Drill Team Reinforces Students’ Connections with Horses and Each Other

July 11, 2022

Inside the Green Chimneys riding ring an attentive audience watches as a group of mounted horses moves in a synchronized fashion. Patriotic music plays while student riders lead each transition with great focus. Soon the group moves in a circle that gets increasingly tighter. Eventually, the student riders and horses fan out, form a broad line, and make their way toward the audience. They’re ready to receive gentle applause. Bravo, drill team!

Equestrian drill team is a sport that challenges riders to work with their teammates and their horses to ride through a choreographed pattern to music. Its origin dates back to when military brigades had mounted cavalry units that needed to practice skills and battle maneuvers. Today, drill teams perform in parades or at public events as entertainment, or they compete at horse shows or drill team competitions.

Activities that speak to the strengths of our students

As one of several after-school activities offered to Green Chimneys School students, the drill team is an excellent opportunity for those who have already demonstrated strong horsemanship skills and independence with their riding. Students are challenged to not only focus on their skills in the saddle but also enhance social-emotional skills with their peers in sportsmanship. In order to execute their patterns precisely, each rider must be aware of their teammates’ locations throughout the drill. The students quickly learn that in order to have their drill pattern be successful, they must be willing to give and receive help from their teammates.

Supporting social-emotional growth

“These students show respect to their peers. They take pride and ownership of their team by feeding and grooming the horses and preparing riding equipment,” explains Equine Program Instructor Valerie Parody. With each practice, students improve communications with peers as they work toward precision. “Students become extremely knowledgeable about the horses and how to keep safe in the sport. And I’m so proud of what the drill team has accomplished—together.”

Reinforcing positive behaviors and expanding skill sets

Respect, ownership, communication, and keep safe (also known as ROCK) are core principles at Green Chimneys. In 2017, as part of a Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports (PBIS) initiative, ROCK was launched as a behavior guide for students (and the entire community) to best interact with their peers, staff, animals, and the outdoors. These behaviors are a big part of the drill team. And students even expand upon them. By working together, each member of the drill team strengthens their patience, cooperation, and teamwork.