How to Choose a Riding Instructor

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Choosing the right horseback riding instructor is crucial whether you plan on riding for pleasure or riding competitively. Good instructors make it a point to teach horseback riding basics, as well as horse handling, safety procedures, and the care of a horse.

Instructors offer lessons either from their home, from a stable, or from a horseback riding school (equestrian school). If you plan to ride at a competitive level, it is vital that you choose an instructor who has competitive riding experience in the event or events that you are planning to learn.

The first thing you must decide is which discipline, English horseback riding or Western horseback riding that you are interested in learning.

Instructors advertise at horse shows, feed stores, online. and in the newspaper. However, before you contact an instructor, first check to see if that are certified by the American Riding Instructor’s Association (ARIA) or the Certified Horsemanship Association (CHA).

These instructors have had to pass a series of tests to become certified. The websites of the above organizations will allow you to search for certified riding instructors in your own area.

Certification is not widespread among riding instructors, likely because it is costly to become certified. If you are unable to find a certified instructor in your area, look for instructors that are recognized as professionals in your community.

Instructors typically focus on only one of the disciplines, either English or Western. However, some also offer horseback riding instruction in both disciplines as well as in other events.

If you’ve never ridden a horse before, consider what events interest you the most and then determine what discipline is required to compete in those events. For instance, if you would love to jump, then you would want horseback riding lessons in English or Hunt Seat. If you love western events, such as Western pleasure riding, reining or cutting, you would want horseback riding lessons in Western.

Next, it’s time to consider your goals as a rider. Many instructors are skilled at teaching horseback riding basics and the handling of horses, but may lack the competitive experience needed to teach certain skills.

Trainers and equestrian schools are typically the best places to look for instructors with the skills to teach competitive riding.

If you are simply looking for horseback riding lessons because you plan to go on trail rides, and you’re not concerned about competitive riding, then you wouldn’t need an instructor with those skill sets. Obviously you would want an instructor who is skilled at teaching the basics of trail riding.

When choosing a horseback riding lesson instructor, it is vital that you don’t use price as the main determining factor in your hiring decision. Remember that virtually anyone who knows how to ride a horse can advertise themselves as a riding instructor. They may not be your safest or best option. Remember that, as with most things, you most likely will get what you pay for.

Once you have narrowed down your list of instructors, ask them for student referrals. Not all riders learn the same way and it can help you to get a good understanding of an instructor if you talk to students to understand their experiences. It is ideal if the references are from students of your own age and experience level. If a referral student is a competitive rider, their success or lack of success can tell you a lot about a riding instructor.

The next step in considering horseback riding instruction is to consider their options for lessons. Many offer both private and group lessons. Private lessons are more expensive than group lessons.

If you are participating in group lessons, the class size should be small enough that you receive enough individual attention from the instructor to improve your skills. Beginning riders without their own horse will do best to take multiple lessons per week, so as not to forget what was learned at previous lessons. If you have a horse to practice with between lessons, weekly lessons can keep your skills sharp.

While not common, the use of a horseback riding machine can build strength and endurance and overall horseback riding fitness.

Finally, and perhaps the most important aspect of choosing a riding instructor, is to consider the facilities and horses that they have available. Not all riding instructors have their own facilities.

If you don’t have a horse of your own, look for an instructor, stable, or equestrian school, that has an adequate number of well-trained horses for you to ride for lessons, as well as to ride for practice.


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