September 24, 2017

How to Choose A Riding Program, Part 2

Riding Style- Riding style simply means what type of saddle, clothing, and horse you use and what activities you are doing with that horse.  Different styles have varying levels of difficulty. Some people want to start with a very difficult style like Dressage or Reining. Others, might want to start off with an easier style to be successful early on. The best way to decide is to do a thorough analysis of yourself (or your child). What is your personality type? Will you do well with lots of challenges? Or do you need lots of early success to be happy? Also, talk with a professional instructor and ask their opinion. Most should be willing to give you some advice over the phone, if you know what questions to ask. It is very frustrating when people only ask  the cost of a lesson is then hang up. That is like calling a car dealer and asking how much a car costs. There are so many variables, you need details to narrow it down.  So here are some good questions to ask over the phone:

1. Who are the instructors and assistants?  What is their background and experience teaching riding? Are they certified? With whom?

Some trainers can train horses but are not so great at teaching people. Find out how long they have been teaching. Many barns hire high school or college students to teach summer camps or lessons. They may have no previous experience teaching riding at all. Who will be assisting? Some programs use other riding students or parents as “leaders” or “helpers”. This is simply not a safe practice. Everyone involved with the program should be experienced horse handlers, capable of handling an emergency. What will the 12-year-old child leading your child’s horse do if that horse spooks? Or Runs away? All teachers and assistants must be at least 16 years old. Head instructors should be at least 21 years old.

2. What is included? Are school horses available? What types of horses are they? What attire does the barn provide, if any?

Programs offering horses should also provide ASTM/SEI approved Horseback Riding Helmets. Bicycle helmets are not rated for horseback riding and should never be used.  Riding Boots should be required unless the saddles are equipped with safety stirrups. Fashion boots, hiking boots and some “cowboy” boots may not be good for riding. And, of course, tennis shoes or sandles are never acceptable.  School horses should be at least 7 years old, well trained, calm, gentle and experienced at teaching new riders.

Stay tuned for part 3…