Equestrian Legend Denny Emerson ’59 Leads a Clinic for the VA Equestrian Team

On Wednesday, May 8, legendary equestrian Edward “Denny” Emerson ’59 paid a visit to Vermont Academy’s home barn, Southmowing Stables in Guilford, VT to offer his expertise to the equestrian team. Denny has been influential in the equestrian community for over 60 years, as an activist, author, leader, trainer, eventer, and coach.
Denny brought great energy to the barn, beginning his visit with a chat with the team in the tack room about the fundamentals of being what he deems a “good rider.” “A really good rider is almost as comfortable sitting on the back of a moving horse as they would be sitting on a couch watching television,” he divulged to the group. His audience listened intently as he spoke about the nature of the sport. Cam Burchinal ’26, Hannah Holton ’26, Natalie Kucerova ’24, and Carley Tendler ’25 were his audience as the four members of VA’s equestrian team.

Following the tack room talk, Denny led a mini clinic in the outdoor arena. This was particularly special, considering he has retired as a trainer and infrequently does clinics like this one. Denny pulled from his expertise - and his charming sense of humor - to lead the team through several flatwork drills. He emphasized the complexities of riding by exploring and explaining the role of rhythm, suppleness, contact, and straightness as he instructed the team and their horses through a polework exercise.

Denny left the team with some final words of encouragement and advice, even signing a copy of one of his books, “How Good Riders Get Good: Daily Choices That Lead to Success in Any Equestrian Sport.”

“Having Denny here was the highlight of our season,” said Equestrian Head Coach Lisa Eckhardt McNealus ’79 at the end of the day.

We thank Danny for his kindness and generosity in spending time with our equestrian team. It was an extraordinary opportunity we won’t soon forget.

To learn more about Denny, as well as his recognition as a 2024 Florence R. Sabin Class of 1889 Distinguished Alumni Award recipient, click here.
Vermont Academy is a coed college preparatory boarding and day school in southern Vermont, serving grades 9-12 plus a postgraduate year.