View Full Version : Tell me about your beginner rider lessons & education.

Satin Filly
Apr. 7, 2012, 10:54 AM
Hi all,

Just curious about your lesson programs for beginners. Where exactly do you start them out from the very first lesson?

Do you begin with horse education on the ground (proper handling, educate on equipment, how to groom and tack up, etc)?

OR do you have a already tacked-up horse when they arrive and start their first lesson in the arena?

Do you typically charge for a hour lesson, and this hour includes both grooming,tacking-up and time in the saddle? Or just time in the saddle and worry about how to care for the horse later?

I guess this might depend on how busy your barn is and how many lessons you teach each day. For very busy programs or full service barns, do you have someone else at the barn to teach the basics, and you just teach the riding part?

With so many full service barns out there, I'm wondering how many students are actually taught good horsemanship these days. I was lucky enough to have parents that train racehorses, so all horse care was taught to me by my mom, and my first lessons began right in the saddle at around age 4. Curious as to how you prefer to begin your students with no prior horse knowledge.


Come Shine
Apr. 7, 2012, 12:36 PM
I expect my students to be part of the entire process right from the get-go. With kids, I also expect parents to be involved. So, if the child is too little to get the pony from the paddock, I teach the parent how to do it, how to saddle, etc.

At the beginning, the time it takes to tack up, etc, is included in the hour lesson. As the child/parent becomes more independent grooming/tacking up, they do it outside the lesson time.

I'm very, very small. At bigger barns I have been at, there are older students who help with/teach the grooming/tacking up.

I like to use the Learn-To-Ride program from the OEF, so it helps capture horsemanship beyond just teaching a child to post. http://www.horse.on.ca/files/CO_2009_english_candidate_material-e.pdf

Apr. 7, 2012, 01:11 PM
The very first lesson a student comes to we spend part of the lesson time teaching them to groom and tack up. Then, we proceed to the ring, mount the rider, and work on basic walking, stopping, and steering. Usually the last few minutes are working on emergency dismount. Time untacking and regrooming is done after the lesson. If it is an hour lesson, we charge the full rate. After the first lesson, we expect them to show up 10 minutes early to start getting tacked up so it doesn't cut into their ride time so much. The second lesson continues the work of the first lesson, and starts getting them ready for trotting. Depending on the age of the rider and how the rider has gotten the walking work down, we may or may not try a few steps of trot. Most riders will be working on the trot by the third lesson at the latest. And then we spend a long time working at the walk and trot before progressing on to anything else.

Apr. 7, 2012, 10:25 PM
I have taught at barns that teach different ways.

The barn where I currently teach is an upscale "A" barn and lesson barn rolled into one. We have a VERY busy lesson schedule, which often includes two lessons going on at a time and/or lesson horses being used for 2-3 half hour lessons back to back.

We do expect the kids to be involved from the very beginning. Usually the first half hour lesson includes an introduction to the horse, signing paperwork, explaining the rules, finding a helmet, then 15-20 minutes of riding. Every instructor at the barn runs their first lesson a little differently, and it depends on the age of the student. When I have a super young one I usually just do go/whoa, steering, maybe 2-point depending on how much riding time they end up having after their parent gets everything situated. If it is an older student depending on their comfort level I may let them trot a few steps. When I say trot a few steps I mean on a lead line with me running next to them, usually holding a leg (think therapeutic riding style)

When the parents call to sign up for lessons they are told that they are half an hour long. the end. Usually for the first month or two we integrate grooming/tacking into that half an hour time span. For example, usually the LL lessons are put back to back. So rider one would groom and tack up, then ride for 15 or so minutes, then rider two meets the horse at the ring, rides for 15-20 minutes then untacks/grooms.

If the rider is an older beginner then we usually show them a few times, and as soon as they catch on they are free to come half an hour early to tack up their horse on their own and stay late to untack/cool down. There is always someone around to help them if they need help.

Personally I am an anal/slow as molasses trainer. I do not take my kids off the LL until I am 100% sure that it will go well. They need to ride one handed, then with their hands on hips/head/etc. at the posting trot. They also need to be able to switch between posting, sitting and two-point at the trot. I do not keep them on the LL the whole time. They spend a lot of time walking on their own doing schooling figures and pole courses. I usually walk 5/trot on LL 10/walk 5/trot on LL 10/walk until next rider shows up to take the horse.

Apr. 8, 2012, 03:55 AM
At the barns I've taken lessons at, the lesson is an hour of riding (or other work in the ring with the horse, or without a la emergency dismount/practicing "falling"), BUT the student is required to be there to catch and/or tack the horse, and put the horse up after the lesson is over. This means the student arrives 30 minutes before their lesson time and leaves 10-15minutes after the lesson is over.

One of my favorite rules was that the helmet doesn't come off until the horse is away. I like it so well not for safety, but for teaching recognition that the rider needs to respect the horse's comfort and that it's a team effort.

Apr. 8, 2012, 07:53 AM
I start kids with 4 to 8 hour lessons in which we go over grooming, tacking and untacking, and they also spend about 25-30 minutes in the saddle. I have found that breaking it down into 2 lessons spent learning to tack up and then riding, and then 2 lessons riding first, then untacking and putting the horse away was a far better way to get them to understand it all then trying to cram it in to each lesson. So kids will usually do 8 of those lessons, and once they have a good grasp on it they move up into full lessons where they show up 30 minutes early to tack up, have a 45 minute lesson, and then stay and put the horse away.

The riding time is spent first on the LL, teaching them the basics of stop-start-steer (how to use your LEGS) and then we move to rail work, walking over poles, two point, etc. As Come Again said, I get the parents involved immediately. I expect them to make sure their kids are doing their required duties like sweeping, etc, and to assist their kids if need be as I am generally alone or two of us are busy with lessons at the same time. With my beginners, I try not to schedule back-to-back until I am sure they are ready to be solo, so that I can be available.

As Ally said, I like to teach them to trot on the LL with and without holding the reins, to build balance and strength. I also focus on leg position a TON because it helps center the kids a lot better. So lots of two point, heel down, making them do it correctly from the get-go. Using their leg aids immediately, etc.

Apr. 8, 2012, 09:07 AM
The first lesson the kid is usually so anxius to ride that I have the horse tacked and ready to go. I demonstrate the mounting and basic position then put the kid on, get him set with position, stirrup lenght, tighten the girth, the whoa, go and turn aids then off we go. Usually have them posting by the end of the lesson. I then show them how to do after care and let them know that next lesson will involve getting the horse ready as part of the lesson itself.
I have a round pen and some nice horses so I do not use the LL but I really let the kid know in the first lesson how much work it is going to be. Besides the posting, two point, no stirrups and no hands. i don't have the time to work with those who do not want to put 100% into learning!

Apr. 8, 2012, 12:38 PM
I start them all with helmet fit and introduce them to the horse they will be riding. At the barn I work at the horse is readied but an employee is there are mulitple lessons per hour and can sometimes be stacked back to back on the same horse.

All students start on the LL and I work on position. I do start no stirrup work off the bat. If they don't have stirrups to begin with they never learn how easy it is ;)! They learn to use their legs correctly from day one! I do trot towards the end of the first lesson. They do not get the reins until they can post and sit and 2 point no stirrups and stirrups. Then they can come off the line and go around the ring for a few lessons, then I alternate 1/2 on the line and 1/2 off and work on the canter at this point.

From the beginning I encourage them to groom. I usually do it at the end of the lesson, as they are tired from riding but still want to learn. I tell them if it is a rainy day or if they are too tired to ride but still want a lesson we will do a ground lesson which involves grooming, parts of the horse, the bridle and how to get it on the wily school horse, how to fit a saddle and if they grasp all that how to put boots on. Subsequent ground lessons are focusing on getting better at it all and how to spot problems (lamness, injury, illness). This is usually a big eye opener. Many of the boarders are friendly enough with me that I can bring the student to a horse with say an old bow and point it out. Occasionaly the vet or farrier will be working on a horse and I will use that as an opporunity to educate as well.

Most of my students come 30 min or so early and get the horse ready. They are usually supervised by an employee to make sure any blips (where is his saddle? where is his paddock?) are managed efficently. My only worry with having a beginner do it all unattended if it is really easy to miss an injury or put on the wrong tack or get the wrong horse! If an employee or myself are there to supervise it can be caught and managed much faster.

As most of the time my rides and lessons are on a tight time schedule to have to stop everything and get the right saddle or bring the hurt horse back to the barn and scramble for another makes me late the rest of the day.

PLease don't think I am being callous about it all. Most of the time things flow well and everyone gets a good lesson. I hate to see any horse hurt even if it is just a bad scratch in the corner of the mouth. But it is a business and people don't like to wait 45 minutes becasue I was late dealing with something that management is supposed to do. Does that make sense?

Lastly, it is a riding lesson and in the beginning that is what they most of them want to do. As they get more and more involved, I want them to be more and more independant both on the ground and in the saddle.

Apr. 9, 2012, 04:30 PM
As a beginner, we'd have a hour lesson. ½ hour would be spent in the barn--learning how to groom, tack up, etc. and the other ½ would be spent in the ring.