Being able to take riding lessons is often a dream for horsecrazy girls. However, as a horsecrazy girl on a budget I know just how expensive they can be and how hard it can be to convince your parents to give you riding lessons. I also realize that horse lovers may need help figuring out how to afford riding lessons, finding the right riding instructor, and even figuring out what kind of horseback riding they want to do.
My goal in this article is to help you convince your parents that horseback riding lessons are worth it and can be done in whatever budget you have (even if that budget is $0). So on that note here is my free horseback riding planner for you to fill out as we go through this article together.
Before we go down the metaphorical rabbit hole let's cover some basic horseback riding lessons terminology and questions. Let's start with what are horseback riding lessons? Horseback riding lessons are where you (the rider) will ride either your own horse or a school horse (a horse owned by the barn) in the presence of an instructor. Now riding lessons can be group lessons which is where you ride with other people usually group sizes are 3-4 riders, semi-private lessons which is where you ride with one other person, or private which is where you ride by yourself. Riding lessons are done for all disciplines across different levels and you as the rider can decide which type you want to do, although the trainer may require you to do a private/semi-private if you are getting ready for a show, are really struggling with something, your horse is having behavioral issues, it is your first time riding, etc.
In terms of price and time group lessons are often the cheapest and the longest because there are several riders. Semi-private tend to be the second longest and second cheapest. Private lessons tend to be shorter and the most expensive.
Now this section is going to be pretty short because I think that the best way to convince your parents that horseback riding lessons are worth it is by filling out the worksheet I gave you in the section above and presenting it to your parents. Just remember that your parent's love you and want to support you but sometimes they don't realize that riding lessons can be affordable, the real numbers behind the safety and dangers of horseback riding, or just why horseback riding is such a great sport. With all of that being said let's start filling out the get riding lessons worksheet and hopefully finally get you your riding lessons.
Often times the biggest hurdle to getting riding lessons is the cost. Horseback riding lessons often cost $50-$150 for a private one hour lesson which is difficult for many to afford. Luckily, there are many ways to get cheaper even free riding lessons. None of the advice I am giving is for those needing equine therapy as that is different from riding lessons.
You will first want to look for equine rescues and barns providing equine therapy. You might be wondering why I am telling you to look for horse rescues and equine therapy but there is actually a really good reason for this. Many equine rescues need volunteers to help care for their horses and are willing to let you ride the horses that can be ridden for free in exchange for helping out. Now not every equine rescue is going to have this as an option and you don't want to just ask them if you can ride their horses. Rather send a polite email (with parent permission) and express an interest in volunteering. If they agree to you volunteering you can either ask about riding opportunities when you go out to meet everyone or you can volunteer a few times and then ask about riding.
Similar to horse rescues many barns that offer equine therapy need volunteers to help take care of horses and to help disabled riders. Many of these equine therapy barns just have riders walk on the horses so they will have volunteers ride the horses to keep muscle on them or just as a thank you to the horse loving volunteers. Just like with the horse rescue don't say you want riding lessons in that initial email but rather ask them in person at the end of your tour or after volunteering for a few days if there are riding opportunities for volunteers.
If you have contacted equine rescues and equine therapy barns but haven't had success, or don't have any near you, or just want to ride at a barn instead of volunteering then you will want to next look to barns in your area. When looking at barns in your area I recommend looking at as many options as possible and also looking at different disciplines, especially if you are a beginner rider and just need to learn the basics for a while. When looking for barns in your area search for western riding lessons, english riding lessons, saddleseat riding lessons, even gaited horses riding lessons, etc. You are going to want to search every riding lesson option available and then fill in the worksheet portion that includes writing down the barn name, the cost of their riding lessons, if they have a working student program, and much more. Some barns are going to be much more affordable than others.
Just because a barn doesn't have a working student position on their website doesn't mean they don't have a working student position. The best thing you can do is reach out to a barn (with parent permission) and ask them if they offer a working student position. A working student position is one where you help out at the barn doing things like feeding horses, grooming, tacking up, untacking, bathing horses, cleaning tack, cleaning stalls, sweeping the barn, turning horses out, and really anything else that needs to be done around the barn in exchange for riding horses for free or for a reduced lesson fee.
There is also the cost for equipment and gear, which can get quite expensive. Luckily there are many ways for you to get cheaper/free gear, which you can read about on the horse gifts page under the discount and used horse tack, equestrian apparel, and barn items section. Make sure you fill in the section on the worksheet that talks about riding equipment with what you have found and the price. Another great way to find inexpensive items is to call local tack stores and ask them if they have a consignment section or if they have any big annual sales.
Now that you have a list of horse rescues/equine therapy places/barns along with cost of lessons at different barns and an estimate of how much the riding clothes/equipment will cost you will be better prepared to talk to your parents about the cost of horseback riding. But before talking to your parents I recommend filling out the rest of the worksheet.
I often hear from horsecrazy girls that their parents are really worried about how dangerous horseback riding can be. While it is true that horseback riding does carry risk it is important to put this risk in perspective and understand how risk can be mitigated. According to an Ohio State University study horseback riders face an average of 3.7 injuries per 1,000 hours of participation. This puts it below American football, basketball, ice hockey, karate, baseball, and downhill skiing on the fact sheet prepared by Ohio State University. It is also noted that the use of ASTM certified helmets with chin fastenings led to a major drop in head injuries reported by the United States Pony Club. Nowadays there are also vests that are made for horseback riding in order to help you stay safe if you should fall off.
I am by no means saying that horseback riding is a safe sport and in fact an article by ABC news states that a study by the journal Neurological Focus found over 45% of TBIs (traumatic brain injuries) in adults were due to horseback riding. However, they do not talk about how many or how few of these riders were wearing ASTM/SEI approved helmets with chin fastenings. I think it is important to be honest with your parents about the dangers of horseback riding and to let them know you realize it is a dangerous sport. This is why I recommend filling out the portion on the sheet about how you plan on staying safe when riding. This could include always promising to wear your ASTM/SEI certified helmet when grooming and riding a horse, always wearing a protective ASTM/SEI vest when riding, and being careful to follow your instructors rules. When you are going on barn tours you should also ask the barn manager what their safety rules are and how many people have fallen off under their watch and the severity of the injuries to hopefully give your parents greater peace of mind.
If you want to read more about safety vests check out this great article. I also encourage you to do more research on the risks of horseback riding so you understand the risks better. Additionally, if you have an underlying conditions or previous injuries you should talk to your doctor and riding instructor to find out if horseback riding is safe for you, what level of intensity you can safely do, and ways for you to stay safe.
I could spend forever talking about all the ways horseback riding has helped me and the reasons I think horseback riding is the best sport. But I will try to condense it down. To start, horseback riding teaches you and nurtures traits of compassion, patience, and love. Beyond this horseback riding is also great for building muscle, core strength, cardio stamina, and memory. Trust me, when you are cantering around a course having to remember the course or pattern you will understand. I have often found horseback riding to be very good for my mental health as well since it provides time for me to relax and get outside.
Another thing I often hear from people who don't ride is that horseback riding is a very solitary sport and isn't good for learning how to work and communicate with others. Let's start with the idea that horseback riding is a solitary sport. Yes, when you are riding by yourself or in a lesson you are not going to be chatting with others but when you are tacking up/untacking your horse there is plenty of time to interact with others. Plus you will make friends that also ride and will be cheering them on. On top of that if you join a team such as an IEA team you will be on a team just like any others. In terms of the idea that you won't learn communication skills I don't think this is true. Having compassion, patience, and love will naturally allow you to better communicate with others. Not to mention the fact that you are learning how to communicate with an animal that you can't talk to so imagine when you can actually use words to communicate, you will rock it. But don't just listen to me go and learn why others are horsecrazygirls on the why I am a horse crazy girl page.
Hopefully, you have successfully come up with a plan to afford riding lessons and you have convinced your parents that horseback riding lessons are a good idea. Now you can move on to the fun part which is scheduling your riding lessons. Remember, to ask if there is