To be honest your time and money would probably be better spent by seeking out a barn, ranch, or stable specializing in lessons. There are definitely lesson programs out there geared toward adults, so you won't have to worry about being embarrassed and stuck in a lesson full of little kids or anything like that. And most lessons nowadays include grooming, handling the horses, tacking up, general care, etc. You can even seek out a natural horsemanship focused program if that's something you'd like to get involved in.
The reason I say this is that if you want to get more involved in horses, you want to make you learn properly and SAFELY. Most lesson barns will have certified instructors, rules, guidelines, etc to provide a fun, positive and safe learning environment. And contracts, to protect them AND you as you're learning. They will have lesson horses that are safe and suitable for all levels of riders. Many lessons programs are available around the price that you're willing to pay as well.
Personally I wouldn't feel comfortable at all going out to any old farm, with people you don't know from a hole in the wall, you don't know how much they really know horse-wise, and you don't know what their horses are like, if they're suitable for beginner riders even, what kind of tack or facilities they have, and if it's safe and everything is in working order. That is an incredible risk. Going and riding random horses when you yourself have limited experience is a recipe for disaster as well. First off, no knowledgeable horse person is going to have "just anyone" out to hop on their horses, and the ones who will, well let's just say there's almost always a good reason why people don't want to ride them themselves! What if you get bucked off or injured? What if you get yourself in over your head? Working with unsuitable horses is a good way to scare yourself and totally destroy your confidence. What if someone ends up taking advantage of you and your offer to "pay to ride/work"? There's so many things that could go awry.
Not to say that it would be totally impossible to find a good, safe learning situation like you described, but it won't be easy, and you will have to be EXTREMELY picky and patient, and it would be difficult to have such a discerning eye not having much horse experience to start with. You don't want to just jump on the first offer that comes along. Word of mouth would probably work best in these situations, finding someone to kind of take you under their wing and teach you as you go, sort of a "working student" type situation. Stuff like this is not advertised much, most times you just happen upon it. There are all sorts of people just looking to take advantage of any poor sap that offers to come and "ride" their horses though, that's the danger in advertising that you want to pay to ride/work.
I know not everyone is into the whole barn scene, but nowadays there are all sorts of barns out there that suit everyone's different needs and tastes. They're not all hoity toity shows barns or full of kids either. I know there are many barns in the Winnipeg area, so you should have plenty of options there if you do some research. If owning your own horse down the road is something you want to do, lessons are a great way to learn and get introduced to it slowly, without all the responsibility and cost associated with buying at first. Leasing is another great way to "try out" horses and horse ownership before jumping in as well. Then down the road, once you have a good knowledge base and know more specifically what you want, you can go from there. Once you get in with a barn, some may also offer to have you work in exchange for lessons. Full time or part time, you can often pick and choose the hours and make it work for you. So that's also an option to consider down the road, it's a great way to keep the cost down and you learn a LOT!
Last edited by albertaeventer; 08-12-2013 at 05:13 PM.