The Brook Hill School will expand its Equestrian Club this spring, providing equine science and horseback riding opportunities for students.
The club had been available for middle school students only, but the new program will offer opportunities for students from first grade through 12th grade.
The program will teach the English discipline of equestrianism and the basics of polo and will be split between students from the Lower School (grades 1-5) and Middle and Upper Schools (grades 6-12).
The Lower School students’ equine program will focus primarily on in-class equine science, while the Middle and Upper Schools program will include mounted horsemanship.
Brook Hill is partnering with Oak Haven Farms in Bullard and Peirce Equestrian in Tyler to provide horses, stables and equine education to students.
Jamie Whitten, Brook Hill’s director of day admissions, described the classroom initiative of the program, which will be led by Oak Haven Farms, as a living lab where students will learn about equine health, science and breeding.
“There will be equine sciences, ag sciences, business sciences with a focus on equine, as well as the option for mounted participation,” Whitten said.
As it grows, the program will follow the model of Texas A&M’s Equine Initiative, overseen by Dr. Jim Heird. Brook Hill is partnering with Heird to assess the program’s future needs.
“There’s a tremendous demand for labor and for knowledge, and there’s academic potential for students here, and there’s opportunity for people to work in the industry if that’s what they’re passionate about,” Heird said.
Though it is not a certainty yet, there could be opportunity for competitive horsemanship through the school’s partnership with Peirce Equestrian.
“Peirce has recently started an IEA (Interscholastic Equestrian Association) team,” Whitten said. “We could potentially have a team that competes on that IEA team with the Brook Hill name.”
Gary Halbrooks, the visionary behind the equine program launch, has a history of family involvement at Brook Hill and is a lifelong friend of Steve Dement, the school’s founder.
Halbrooks said it was God who directed him to start an equine program at the school. He said the hope is that students who compete would get scholarships for riding.
Student Layne Whitten was part of last year’s Equestrian Club, and was excited about the program’s expansion.
“It really helps you be aware, and to have a great experience with horses, if that’s the path you want to take,” Layne said.