How to Choose a Good Riding School

Five Methods:Finding a PlaceEvaluating the FacilitiesEvaluating the InstructorEvaluating the LessonsQuestions You Should Ask Yourself

Learning to ride is inevitably dangerous and expensive. Learning at a good riding school reduces the risks and will help you improve your skills faster, saving money in the long run. Unfortunately not all riding schools are as good as we would like. Being able to find and recognize a good riding school is the first step to learning to ride.


1) Go to many different riding schools before choosing the best one for you. Here are the things you need to look for when choosing a riding school:

  • Look at the facilities that suit you the best.
  • Look at the horses.
  • You want a friendly, helpful place.
  • Look at the cleanness.
  • Are there people your age.
  • You also want a place that has fair but firm rules.

Method 1
Finding a Place

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    Ask around. Never underestimate word-of-mouth recommendations. Do you have a friend, or know somebody or rides locally? Ask them where they go. Other places to get recommendations are:
    • Horse-savvy relatives or friends
    • Your local equine veterinarian
    • Employees at the tack/riding supply shop or at your local feed store
    • Local tack shops.

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    Look through the yellow pages. However, not all stables or riding schools are listed under the yellow pages, and it is hard to tell the quality of such a school or stable through an ad.
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    Search the Internet. More and more riding schools and stables are getting websites or advertising online. Websites can give you more information then a single advertisement. There are some local authorities and organizations that inspect and approve riding school. Some have lists of approved centers on their website.
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    Also, don't be afraid to watch a horseback riding lesson to see what you will be doing if you choose that school.

Method 2
Evaluating the Facilities

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    Call the prospective lesson site. Ask for a tour of the facility. They will be happy to show you around as they understand that without surveying the facilities you will not be able to make a decision. Set a date and time.
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    Be prompt. You want to make a good impression. Some things to watch for:
    • Is the barn clean and tidy? The muck heap and dirty bedding should be kept in a pile away from the barn. There should be no broken glass or other dangerous items around.
    • Is everything in good repair? For example, does the barn seem run down or in danger of falling apart? Are any of the fences broken?
    • Are the stalls relatively clean? Horses should not be standing in puddles of their own urine, and stalls should be mucked out once daily.
    • Is the riding arena cramped or obviously too small for the size of the lesson?
    • For any individual activities you may pursue, are there facilities to encourage this? For example, is there a jumping arena, or a place to go trail riding?
    • Do the horses seem happy and healthy?
    • Is the owner and staff open and friendly?

Method 3
Evaluating the Instructor

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    Speak to any instructor(s) that you will be learning from. An instructor can make or break a riding experience. Before you sign up for lessons, make sure that the instructor(s) is certified and can make your horseback riding experience a safe and enjoyable one. Here are some questions to ask:
    • Where did your instructor get their credentials?
    • How long have they been riding and teaching.
    • What style of riding do they teach? Is this the style you want to learn?
    • The most important question is one you should ask yourself: Can I see myself learning from this person?

Method 4
Evaluating the Lessons

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    Watch different types of lesson, and lessons by different instructors.
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    Watch one or two lessons to make sure that this is really a place that you want to learn at. Watching more than one is a good idea, as you can develop more of a feel for this person's teaching style.
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    Pay careful attention to the horses.
    • Are they well-behaved?
    • Are they full of energy, or do they seem tired and lethargic?
    • Are they well-groomed, or very scruffy? A little mud or dirt is okay, but when the horse is caked with it, you have a problem.
    • Does the experience level of the rider match that of the horse they are on?
    • As a general rule of thumb, no horse should be used more than four hours a day with breaks, and no more then 15 hours a weeks. This would depend on the horses fitness and the type of lessons/hacks given. Work load should be suit the individual horse.

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    Do all of the people in the lesson seem to be about the same level? You do not want to be a beginner in a jumping class, or working with people who have only begun to trot when you are already cantering. Is the barn staff appropriately dressed for teaching? They should be wearing jodhpurs or long pants, along with boots or close-toed shoes. When they are riding, they should always wear a helmet. Western instructors tend to be a bit more lax when it comes to this, however.
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    Also observe the students. Are they dressed in appropriate riding clothes? These would be long pants, riding boots, and a well-fitting helmet. Everybody should be practicing proper conduct around horses, i.e., no running, shouting, or otherwise endangering themselves or their horses.

Method 5
Questions You Should Ask Yourself

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    Choosing a barn is a very personal thing. You will be investing a lot of time and money into your horse-back riding education, and it is not worth trying to get an education at a school or stable you do not feel comfortable around. Here are some questions you should ask yourself:
    • Does this school teach the style of riding I would prefer to learn?
    • Do I feel comfortable around the instructor/stable hands?
    • Do I feel comfortable on/around the horses?
    • Does this school have ample facilities to accommodate my interests?
    • Do I like the other students and do I feel comfortable spending large quantities of time at this stable


  • This may sound mundane, but a bathroom should be part of the facilities. You could be surprised about how distracting those issues are when horseback riding.
  • If you see anything at the center which concerns you ask the owner about it. Things which seem odd or cruel are not necessarily either.
  • There should be some easy beginner horses, but every horse in the place shouldn't be a push-button horse. Push-button means that the horse is very easy and does everything perfectly when asked.
  • If you have special requirements because of a condition or disability, it does not necessarily exclude you from riding and enjoying horses. Talk to the owner about your needs. Be aware that they may not be able to accommodate you for riding, but will probably be able to give you stable management lessons.
  • Keep in mind, there are perfectly good riding schools that aren't highly polished. These are usually also more economical than the very fancy schools.
  • Some schools will provide helmets, but it is always a good idea to purchase your own so that it will fit properly. You should also own well-fitting riding boots and jodhpurs or flexible jeans. Gloves and a crop are optional, but still recommended.
  • You may want to bring along a horse-savvy relative or friend to your first tour of the facilities. He or she will probably be happy to lend a more experienced eye to whether or not the facilities are acceptable.


  • Ask before watching a lesson, as some students dislike being watched.
  • Remember, a stable is a place with multiple horses and limited help, so don't let it phase you if the barn is a little bit messy. As long as there is nothing that is bad for you or your horse, a little dirt should be okay.
  • Horseback riding is a very dangerous sport and there is always a risk of injury or death. Many barns have liability, which means you cannot sue them if you are injured, UNLESS the instructors, staff, or owners are at fault.
  • Watch out for abusive instructors or stable hands. Nobody should ever yell at or strike a horse.
  • If you are a parent looking for a school for your child, especially if you plan to leave the child there, pay attention to your instincts about the instructors and staff. Cases of molestation have occurred at some riding schools. If it is a larger and more formalized school, you may want to ask if background checks are performed on the employees.
  • Horse-back riding is a very expensive sport. The price of lessons will depend on length and the number of people in the class. As well as lessons there are extra expenses such as equipment.
  • You should take an assessment lesson to make sure that you are placed in the appropriate lesson group.
  • If a center claims to be approved, check this with the relevant body.
  • As soon as you enter the yard make yourself know to a member of staff. If you would like to look around by yourself ask permission first and do not enter stables, paddocks or storage buildings. Obey all signs and staff.

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Categories: Riding