What to look for in a place to take lessons?

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What to look for in a place to take lessons?

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    08-21-2008, 05:03 PM
What to look for in a place to take lessons?

Hello everyone! I've been seriously considering buying a horse several years from now, but before I can do that I have a great deal to learn/relearn. The plan is, currently, to start by taking riding lessons again (I took riding lessons for about one year when I was 10 or so, but since then I've only been able to ride on the odd trail ride, and not very often at all) and possibly start volunteering at wherever I end up taking lessons.

I was just wondering what I should look for in a facility that offers riding lessons, and what sort of questions should I ask? I do not know for sure if the town I am going to for art school has any places that offer lessons, so I may have to wait until next summer.

As well, would any stable/riding facility even consider letting someone as un-experienced in horses voluteering? Or is it something fairly common?
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    08-21-2008, 05:17 PM
These are the things I looked at when choosing amongst the stables in my vicinity:
  • Condition of the horses. When one stables has horses that are skinny with cuts and gashes and overgrown or chipped hoofs, and the other has well-built, shiny horses with perfect feet, it's no contest. I wanted to know that I would be riding healthy, sound horses, rather than perpetuating bad conditions.
  • Condition of the facilities. Are the stables run-down, is the fencing appropriate, are the arenas and other working areas in good condition? Does it look like a safe and suitable environment for horses to live and work in?
  • Quality of lessons. This one you mostly get through word of mouth, but you can get information from the stables too. How many people are in a group, what qualifications do the instructors have, how long do riders stay with them. Do they adjust the horse to your riding level? What sort of things do you work on and how hard are you pushed? If a group isn't at your level, what are the options for changing around?
  • Quality of the horses. Most stables that give lessons are also boarding facilities. Look at the kind of horses that are there - if they've got competitors and valuable horses too, there's likely to be a higher quality of care for all their horses.
  • Who works there? Properly trained staff or some kid who doesn't know what they're doing?
  • What are the safety practices? Are all their helmets in perfect condition, do they let you ride if you're dressed dangerously, do they conform to all the safety regulations and have good practices?
  • Do they have the right kind of horses for you to ride? As a total beginner, I wanted horses that were a) calm, b) sensible, and c) big, as I'm tall with long legs. I also wanted to be able to transition to more sensitive or spirited horses as I got better. My stables has a wide variety of lesson horses and while I sometimes stick with the same horse for a while, I am also switching around to different horses to teach me different things, and because I'm becoming a better rider. Make sure they have what you want.
  • What have other people said? One stables in my area had rave reviews - the only complaint was that some riders there were a bit snotty. The other had a bad reputation.
  • What direction is it moving in? Are they expanding, hiring more people and building more facilities, or are they downsizing? The former suggests their good, the latter that people are avoiding them for a reason.
  • What do they do with their horses when they can no longer use them to work? One stables sent their horses to the knackers, the other gave old or ill horses a home for life, with all the vetinary attention they needed.
Those are the things I looked at. I wanted to be able to learn to ride in a safe environment that provided good care for the horses and good tuition for me. I've had nothing but great experiences there and I'm going to miss them an awful lot when I go to uni!
    08-21-2008, 06:31 PM
Those are excellent.

The only thing I might add is:

What Discipline do they favor? If you want to ride Western Pleasure, Jumpers, trail riding, or Dressage, as examples, does the barn offer lessons to that end?
    08-21-2008, 09:22 PM
Thank you both! That list is very impressive, and very helpful!

I have been considering doing dressage, but I assume I am going to have to learn/relearn the basics before I start. How early into ones riding carrer does one enter the world of dressage anyway?
    08-21-2008, 09:43 PM
I would think that as soon as you are confident on a horse, balanced, and the basics of control and correction are second nature. There is no telling when that would be but it isn't going to happen in the first lesson or so (lol) so stick to it.
    08-21-2008, 09:53 PM
Haha, no worries, I wasn't expecting to jump into dressage. Thank you.

I do hope there once I start it will rather like riding a bike in that I can recall what little I learnt all those years ago.
    08-21-2008, 09:54 PM
Originally Posted by Nomi
Haha, no worries, I wasn't expecting to jump right into dressage. Thank you.

I do hope there once I start it will rather like riding a bike in that I can recall what little I learnt all those years ago.

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