How to Find the Right Adult Instructor for You
by Lori Hall-McNary
Whether you’re changing disciplines, showing or just feel a need to fine-tune your horsemanship skills, you are never too old to take riding lessons. Working with a good instructor will build your confidence and help you to enjoy the equine world even more.
Scott: Rode as a child, came back as an adult
Scott sat on his first horse at age ten and didn’t ride again until age 29. Scott’s wife owned horses and he wanted to have something in common they both enjoyed. Scott could muscle a horse around, but after attending various shows he observed there were many different types of riding styles. He decided he needed help. Scott found his Instructor at a local horse club’s show.
“I talked with her a bit and she answered all my questions with confidence.” Scott states. “She explained that basic dressage is the foundation for riding all disciplines. I ride trail so I thought lessons could help me in that area too.”
Scott currently takes lessons once a week and rides his Instructor’s horse twice a week to reinforce what he’s learned. He also rides his wife’s horse. His goals are to show at Introductory Level Dressage by next summer and continue to improve his overall horsemanship.
Scott’s glad he found an Instructor that is demanding. He indicated if he had a more relaxed Instructor, he would have a tendency to slack off during the lesson.
In deciding to take lessons, there are many factors to consider.Safety is number one. Personality mix of student and Instructor is another important factor. You need to feel comfortable enough with the person to ask questions. Knowing your personality and how you learn best is the first step in choosing the right Instructor.
Rose: Back in the saddle in her sixties
Rose owned a horse in her teens and is a horse owner again in her sixties. She now sees a need for lessons. “Lots of things have changed. I want to improve my riding skills, my seat, my sense of balance and my hands.”
Rose knows what type of instructor she needs, “I’m a visual person, so don’t hand me a detailed instruction book. I want someone who is very knowledgeable to explain things to me. Like why I’m giving a certain cue. I don’t want to be told by the Instructor, ‘because this is the way I teach that’s why’.”
Video taping of sessions and handouts of a lesson are also important to Rose who rides western, trail, and gymkhana.
“Fortunately” Rose says, “I have a great Instructor who encompasses what I’m looking for in an instructor.” Rose’s eyes crinkles and she laughs. “She also happens to be my daughter who is a certified Instructor.”
How to find a good riding instructor
Where can you find a knowledgeable Instructor with a positive personality?
- Go to the Certified Horsemanship Association website for a certified Instructor in your area.
- Visit a local horse club’s show ask participants who the best instructor/trainer, then watch them interact with their students.
- Local boarding stables usually have Instructors on-site (but may require leasing of a horse). If you’re not ready for that type of commitment ask who they would recommend for a few riding and horsemanship lessons in your chosen discipline.
- Horseman directories
- Online yellow pages
- Feed stores (ask the owners who they recommend not just the business cards posted on the cork board)
- Friends and family
Questions and observations when searching for riding lessons
- Once you have found a possible instructor talk with him/her in person, ask for business references.
- Can you observe a lesson?
- Do they have well cared for lesson horses?
- Can they instruct you on your horse at your stable or do you trailer to theirs?
- Are they CHA certified or have earned some other nationally recognized certification? Are they CPR and First Aid certified?
Insurance and safety
Do they carry professional liability insurance? Equine insurance is expensive all professional Instructors carry insurance just like any other professional. Do they require equine helmets and riding boots (do they provide them in the beginning?)?
Do they act and dress like a professional? Boots, jeans or English pants they look ready to ride, verses shorts and flip flops.
Rates and fees
What do they charge for a private one hour lesson, semi-private lesson (2-4 riders), group lesson (5 or more riders)? Note: If more than five riders in a lesson the Instructor should have an assistant.
Factors that can affect rates:
There is no standard pricing for riding lessons, rates can be affected by many different factors. These are just a few considerations that affect rates:
- geographic location
- price of hay and fuel
- experience of the instructor
- show barn versus a small training stable
- use of a riding lesson horse or your own horse
I found prices in San Diego County ranged for private lessons $55-150 per hour. Semi-Private $45-120 per hour, Group riding lessons $35-75 per hour.
Regardless of your age, it’s never too late to hone your horsemanship skills by training with the right Instructor.
We would love to help you find or reignite your love for horses. Call 760-741-1179 and we can discuss scheduling riding lessons for you.