The epitome of place-based learning, HPA’s equestrian program will introduce you to our Hawai‘i Island paniolo traditions, along with many other forms of riding. The program is available to any student regardless of riding ability, and our experienced trainers welcome all levels, from absolute beginners to advanced riders. Classes are offered for Upper and Middle School students several days a week, with a special Friday riding class for Lower School students ages 8 to 11. (Additional fees apply to all classes.)
Students learn to handle horses from the ground up–catching and haltering their mount of the day; following grooming and tacking protocol; caring for tack and equipment—in addition to the riding lessons themselves. Riders who gravitate towards a particular discipline will receive additional training in that format.
We sponsor the annual horseback camping trip to a remote cabin on the slopes of Mauna Kea. Generations of alumni call this an HPA highlight—something they remember all their lives. We also hold a three-day summer intensive, as well as the Summer School Riding Program.
While students are never pressured to take part, the equestrian program does offer opportunities for competition by hosting horse shows and play days. Students graduating from HPA’s program can ride anywhere in the world and feel confident that they have a solid foundation in a variety of equestrian skills, including classic dressage, show jumping, hunters, cross country jumping, polo, and trail riding. A number of graduates have gone on to successful equestrian careers.
Our horses have been bred, born, and trained on campus. Shortly after arriving in Waimea in 1957, Faculty Emeritus Dick Solmssen began the equestrian program and served as director for over 50 years. Under Dick’s direction the herd, which began as six horses, has been steadily upgraded with bloodlines from thoroughbred, quarter horse, warm blood, Morgan, and our own uniquely wonderful Big Island breed, the Mauna Kea. Because of the diverse nature of the herd, students have the unusual opportunity to ride many different types of horses, giving them a richer riding experience than is common at a traditional barn.
Because we have known and trained our horses since birth, they are multi-disciplined and also very safe. All horses have been well schooled in polo, jumping, dressage, trail riding, and even some Western riding. Students can witness young horses in training, and more advanced students may have the opportunity to assist.
Judy Folk and Laura Rose have decades of riding, training, and coaching experience. Judy joined the program in 1969; Laura in 2009. They are both long-time Waimea residents.