08-21-2008, 05:17 PM
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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!