal school day, by Lisa or two other instructors, which leaves time for study and other activities in the afternoon and evening. A high percentage get hooked and want to continue riding at a higher level. The Riding School facilitates that for students who continue riding the school's 10 horses and for those who are ready to own their own. In addition, the Riding School welcomes clients who do not attend San Domenico. The San Domenico Riding School is a regular on the A circuit hunter/jumper scene, with a mix of San Domenico students and non-students. Safe horsemanship is emphasized for all, whether they are beginners in a PE class or experienced riders hitting the A circuit.
San Domenico is one of a handful of private schools to have a barn on its property, enabling students to easily walk from their "normal" classes. Having an IEA team is another distinguishing point and one that Lisa is very excited about. Now in its third season, the team took riders to the IEA's national championships during its first two years in the league and is on track to return to the 2012 finals, to be held in Syracuse, NY in April. A third place for an individual rider was a highpoint so far. "It's really a big deal," says Lisa. "The competition is fierce!"
Although the IEA is more widely established on the East Coast, the association is dedicated to growth on the West Coast. (California Riding Magazine, October 2011). There are currently 10 teams in the IEA's Zone 10, which encompasses California and Nevada. The Zone's other squads are the Thacher School, Santa Catalina School, Sierra Nevada Equestrians, Stanford Red Barn, Woodside Equestrian Team, Strides Equestrian Team, Elvenstar, White Rock Ranch and the Monte Vista Equestrian Team. While the IEA also has Western and Saddle Seat divisions, all of Zone 10's teams are Hunt Seat squads, like San Domenico. Fence heights in IEA competition peak at 2'6", for the Open Varsity division, but rules require riders in this division to be proficient over higher jumps. This way, their added experience compensates for the fact that they are jumping on unfamiliar horses.
Lisa was especially pleased with how well San Domenico's first try at co-hosting an IEA show went. IEA has a similar format to collegiate riding leagues in that host schools provide the horses and riders draw their mounts' names out of a hat. There's time for a very brief warm-up with that mount, then it's into the show ring. Reflecting the unique camaraderie between the San Domenico Riding School's student riders and private clients, every private horse owner in the barn lent their steeds for the show and many families turned out to help, whether or not their kids were competing. "That says a lot about the spirit of our barn," says Lisa.
San Domenico offers Pre-K through 8th grade education for boys and girls, and 9th through
12th grade education for girls, as day students
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