Need Advice re: Adult Starting Lessons
Hi, This is my first post here. I've been lurking for a while, trying to learn what I can. Seems like lots of knowledgeable people here. Hope I can participate in the forum in general, and specifically get some opinions on picking a riding school/instructor.
I'm currently a non-rider/non-horse owner, but want to try riding again. Just to give my background briefly, I had 3 lessons when I was 15 and about 3 when I was 21. I'm now 34. My previous attempts didn't work out - first place was completely unprofessional and unsafe for a beginner. Second place was better, but I felt they weren't giving me the individual attention that I wanted (too hot horse, cantering third lesson) and I wasn't learning or having fun. And at that age I was pressed for time and money, so I stopped. Maybe if I'd kept going things would have improved, but that was a long time ago. I can't remember all the reasons I quit but basically felt I wasn't getting my money and time's worth.
So here I am now. I'm quite a different person than what I was then. I've done so many things in between then and now. And I'm at a place in my life where I actually have time AND money and minimal other commitments. I want to give riding another shot. I feel that I never got the opportunity to get past the beginner stage and be able to make a definite decision whether I want to continue with riding or not. That's what I want to do now. But because I had trouble with going to the wrong places I'm extra cautious about trying to pick a good place now.
I need whatever advice you can give about picking a place to try and how long it takes to feel like you're starting to "get it".
This is what I'm looking for:
- recreational style lessons to just improve my skills, but still with lots of details, including why things are done. I don't have big show ambitions, but want to leave my options open and learn basics that would relate to anything I might want to do in the future
- to feel like there's an actual curriculum and planned progression, not haphazard
- lots of work on basics - walking, trotting, balancing, before worrying about cantering, lead changes, etc
- theory and groundwork and horse husbandry info
Based on location and info from their websites I've picked out 4 potential places. I know websites don't always give the full story, but since I have 4 that look good I don't really want to start hunting for more places to consider. I've asked a couple people if they have any recommendations, but don't know any horsey people who are actively involved in riding in this city.
Does my list sound reasonable? Is there anything else I should be querying them about?
Other questions for you, to help with my investigation:
- does it matter if classes are with kids? Do you find much of a benefit to adult only classes?
- does it matter if there is consistency in what horse you use? I feel like I'd prefer to not always be switching horses, but I do want to get used to different horses as well.
- start with private or group lessons? One place has a 8 week intro package for a reduced rate that includes tack-up instruction/theory plus riding, but it's 4-6 people, which is more than a normal lesson around here (2-4 generally). It sounds good though to just ease back into riding in a group situation before having an instructor pick me apart in a 1 or 2 person lesson. On the other hand, another place insists on 4 private lessons before taking group lessons. This way I'd really be able to concentrate on my form without other horses around. This was one of my issues with the previous lesson place. Always having to worry about my horse in relation to another horse.
My plan is to start with calling or emailing my list of places with a few basic questions. I'd like to narrow it down a little as meeting new people is pretty stressful for me. Then I'd like to go out to see the facilities and ideally watch that instructor give a beginner lesson. If I can't watch that particular instructor, I might cross them off my list.
What are red flags I should watch for - in email and/or in person? Any other advice?
Sorry this is so long. But I'd love some encouragement from horse loving people. I'm overly nervous about trying this out, but that's a topic for another thread.