Finding the right barn and the right trainer play a huge role in your enjoyment of the sport  – photo by K. Palumbo

Trainers play a central role in your the enjoyment of the sport. The wrong trainer can make your riding experience miserable and can even go as far as making you quit riding. HJU reader Sarah Ann sent us this article about her experience with trainers.

Finding the Right Instructor

When I started riding I did not have very much luck in the department of finding a riding instructor who could help me learn to ride in a fun but safe environment. So I thought I would share some of what I have learned for others who may be going through the same thing.

There are lots of people who can train horses, but training people… not so much. My first instructor had a group of 10 odd beginners, and would rather sit back and talk to her friends than pay attention to what we were doing. No one got hurt, thank goodness! But it did take me a while to realize this is not what should be going on.. After all, I knew nothing about riding lessons! I didn’t want to leave because I really loved the horses, but let’s face it Horse Junkies, were gonna love the horses anywhere we go anyways 🙂

After a few months, I realized enough was enough and tried a place closer to where to my house is. Very nice barn. It was so neat and clean, you could eat off the floors! It was better than the first place because safety was a priority here. However something still was not quite right. I began to realize that when I made a mistake during my lesson, for example accidentally turning my horse to the right instead of the left, it was the worst thing in the world. I wasn’t allowed to make a simple mistake like going the wrong direction. This made me lose the little amount of confidence I had left. Yes I did take a break from riding.. short break but still, time I had missed being with the horses.

I thought about giving up completely, but my heart did not want me to. I had only wanted to ride Western because I was afraid of being in a small English saddle, but when I came across a quiet and small barn, I thought I may as well give the English discipline a try… boy, am I glad I did!

I barely felt like I was going to fall off, which I thought I would! And I could feel every movement of the horse under me. My new instructor had some fun exercises for beginners both on the ground and in the saddle. It didn’t take long before I got  all my confidence back, and then some. Pretty soon, I was cantering around on my thoroughbred mare. (I ride the same horse every lesson, she’s the best!)

My love for horses flourished, so a year later I volunteered at a therapeutic horseback riding facility, because I’m sure you all know we just can’t get enough of horses! This also was a very positive and caring environment. I don’t know where I would be if I didn’t find this barn, and 2 years later I am still riding there.. and riding the same great, amazing, wonderful horse! I am very glad I found the right instructor for me, who understood what I needed to get out of riding and horses.

I think that finding the right person to help you with your riding, or with you and your horse, takes quite a bit of time. If you are not sure, take some more lessons – there’s no reason to rush. Think about what you want yourself or you and your horse to learn. Some people take one lesson a week, others take 4 or 5. Knowing this will help you narrow down your search. More well-known trainers usually charge more, but a less-known trainer will charge a good deal less. Ask for a tour of their facility. They will be happy to show you around as they understand that without surveying you will not be able to make a decision. Sometimes you can even watch a lesson to get some insight. Let them know in advance you are coming.

Choosing a barn is a very personal thing. Here are some questions you should ask yourself:

  • Is the riding arena cramped or too small for the size of the lesson?
  • Do the horses seem happy and healthy?
  • What style of riding do they teach? Is this the style you want to learn? Make sure that the instructor’s capabilities are in line with what you want to learn.
  • How big of a group lesson is it? Are they small enough that individual time is still spent with each student?

I think that a good instructor should:

  • Enjoy working with people and to be able to communicate well with all ages
  • Be patient and be able to work with riders of all abilities
  • Have human first aid training
  • Have good riding skills themselves
  • Not be too rough but not too sweet either
  • Put safety before anything else
  • Explain why what they are telling you is important, it’s much easier to do something when you know the reason for it
  • Know what their students are capable of, and insist that they put their all into the lesson and really improve

It’s important that you like and trust this person. If you don’t “click” with a trainer, keep looking.

Sarah Ann