It does sound simple – selecting a riding school – but there is a lot to think about.
The choice you make when selecting a riding school can effect how your riding career pans out and indeed, whether or not you continue to ride at all. Some schools just don’t suit certain riders. For any rider, especially a novice rider who is looking to take lessons, there are things you must think about carefully when selecting a riding school.
In the UK, there are two companies that set standards for riding schools: the British Horse Society (BHS)and the Association of British Riding Schools (ABRS). For a riding school, being approved by one or both of these organisations is a sign that they meet certain levels and for many, the first rule of finding a suitable school is to find one that is on their list of approved riding schools. By doing so, you can be assured that your riding school is inspected every year which means that their certification is current.
Saying this, even if the schools are attached to one or both riding school organisations, it is important that you find a riding school with a well qualified riding instructor as the sport of horse riding, competitively or for pleasure is dangerous and without any doubt, horses and ponies can be unpredictable. Good schools will have trainers and instructors who are trained in first aid with a current first aid certificate. Accidents do happen.
Riding Schools almost always offer a mix of lesson tyes from private (where the horse rider is taught in private) to semi private (where the rider is in a public group of three or four other riders). As well as lesson types, there are also price variations and these may vary wildly depending on many factors. It is always best to have your firm budget in mind and stick to it. It is also important not to be pushed in to having more lessons than you are able to afford. Set the parameters at the beginning and stick to them; if your budget or circumstances change then let your instructor know as they will be able to work around your limitations to ensure you get the most from every lesson.
As well as prices, the facilities also tend to be different at different horse riding schools (usually reflected in the price they charge!) Some riding schools have outdoor riding schools for teaching whereas others will have covered or indoor schools (again, sizes of the riding areas may vary also). While many riders like the idea of learning in an indoor school (because they are warmer during the winter) some are very dusty in the hotter months. It is always useful if a riding school has an all-weather area so that your lessons are not interrupted due to bad weather.
Before signing up to lessons, use friends and contacts for advice gathering and always visit the riding school before committing to lessons.
The final thing to note is that riding a horse or pony will use muscles that you never knew existed so keep your initial lessons to a manageable 30 minutes rather than an hour. Once you are used to the lessons it is then an idea to extend rather than jump in “both feet first!”