Are you the parent of a horse-crazy kid who is begging you to take riding lessons? At this point, I should probably be honest with you and tell you “just say no.” This was the advice I got from many friends as our family began our journey into the horse riding world. But, if like me, you choose to ignore this and keep on pursuing your child’s dream, you are probably wondering where do we go from here?
First, you need to understand what options you have for riding instruction in your community. If you don’t have friends who either have kids who ride or ride themselves, googling your town’s name and adding the words riding stables or equestrian lessons may bring up some options. (Even if you have friends who have first-hand experiences with local barns, you may want to google just in case there are other options out there.
Second, list-in-hand, you need to review each barn’s website and/or call each barn. You might want to know the following:
• Is the barn accepting new students?
• Is there an age requirement?
• Does the barn have lesson horses?*
• How much is a lesson and how long is it?
• Do you offer trial lessons?
• Are the lessons group, semi-private or private?
• Do students have responsibility for horse care before and/or after the lesson?
• What gear will my child need?
• Is there a dress code for lessons?
*Not every barn is designed for a beginner rider. There are definitely barns that focus solely (or almost solely) on riders who are showing. While barns like this may offer slots to a few beginner riders, the goal is to get students into the horse show world—this may involve pressure to purchase or lease a horse for your child. My preference is to start a barn that is a lesson barn, but in many areas there may not be many choices. In a perfect world, unless you or your child already has a defined style of riding selected, you would find a barn where the students can try different disciplines and figure out which one they like better.
Remember that not every barn is going to be the right fit for every child. If you have choices, don’t hesitate to take some time and explore them. You likely will have to pay for the lesson, but let your child try out a few different barns until you both find one you are comfortable with.
So, you have found your barn, now what? (up next)