Horseback riding is an exciting way to get fit, grow self-confidence and interact with nature. Starting out as a new rider can be a daunting task without some guidelines for introduction into the sport. When seeking a stable or ranch to learn about horses, keep the following in mind:
Horses are creatures of habit. In order to perform well for a new rider or handler, the horse must be trained to a high enough level to offer the rider a safe and confidence building experience. The time spent training the horse is the time when the horse gets ‘good habits’ that he can then help a new rider understand. Good horses to learn from tend to be older, seasoned horses who have been “around the block”.
The ‘school’ or lesson horse needs to be well cared for, well feed, properly groomed and turned out for the job at hand. If the horse you are offered a lesson on is dirty, underweight or seems uncared for be weary of the situation. In addition the horse should be calm with a somewhat docile nature without being disinterested. Good school horses are often interested in meeting new people. They have a natural glow to their expression, without looking worried or tense.
The people who are handling the horses you will learn from must understand the way horses react to new people and situations. A good riding instructor is able to ‘read’ her school horses. Horses tend to mirror the emotions of the people who handle them. The well-educated riding instructor is calm with her horses and can read the changes that a nervous or tense handler has on her horse. The instructor who reads the situation between horse and rider well has a gift he will soon impart on the new rider.
Horse show ribbons earned does not mean someone is qualified to teach riding. The teacher is an educator rather than a performer. When picking an instructor do your research. Ask current and former students about her style of teaching. Interview the instructor with at least as much diligence as you would any new employee. Ask about her teaching experience, education and safety record. Ask if She has certification and with whom. Also your instructor should have CPR and first aid training as well as insurance coverage.
Finally have a good look around your perspective new stable or ranch. Do the grounds seem orderly? Are the barns and fences in good repair? Are the horses calm and relaxed in their stalls, well feed with signs of good care? Some older stables will have a good riding program even though the barns are not new and shiny. An older ranch or stable may seem to be less orderly, but if you really look around you will see the signs of reasonable upkeep. You should never see things like horses turned out with old machinery, unrepaired fencing, barbed wire in pastures, or stalls with exposed glass or nails.
With the investment of a small amount of time and energy, picking the right instructor and stable will lead you to many hours of exhilarating and challenging fun with your new-found love, the horse!