So, you’re ready to make a move an get your hands dirty in the horse world and decided to get riding lessons! Congratulations! That’s a great first step so welcome to the wonderful world of horseback riding!
Before you begin you should answer a couple of questions for yourself. Once you know what you want it’s time to find your horseback riding instructor.
What are your goals in horseback riding?
You might be happy just learning to ride and learn the natural rhythm of the horse’s movement, that’s fine. It’s up to you how far you wish to go; remember to make achievable goals for yourself. Don’t start riding and expect to ride at Rolex next year. If you work hard and have the time, money, and resources you could go there ONE DAY but for now start with some basic goals. Use the chart below to see the most common disciplines that provide a great foundation. You can spend your entire horseback riding career within these disciplines, but as you gain experience you can also explore other styles. There are SO many disciplines and activities to pursue; as a beginning rider focus on developing your horsemanship first.
Do you want to compete in shows?
The answer to this question will help you choose an instructor as not all barns are active in showing. If you want to compete you’ll want an instructor who actively brings students to competition (extra perks if a number of their students do well).
How Much Time Can You Commit to Learning?
At a minimum you should plan to take one lesson a week with your instructor. Any less and your education will be quite limited. Lessons are typically between 30-60 minutes; if you want to succeed you should make it a priority. Many people take 2-3 lessons per week.
How much money do you plan to spend?
You typically get what you pay for. People often balk at the cost of horseback riding lessons but have you read about the cost of keeping horses?! If you missed it click here to go back and read that article. Trainers often have to share some of their fees with the hosting facility as well as pay for their horse’s care and make a livable wage. On average I have seen lessons range $30-$60 per hour. Private lessons cost more than group. Some facilities offer semi-private with only 2 riders. You might also find instructors that will discount your rate if you prepay for a number of sessions.
Did you answer those questions?
Lets move on…
Keeping those ideas in mind you need to find a riding facility and an instructor that suits your needs. I’m hoping you’ve read Help! My Kid Wants a Horse! for some ideas to get you pointed toward great local farms (facebook, local tack shops, and horse shows in the discipline you wish to ride).
Get in contact with an instructor and schedule a “meet and greet.” This is a good opportunity for both you and the instructor to “interview” each other. It’s just as important for the instructor to know you as it is for you to know them. You may also wish to take one lesson as an introduction (yes, you’re paying, but it’s worth it). On your visit take a look at the farm and observe the environment.
- Do the horses look healthy and well fed? Are their coats shiny?
- Do the horses look happy?
- Is there access to clean water?
- Are the people friendly?
- Are the stalls cleaned often (at least daily)?
- How do the paddocks and turnout spaces look? Are the fences maintained?
- Are the aisles clear of clutter?
- How does the riding area look? Is it flat, well groomed, and appear safe for the horses? Keep in mind your choice in discipline may change the desired footing of the arena. For example, if you want to learn how to jump then a firm hard packed arena may not be the greatest for the horses.
- What’s the instructor’s teaching style like? If you watch a lesson how do they interact with students and with the horses?
- Does your instructor go to shows?
You may find an instructor to be tough; many are in the horse world and it’s not without good reason; they are responsible for the safety and well being of you and their horse. Even so, several instructors have different teaching styles and personalities. You need to find the right person who can push you to reach your goals. Once you find the right instructor, buckle in and enjoy the ride!
Go back to read the beginning of this series:
Or Continue to read what’s next in the series!