The town of Simsbury, Connecticut is a favorite of mine, as it’s always been the template in my mind for what a typical New England town should look like. Likewise, the Ethel Walker School has always been the prototypical girls’ boarding school in my mind, the one I envision when I hear the term “boarding school” brought up in conversation. Beautiful brick buildings, large, stately trees, and poised young women make this place into a living postcard each and every time I set foot on their campus.
My visit this year was no different – despite the continued clean up in the wake of the unexpected October blizzard that still found large sections of Simsbury and nearby Avon without power. Walker’s had been hit by the storm but they were back in class and fully functional by the time I arrived. (What a relief too – I heard that many had been bunking in the admission and college counseling offices because they had generator power when some of the dormitory space didn’t. What an awkward meeting that would have been amidst the camping gear!)
With just a little under 250 students enrolled, Walker’s is a decidedly intimate academic institution. Everyone knows everyone but the school manages not to be claustrophobic to my way of thinking. Instead, it’s comfortable and relaxed with administrators, staff, and faculty who push the students who need it and support and nurture the ones who aren’t yet ready to be pushed. Nearly one-quarter of the school consists of international students, which gives the student body a decidedly international flair as well as a cosmopolitan point of view.
Riding-wise, I was impressed to see that the dark, old stable building (and by old, I mean OLD) and dark, cubby-hole offices had been torn down since my last trip east and replaced with new, airy stalls and a user-friendly, window-lined front office that’s easily accessed from the main parking area. The old indoor still stands and sees daily use, however. It’s one of my favorites, as it’s made entirely from brick (and matches the rest of Walker’s buildings) but has such high ceilings and a great seating gallery that it has a modern European feel once you’re inside. (It’s a building with character – and I love character!)
Walker’s is also blessed with ample room for turnout – something that a lot of other similar schools lack. Not all of the paddocks are grass, but just the simple act of getting horses out for a few hours in the mornings even if it is in a dry, sandy lot can make a huge difference in temperament and overall health. I spent quite a lot of time chatting with stable manager Sarah and instructor Mackenzie while I was there and I feel like I have a good feel for what really works in their program.
Will their program work for you? Contact me and let’s chat!