GMS1A celebration was held today to recognize the accomplishments of 19 new equestrians from the Greenfield Middle School (GMS) who benefited from a unique partnership with Stoneleigh-Burnham School (SBS).

The partnership in equestrian studies gave local middle school students the incredible opportunity to learn about horses and riding from Stoneleigh-Burnham’s seasoned equestrian faculty and staff and talented student riders at the school’s equestrian center right on campus at 574 Bernardston Road, Greenfield.

SBS launched the new program in the 2015-16 school year and plans to continue the partnership with GMS next year and in the future. The partnership was developed by SBS Equestrian Director George Halkett with GMS Associate Principal Angela Ruggeri and Greenfield Schools Superintendent Jordana Harper.

“This has been a terrific partnership. Students have learned hands-on skills, have had first-class experiences with equestrian skills, and have gained confidence and enthusiasm. We see all these positive skills as a benefit in the ring, and back in the classroom,” Harper said after observing the students grooming and riding their horses on a recent trip to SBS.

GMS2Starting last fall, 19 sixth-grade girls and boys traveled with GMS staff member Tarsis Theofanidis to Stoneleigh-Burnham each school day. For an hour and a half each day, GMS students worked with Halkett, Assistant Stable Manager/Instructor Rebecca Castine and others, including SBS student and rider Linda Limeri ’16, who earned practical training hours toward her British Horse Society (BHS) Certification.

At a ceremony today, Halkett and Castine presented GMS students with certificates in Riding and Stable Management. Students’ families were invited to the equestrian center to watch their children tack up and lead horses. Head of School Sally Mixsell, Greenfield Mayor William Martin and Harper congratulated students and lauded those who made the program a reality.

Halkett said students first learned how to handle, groom, feed, tack and care for horses and ponies. When they became efficient in those areas, they were taught to lead the animals, as well as learn equitation (the art or practice of horse riding) theory. Finally, students learned to ride, walk, trot and canter, and developed a strong understanding of stable management.

GMS3SBS offered this opportunity to GMS at a greatly reduced rate. The program is funded in large part by an Expanded Learning Time grant for student enrichment awarded to GMS.

“Stoneleigh-Burnham has given to our community in a tremendous way by providing this opportunity to our students at a very low cost, about what it would cost one student to do the program,” Ruggeri said.

SBS is the first and only U.S. secondary school to teach the BHS and with an equestrian center that has been certified as a BHS-approved facility. Long recognized internationally for setting the highest standards for riding instruction, stable management and horse training, the system set forth by the BHS complements Stoneleigh-Burnham’s dedication to providing students who aspire to careers in horsemanship with a firm academic footing at the high school level.