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

One thought on “Tips For Finding the Right Riding Instructor”

  1. Thank you for mentioning certification!!! I wish we had known about it when I first stared riding. Certified instructors have proven to a group of their peers that they are indeed qualified to instruct riders in the art of horsemanship. It doesn’t mean they’re better, but they are professional enough to let themselves e evaluated by other instructors of a higher level.

    It’s important to note that in Europe, instructors MUST be certified to be riding instructors. You wouldn’t dream of letting an unlicensed driver drive your child in a car, and some wouldn’t think of letting an unlicensed manicurist cut our nails, yet every day in the US we let unqualified people place children and unwitting adults on animals that out weigh us by 7-10 times that possess highly evolved flight responses. Sadly, safety is an afterthought.

    Where can you find a certified Instructor? Two groups leap to mind: ARIA and Certified Horsemanship Association. I know CHA offers certification in English and Western disciplines. I don’t know about Aria.

    I’ve found a marked difference between certified and uncertified instructors. Certified instructors are determined to build a strong foundation upon which to build. For example, the certified instructor took time to make sure I KNEW how to properly mount a horse!!! It was that basic in my first lesson to ensure I had the basic ground work. It did require me to put my ego on hold, but it was worth it. (I understand that your results may vary.)

    Certification usually requires the instructors to update their knowledge base annually, so they are staying on top of the latest equine science and news. And that is a good thing.

    Enjoy your ride, folks!

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