Looking to taking horseback riding lessons?
How do you know which barn is right for you?
Whether you’ve always wanted to learn to ride, just kind of stumbled into it, or used to ride as a child and want to get back into it, the first step that needs to be taken is finding a barn to take riding lessons at. Now you don’t want to just ride at any barn that crosses your path. Take the time to find a good barn that is suitable for your riding level, style of riding you want to do and one with a good instructor.
Here I will help you with the process of finding the perfect barn best suited for you!
YOUR RIDING GOALS
Do you want to eventually compete or just learn to ride for fun?
Do you want to learn english or western?
Which discipline do you want to learn? Western- reining, pleasure, western dressage, barrel racing. English- dressage, hunter/jumper, jumpers, eventing, saddle seat.
If you want to excel in a certain sport for example eventing, you need an instructor that is experienced in the sport of eventing. However for western pleasure you would want a different instructor.
What is your budget? Cost will vary among barns ranging from $35-$100.
Some factors that determine price:
- Are the lesson is private, semi-private or group lessons?
- Is it a half hour or hour lesson?
- Is it pay per ride or are there packages or monthly payments?
How far are you willing to travel? If you live close to the city you can expect to have to travel further than someone that lives in a more rural area. When I was a kid living near Boston, my parents would drive me 35-45 minutes to get to my lessons.
DISCOVER POTENTIAL BARNS
I personally would prefer to use google or some other search engine for barn hunting, which I will get to in a second, but first here are some other ways you can discover lesson barns. Look up the yellow pages for your area under riding instruction. Visit local tack shops and feed stores and ask for recommendations. If you have friends or acquaintances that take lessons or own their own horses ask about where they ride and how they like it there. American Riding Instructors Association has listing for riding instructors. You can contact United States Pony Club for instructors in your area. Then there are many other equestrian organizations that have listings for riding instructors as well.
Now the way I like to do it. Go on google and search for riding instruction in your area. For example I would search: riding instruction around boston ma. Then a bunch of barns in the area pop up that I can check out.
Check out the website. Look at your goals and make sure that it meets what you are looking for. Jot down contact information for barns that you are interested in.
PHONE CALLS AND EMAILS
Time for some leg work. Grab your phone a notebook and pen. I find that calling is the quickest most direct way to get answers but some of us are talk on the phoneaphobs. So if you can stand talking on the phone you could always email questions.
- Do you teach adults and children?
- Do you teach beginner riders?
- Who are the riding instructors? How long have they been teaching? Are they licensed or certified?
- What types of lessons do you offer? (private, group, semi-private)
- How many riders are in a group lesson?
- What is included in the lesson? Are school horses available? Are there beginner suitable horses? Are helmets provided? What attire is required for lesson?
- How much are lessons? Do you have packages or are lessons paid per ride?
- Do you offer horse leasing or practice rides to students?
Ask if you need to set up a time to check out the barn.
CHECK OUT THE BARN
- Is the barn clean and well maintained?
- Do the paddocks look safe and secure, free of debris and harmful objects?
- Do the horses look healthy and content?
- Is the tack room tidy and organized?
- Does the tack look well cared for?
- Are the students being supervised properly?
- Are safety measures being put into practice?
- Is everyone wearing the proper clothing?
- Do students and staff seem happy to be at the barn?
- Are the students having fun?
- Is there a bathroom?
- Is the arena really small? Is it big enough for the lesson size?
MEET THE RIDING INSTRUCTOR
- How long have they been teaching?
- What are their credentials?
- Is the instructor wearing proper riding attire in case they have to hop on the horse for a correction to the horse or demonstration?
- Do they seem positive?
- Ask if you can watch a lesson.
- Does the instructor say the riders name?
- Is the tack checked out before riding as well as students attire?
- There should be a warm up at the beginning of the lesson.
- Do students seem to be engaged in the lesson?
- Do students seem to be challenged but not so much so, that they would become frustrated?
- Instructor should be teaching not texting, talking on phone or talking to someone outside of the riding lesson. They should be saying what to do and how to do it. Not just say canter for example with no explanation for how to canter.
- Does the instructor correct the riders positional errors?
- Does the instructor communicate well?
- Is the instructor positive, uplifting and motivating?
- Instructor should not lose patience and be yelling.
- It is ideal to find an instructor that has teaching and riding ability.
- Choose the right instructor so you will be challenged, have fun and reach your goals.
If you feel you have found a barn you believe you are happy with then schedule a lesson. Make sure you fill out all necessary paperwork such as release forms in advance and make sure you know what to wear to your first lesson. Not all barns provide riding helmets you may have to purchase one. Make sure it is a ASTM/ SEI approved riding helmet. Keep in mind if you end up wanting to check out other barns you can there is no law that says you can’t. If you do you may have more of an idea of what barn you would be happiest at.
Good luck on finding your barn home,
Cheers and God Bless