Randolph College’s Riding Center is not just a facility to riders like Lorna McFarlane ’12. For these students, the 100-acre horse center with its rolling hills and mountain views is a kind of sanctuary.
“Having access to a reputable facility and a coach who helps me consistently improve is very important,” McFarlane said. “Not only is riding my all-time favorite sport, but the Randolph College Riding Center is also a great place to go to get off campus for a bit. Working with horses is a great destressor.”
Recent improvements to the Riding Center are benefiting students—and horses. One major project for the summer involved replacing fencing, a daunting task on such a large property. Other renovations include an addition to the main building, which houses tractors and other equipment, hay, sawdust for bedding, and additional stalls for the horses. Renovations to the offices in the main building are expected to come later.
Students and staff are excited about the changes. “Renovations and updates are extremely important to the maintenance of the Riding Center as it is the only way we can provide the care our horses deserve,” McFarlane said.
Maintaining a first-rate facility is also important for a riding program that is nationally recognized. Randolph’s program, led by J.T. Tallon, has a longstanding reputation for excellence. Last year, Lizzie Kerron ’13 was named the ODAC Rookie of the Year. In addition, the WildCats have won three ODAC championships in the last 10 years and have placed riders on the All-ODAC Equestrian Team every year for the last 18 years.
Tallon has been named the ODAC Coach of the Year three times since 2000. He is also one of only three licensed hunter course designers in Virginia.
The College’s riding program is designed to offer riders of all skill levels the training and experience they need. Students can receive lessons, the option to participate in extra rides, special coaching for schooling and showing, and opportunities to participate in clinics.
“We teach all levels of experience,” said Tallon. “We offer a beginner class in the fall for those who have never ridden before. We start them from scratch. And by the end of the semester, they’re walking, usually cantering, jumping some small jumps, and that sort of thing.”
The program also attracts more-experienced riders. “We get some very good technicians, riders with a great deal of horse show experience,” Tallon said.
The Riding Center complex includes two outdoor rings, a jumping amphitheatre, a schooling ring, the Claire Noyes Cox Indoor Riding Center, a hunter trial course and outside schooling jumps, and a modern 40-stall barn with 30 horses.
“The improvements not only are aesthetically more pleasing, but they improve significantly the effectiveness and efficiency of the barn operations,” said Tina Hill, athletic director. “We take great pride in the facility. When it functions well and looks beautiful, it provides a wonderful learning environment and place where both the students and horses can excel and achieve greatness."