A. When looking for a horseback riding teacher for your child, it’s important to find someone with experience teaching children and access to child safe horses (Keeping in mind horses are not machines and there is always a risk involved) many stables teach children on horses not particularly suited making it very difficult for them to progress. Look for someone who teaches a number of children and appears to be successful with them. It’s a good idea to visit the stable you are considering and watch a lesson with the instructor. Try to meet the horses if at all possible before you book. When looking for riding instruction for yourself, you would look for pretty much the same criteria except there has to be access to larger beginner horses for adults. There are sometimes instructors that are good with children but don't have the scope for adults, so look for happy adult clients as well. Adults learn to ride with a different mindset regarding reality and fear than children and an instructor needs to understand this and be able to work with it.
A. You will need long pants, at the very least and a boot with a heel, NO SNEAKERS! A safety helmet will be required and that’s something you will want to purchase for yourself as quickly as possible. Most places that teach beginners will have safety helmets available if you don’t have one yet for your first lesson. If anyone tries to teach you or your child without a safety helmet, leave quickly! You should be taught from the beginning how to handle, halter and lead, groom and tack up a horse. Small children can’t learn to do this all themselves but older kids and adults should learn how to get their horse and tack them up from the first lesson. This is an important part of horsemanship that should always be taught right along with riding. If you are getting on a horse for the first time you will probably be put on a lounge line where the instructor will control the horse and you will be taught how to sit, hold the reins etc. After your ride you should be taught how to un-tack and put your horse away.
A. when you check out a stable you want to see fat, healthy looking, happy horses in a clean environment. If the horses are skinny and miserable, it’s not a good place. Sometimes older horses may look skinny even though they are well cared for, but in general you shouldn’t see well defined ribs. Horses should appear friendly and happy. You want to find a place that is educated in caring for horses as well as educated in teaching. This is generally regarded as horsemanship.
A. There are many certifications out there for many different disciplines. For hunter jumpers the USHJA Certification is the basic standard. It is a comprehensive certification including far more than just the education that every instructor should have, it includes background checks, insurance, recommendations etc. For more information go to: USHJA Certification.
A. No, not when you are first starting. In fact, you should never buy a horse until you have a trusted trainer to help you. Riding different horses as you progress can be very beneficial as many changes occur in skill level and through this a student can decide what kind of horse is appropriate. It will only be after learning to ride that a student can decide what type of riding they want to pursue.
A. It sounds obvious but look for a record of success at shows and someone who is actively out there with clients showing! If you don’t own a horse it’s important that there is access to appropriate lease horses that can go out and “do the job” at your level. If there is only access to green horses needing a lot of work, be aware you will not be out showing soon.