Horse Riding Lessons

by Sydney at
(Florida, USA)

Are you trying to find out where to take horse riding lessons? Or how to afford riding lessons?

I've been riding since I was about four years old and I've taken a lot of lessons at different barns. I lost count but I think there were about eight of them. Some were better than others, but I like to think I learned something at each one! So I'd like to share some of my tips for choosing riding lessons.

And because not all of us have an unlimited budget (I wish!) I also share ideas to help you afford them.

Where to Find Riding Lessons

First, if you’re completely new to this, keep a few things in mind:

Who's teaching? Some stables will have riding instructors that teach there and if you want to ride there, you must take lessons from their instructor(s). Other times, instructors may go to different barns and meet their students there. If you fall in love with an instructor but not the stables, or vice versa, this can be tough, so make sure you understand how that works!

No pony? If you don't have your own horse or pony, you will need to use one of theirs. Some will let you find a horse you love and take lessons just on that horse (unless it's injured or ill). Other times you may have to ride a variety of horses. Some stables will require you to lease a horse, either part-time or full-time. Ask upfront about how the instructor makes these choices, so you're not disappointed if you can't ride the horse you want.

(My parents always told me that riding all the different horses I rode would make me a better rider. They may have been right but I still always wanted a horse of my own!)

Have a horse? If you have a horse, you will either have to board it at the stables where you take lessons, trailer it to the stables, or arrange for your instructor to come to you. It makes your decision a little more complicated.

With that in mind, let’s get started.

How to Find and Choose Horse Riding Lessons

Ask Around

Talk to your friends that ride or anyone that you know who rides. Ask them where they ride, and who their riding instructors. Ask what they like about it. Also ask what they wish were different. You can also search online and read reviews to find places to check out. Or you might want to go to a local horse show and ask around there.

Visit the Stables or Barn

When you're visiting the barns ask people how long they have been there, if they have a horse, or if they are just taking lessons. Look around: Do the horses look healthy and well cared for?

Get a Price List

No one wants to talk about the prices, I know I don't, but you are going to have to pay at the end of the day and it helps to know what the amount will be. You should also consider if you want to show or just ride for fun. If you are unsure what you want to do I suggest going to a more relaxed facility where you will not be pressured into shows and will probably pay less.

Talk to the Instructors

Talk to the instructors at the stable. Make sure you like not only the instructor you will be starting off with but also the instructor(s) you may be riding with as you progress. (But don't bother then when they are giving a lesson! They need to focus on their student.) Ask if you should make an appointment to talk to them; if they are giving back-to-back lessons they may not have a lot of time to talk with you if you just drop in.

Know What You Want

Are you looking for Western riding lessons, English Riding lessons or dressage? Not sure what you want to do? Some barns have multiple disciplines within the barn, so if you are not sure what seat you want to ride, going somewhere where they offer different disciplines may be a good bet.

Also, some stables will be very involved with horse shows. Ask how often they show, whether you will be required to show, and how much that costs. Small local shows can be more affordable, but sometimes even those can be expensive. (Also keep in mind that if everyone else is going to a horse show, and you’re not, you may feel pretty bummed. If showing isn’t in your budget, you might be better off in a different barn.)

Watch Lessons

Watch some lessons to see how the instructors and students interact. You will probably have teaching styles you like better than others, and it's okay if you do not like certain teaching styles. It will help you narrow down the field.

What about safety? It's been drilled into me since I started that you don't ride without a riding helmet, so I always wear one when I get on. I know it's not as popular with western or dressage riders, but that’s changing.

How to Afford Riding Lessons

Riding lessons can be expensive (even though we all know they are totally worth it!) If you are fortunate enough to be able to take riding lessons, be thankful! There are many horsecrazy girls who don't get to ride as much as they want, or at all.

If you are on a budget, here are some ideas for making it more affordable to ride.

Work them off: It may seem like an obvious one but if you can take on a job to pay for your lessons. Or talk to your trainer and figure out if you can help out in exchange for lessons.

Scrimp and save: I am always trying to save money so I'll have more for my equestrian activities! I have posted about using Ebates (check my post about how to afford a horse, including Ebates, here) and saving just a few dollars on everyday purchases really does add up. There are even a few websites that sell horse stuff that use Ebates. Coupons are also great for when you are on a budget.

Collect bottles: I recently read an article about a kid that is making all this money from the bottles he collects and turns in. Maybe where you live doesn't do exactly the same thing but the premise of finding little things that pay and are easy is a great way to get extra cash.

Shop around: Ask a few different places about how much lessons cost. Honestly, most trainers when you are starting out all begin with the basics and I have ridden with a few people who weren't really English riding instructors (my discipline) when money was tight, but still managed to escape without turning into a horrible rider and even learned some stuff along the way.

Lease a horse: You may be really confused by this point--leasing a horse isn't cheap!--but here is the idea behind it. Where I live, an average lesson costs about $55 dollars, so after four lessons a month I am paying about $220. You may be able to find an older horse in your area that someone is rather desperate to lease out and they will give you a deal that includes a few free lessons thrown in.

Hack: If you are taking lessons with a trainer that has a bigger group of lesson horses, he or she may need them exercised on certain days and may allow you an extra ride of $10 or even for free. It won't be a lesson, but it will allow you to practice what you learned in your previous lesson at a lower cost.

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