Category Archives: Horseback Riding

Riding Lessons – How to Keep Your Instructor Happy

I thought it was a mistake as soon as she put her foot into the stirrup. Her non-stretch jeans stretched to a thin bare membrane over her bulging backside. The horse practically groaned as she hoisted herself up. I asked myself, “Why did I take her as a student?”

My impression was wrong. She was a great student. Three months later the same student fit and trim was cantering unaided and easily preparing her own horse for lessons. Why was she such a great student? She wanted to learn how to ride and she was teachable.

Whether you are a seasoned competitor or a recreational rider, consider the following to keep your instructor happy:

  • Be on Time

Remember that teaching riding lessons is a business. If your lesson starts at 10:00 then you should arrive at 9:30 – 9:45 to prepare your horse. Preparing your horse may be as simple as taking it from the previous student who was riding it, or it may include a trek into the back forty to retrieve, groom and tack up the beast.

If you are late for your lesson don’t expect the instructor to redo her/his schedule to fit yours!

If you think you may be late it is a great courtesy to call and let your teacher/trainer know you will be late or have to postpone you lesson. It is usual to have a 24 hour cancellation policy. This means if you cancel before 24 hours before the start of the lesson they will not charge you for your lesson. If however, you call after the 24 hour period they can and will still charge you.

Some may think this is a bit much but this avoids people abusing the system and prevents people scheduling lessons and not showing up for them.

  • Pay on Time

Most stables require that you pay for an eight week session in advance. This prevents students riding and then not paying. If your stable does not have this policy pay in advance anyway. This shows your teacher that you are serious about your riding.

  • Be Teachable

Wanting to learn, being teachable, is all about listening and following directions that are given by your instructor. It is not so much about head up, heels down, but also about how your apply yourself outside of the lessons that make a difference. It means trying, doing and not making excuses. I can’t because “fill in excuse here”.

  • Clean up After Yourself

Being courteous is always good. This means if you use the cross ties, then sweep up the mess you created. Or if your horse poops in the aisle way scoop it up and dispose of it. I know that putting manure in the wheel barrow is not enough for me. I go the extra few steps and then dump the wheelie. This does take a few more minutes but it goes a long way to keep things clean and to create great relationships with the stable manager.

After you have completed your lesson always wipe down your tack and equipment. This is a courtesy for the next rider and helps with the condition of the tack. Also at this time you can see the condition of the leather and see if any repairs need to be done.

If you keep these things in mind and help your instructor, s/he will be happier and more interested in helping you.

Being a coach, Judge and freelance riding instructor Laura May knows first hand what keeps her happy. Laura’s stable Thistle Ridge Stable is co-host of the popular Rising Star Series of Horse Show Clinics in Ottawa, Ontario. She likes it when people are on time and pay on time!

Laura specializes in the development and training of young horses with emphasis on the development of equestrians through systematic training techniques. School horses are available at Thistle Ridge Stables for your lessons and Laura provides freelance instruction/coaching at your stable.

Also available for judging and clinics.

Visit me at or contact me at (just remove the spaces).

Originally posted 2012-06-23 08:08:20.

Tips For Finding the Right Riding Instructor

Are you ready to begin your riding adventure? Or do you want to get back in the saddle after a long break? Here are some questions and tips on finding a skilled riding instructor that will meet your needs.

The first question you need to ask your self is what style of riding have done before? Or which style would you like to learn? Some examples are: hunter, jumper, dressage, trail, western pleasure, or reining to name a few. If you are not sure what is the difference then check with your local library or go online and do a search. This is the first step in determining what type of instructor you are looking for.

Questions to ask yourself:

What style of riding do I wish to learn?

What are my riding goals?

Do I want to be more comfortable on a horse and ride recreationally?

Do I want to participate in horse shows?

How much time do I have for riding?

Are there specific fears that I need to work with?

No matter what your riding goals are you should ride at least once per week. That way you have a chance to practice what you learned during the lesson, and it also allows you to progress quicker.

Most lessons last about an hour, however grooming and tacking/ untacking add another hour to your “lesson” time, and this is an extremely important part of your lesson. You need to learn how to groom and tack/ untack your horse, because this is necessary if you ever wish to own or share board a horse.

What is my budget for lessons, etc.?

Private lessons range from $40-90/hr.

Semi-private lessons and group lessons range from $20-50/hr.

Remember you will also be investing in the proper attire, which includes jeans or breeches, boots, and most importantly a safety helmet. This part of your riding investment should not cost that much. For example many of us already have a pair of jeans that will work for riding. A pair of inexpensive but serviceable breeches should be about $40-$50 a pair. The average boots to start riding with should be around $50 and a helmet can be $25-65. It all depends on how fancy or high end you want your items to be.

I recommend that you start with a reputable and professional instructor to teach you the basics of riding a horse. They should be certified if possible. Having an instructor with certification means they have passed tests and classes on riding instruction. An instructor must also carry Equine Liability Insurance.

Now you should compile a list of instructors/ trainers from the phone book, internet, recommendations, and instructors/ trainers listed at feed stores. The instructors/ trainers that are recommended by friends should be higher on your list. Word of mouth recommendations are a good way to find an instructor/ trainer. The person that recommended a trainer will have experience with that particular trainer and is familiar with their style of teaching, and how they interact with horses and clients.

Questions to ask potential instructors/ trainers.

Do you work with beginners?
Do you work with timid riders?
How long have you been teaching?
How many years have you been involved with horses?
Do you teach children? Adults? Can we ride together?
What are your prices?
Do you offer private, semi-private, or group lessons?
Can I watch you teach a lesson?
Can you give me some references – other students, resume etc.?
What are your safety policies (if any)?

Are you insured?

What are your certifications, if any?

Do you go to shows, and are you willing to take students?

Do you have any special requirements?

These are just a suggested list of questions to ask potential trainers/ instructors.

If you have narrowed down your search to a couple of potential trainers/ instructors schedule a time to meet with them face to face. I also recommend that you watch at least one of their lessons.

Some things to look for when visiting potential barns:

Do the horses appear healthy?

Is the barn neat (i.e. no pitch forks or shovels in the aisles)?

Does the instructor pay attention to the student?

Do they have a helmet policy? (This should always be a mandatory policy with EVERY rider)

Are the instructor’s requests during the lesson reasonable?

Are the instructor’s requests easy to understand, if not does the instructor explain them when students have a question?

Do the students look comfortable, and appear to be enjoying the lesson?

I hope that these suggestions assist you in your search for an instructor. If you follow these guidelines, then it will be much easier to find an instructor that meets your needs.

By Sara McKiness of Horse Logic.

Editor’s Note: Based in St. Charles, Sara McKiness is a Certified Horse Trainer who helps riders improve their communication with horses without punishment. She graduated valedictorian from Meredith Manor International Equestrian Center (MMIEC) where she majored in teaching and training, and minored in Farrier Science.

Classical Dressage, Western, and Hunt Seat Lessons. Come ride exceptional & experienced lesson horses. Based in Sugar Grove IL with travel to your facility available. Learn better communication with your horse and build your relationship. Fully insured with over 19 years riding experience. Contact Sara for more information 630-631-2746.

©Horse Logic 2008-2010

Sara McKiness
Horse Logic
Saint Charles, IL

Originally posted 2012-06-19 08:08:53.

Developing Your Medium and Extended Trot Out in the Field

Trotting up hills is a great way to teach your horse to open up his shoulders, and will help him understand what he is supposed to do.

Medium and extended trot both have to be mastered if you want to go up the levels in dressage and eventing. And it is easier than you think. Some horses can naturally lengthen their stride, so if yours is one of them, then when you are preparing to ride your first Novice test, medium trot is required for the first time at novice, you should not have much trouble. Others may need a bit more help, but you should find that most horses will happily oblige once they understand what you are asking them to do. It is important to really understand what the trot is and how your horse should be moving in order to improve and lengthen his stride.

What is the trot?

The trot is a two-time pace where the horse moves his legs in diagonal pairs, plus there is a moment of suspension when all four legs are off the ground. Ideally, and essentially at the higher levels, the horse should work in good, uphill balance with his hind legs stepping well under his body. He should be supple through his top-line and seeking a rein contact. If your horse’s trot does not feel up to scratch, do not panic. Here are some common trot problems we encounter, with some simple solutions, too. I find they work well for my horses, so give them a go.

You can do this whilst hacking, you don’t even need an arena!

If you have access to a long, not- too-steep hill, then use it to your advantage. Take a light seat, but do not give the rein away, and do not allow your horse to fall onto the forehand. You should find your horse naturally reaches with his stride more than he would on flat ground, so encourage him. Or if you have a friend who has a horse with an established medium trot, trot up the hill beside them and watch your horse really open up!

Not only does the hill work develop your horses technical ability in the trot, but it also really aids his fitness work. Improved stamina and strength, especially in the hind legs, is a brilliant pay-off from this exercise and such hill work is more typically found in the eventing world where horses need exceptional stamina for the long cross-country sections of the competition. Dressage and jumping horses, although using more intense, explosive energy in a smaller time frame, rather than the endurance found in an event horse, can really benefit from this increase in fitness from the hills. The fitter the horse is, the easier he will be able to progress on and develop the new exercises.

Now it is time to get out there and put it in to practise!

Tom Davison of Davison Equestrian has been immersed in equestrian sports all his life. His father, a top Olympic Dressage rider has been a huge influence on Tom’s very successful show jumping and coaching career. Having trained with some of the best from Franke Sloothaak and Billy Twomey, he has a wealth of knowledge and experience that he departs to his pupils in a way that gets the best out of both horse and rider. For more information please visit

Originally posted 2012-06-12 13:57:21.

Courtney King-Dye :Riders4helmets

Remember it’s not just you but everyone you know and love on the horse’s back with you.

US Olympian Courtney King Dye opens the 2nd Riders4Helmets Helmet Safety Symposium. You can follow the riders4helmets campaign on facebook at, twitter and Courtney suffered a traumatic brain injury as a result of a riding accident in March 2010. Courtney was not wearing a helmet at the time of her accident and has since shown her support for helmets via the riders4helmets campaign.

The link to the video:

Please go and see Courtney’s interview. Remember it’s not just you but everyone you know and love on the horse’s back with you.

Originally posted 2012-05-12 07:50:24.

Horsemanship 101 – How to Ride Your Horse

Ever wanted to learn riding your horse? Here are some guidelines to make equine riding safe and easy.

Climbing the back of the horse and riding the animal for the first time is truly breathtaking. For many people, the ultimate objective is to ride on top of the majestic animal and for some reason, a domesticated horse is happy to be ridden. Demonstrating why the horse-human bond is one of the best partnerships ever.

Before riding the horse, you need to mount correctly but before actually doing it, be certain that your communication and rapport with your equine is already set and established. These things are vital because the equine is a prey animal and you should always keep this in mind.

The positioning of your body is very important when you are about to mount your horse. Have a positive disposition and mind your posture. Don’t mount on the downhill if you’re a beginner or short in stature and although it is great to mount the equine anywhere, it is always beneficial to use a mounting block. The mounting block makes it easier for you, is better for your saddle and easier on your equine’s back.

Mounting the horse is customarily done on the left side but you should be able to mount the animal on both sides. It is important that you have trained your equine to stand still while you are mounting-one of the main reasons why you should always desensitize your equine. When in doubt, have someone with experience hold the horse still as you attempt to mount it.

Position your body beside the horse’s shoulder and as you are climbing, be aware of where you put your hands. Avoid making the bad habit of grabbing the saddle horn to pull body up on the horse. Keep your balance as well as not disturbing the equilibrium and comfort of the animal.

Riding your horse like a champion

Make certain that everything is in order before to prompt your horse to be in motion. Do your riding slowly yet surely. Be sensitive of your horse responsiveness and adjust your speed accordingly. Be in control at all times. Remember that you are the pilot of the vessel.

Equine riding is a chance to train your equine how to move and respond as well as improving your bond. If the horse is not doing things correctly, investigate and correct them patiently.

As much as possible, there should be no distractions for your equine-such as other equines within the area-when it’s new to the sensation of you riding its back. It can get caught up in the energy that it will not pay attention to you.

As a rider, it is your job to be proactive with your riding. You should never be a dead weight. Rather, your weight is like a balance weight that will work for or against the equine’s own balance. Practice will make that perfect. As you are dealing with the balance, keep in mind that you are also improving your communication with your equine.



Originally posted 2012-02-17 07:12:22.