A friend of mine is signing up for horseback riding lessons (English lessons, adult rider: late 20s). I haven't taken lessons in so long that I gave her SOME ideas, but didn't know what else to have her ask/look out for when she visits the barns in her area (Gwinnett county, Georgia in case anyone is wondering).
Can you guys help me out with some questions to ask/things to look out for?
One thing I told her is to look for a lesson barn that also teaches horsemanship along with riding (ground handling, grooming, etc.) and not just a place that has the horses "ready to ride" when you get there.
I also told her not to run out to the nearest store she finds that sells horse items buying things the instructor says. I told her that, with everything else in the world, there are bargains to be found.....even locally.
If she's very very new, give her some idea what a happy, healthy horse looks like. When she visits the barn, she should either watch a lesson or ask to see a school horse or two. If they don't look happy and healthy, run away.
Any way you or another knowledgeable pal could accompany her to visit some barns?
Oy, I've tried out a lot of barns as a beginner adult rider and I agree that its important to check out the instructors teaching style before signing up. Not a lot of places cater to adults and I've found that they either a)treat me like a kid or b)ignore me. Fortunately, I've since found two barns that are really great! However it was through a lot of trial and error. I basically drove out to a lot of barns, took a few lessons, and determined if I clicked with the instructor. Also, have her make it clear from the beginning what her goals are.
And make sure they have an adequate bunch of school horses, some places I've seen have a whole bunch of ponies and as a larger adult, that just didn't cut it! Its also important to make sure the facility looks clean and well run.
Other than the things that have already been mentioned such as the condition of the facility, the horses, and clicking with the instructor, I would also make sure to ask about lesson times. Most bigger barns are fine, but some smaller barns have prohibitive hours for those who work full-time. (ie. aren't open most evenings, or late evenings).
Watch out for unnecessary or cruel criticism. Make sure the environment is positive (and you can tell by the way the horses look and the way the students act). Also watch out for students who are progressing too slowly or too quickly as you don't want to spend the next year posting the trot and never cantering or jumping 2' on your third lesson. People fall off but if people are falling off quite frequently, that should also be a red flag.
Unfortunately, you have to just watch and see. Overly confident trainers who say their students go from beginning WT to showing over fences in three months makes my ears prick.
I would recommend buying at minimum a pair of paddock boots that fit and a well-fitted helmet. Both are safety precautions and cheap when you face yourself with the alternative (foot stuck in stirrup or helmet coming off in a fall...or both). Also make sure that the tack they use on the horses is properly fitted and that the girth isn't hanging on by a thread.
If your gut tells you that something isn't right, then it probably isn't.
You might want to have her find out how many lessons with different instructors are taking place at the same time over the same course of fences. There is a local lesson barn around here who has 2+ instructors teaching in the same indoor over the same course during prime time hours. How anyone learns anything or doesn't get killed is beyond me.
Definitely watch a lesson and talk to other students. You can tell a lot about a trainer's teaching style from watching a lesson and get a sense of the barn atmosphere from talking to other clients. Some barns will allow a free introductory lesson, so asking if they would be willing to provide that is a good idea as well. Take a look at the school horses and see how well they are cared for. Many school horses can get overworked and sour so being at a barn with happy horses is important.
She sent me the website on the barn she chose, and I have heard good things about them. They are active in the community and welcome visitors (even those who show up without calling first......during barn hours).
I got her fitted with a schooling helmet and some boots for now (she's taking western lessons).
My friend is doing well. She started out doing two western riding lessons (as that is what she grew up riding), but then she and her instructor made the decision to switch to English riding instead (I told her, "welcome to the dark side" ) She is really enjoying it, loves her instructor and got to see someone ride a Paso Fino the other day. She's hooked.
Can anyone give me some GOOD beginner/refresher books I can suggest to her? She got one book, and she said it seemed good, but when she read some things out of it to me, they were incorrect - lol.
Cool - she got something like "How to make the most out of your horseback riding lesson," and for the most part, it seems like a good book except there's one part about leg yielding that says, "if you want to move a horse to the right, apply pressure with your right leg."
It's so refreshing to see some of the posts here! I run a primarily all adult lesson program, because I live in an area surrounded by farms that are overrun with kids. I know as an adult I try to make my barn and lessons fun, quiet, encouraging, confidence building and stress free. Nothing against kids, and I don't turn them away, but I do state up front that I cater to adult riders and their unique needs.
Good luck to your friend & kudos to you for helping her!
Our horses know our secrets; we braid our tears into their manes and whisper our hopes into their ears.
I have read the pony club manual so many times it's falling apart (even with my little butterfly stickers still on it, I've had it a LONG time) - it is an excellent resource! I still learn things when I pick it up.
I wouldn't overwhelm her with too much reading though, I really feel horseback riding is a sport where too much is writen and not enough is done, you must learn by doing!