Education: Not Your Average Dude Ranch

The Thacher School combines horsemanship with scholarship

Dawn in Ojai, Calif. As the sun rises over rugged peaks, more than 80 young men and women are busy shoveling horse droppings at the elite Thacher School, a 425-acre sprawl of corrals and classrooms that combines New England-style prep-school life with the ethos of Western ranching. As part of their regimen, students must feed the horses and muck out their stalls before breakfast. Some students grumble about the early-morning chores, but most of them ultimately embrace the school's central belief that a connection exists between caring for a horse and conquering calculus. "Before I came here, it never clicked with...

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