All riders need to take lessons. Whether you take them on a regular basis or just whenever you can afford them, they are well worth the money—if you have a good trainer. Everyone needs a little help now and then. If you’re having problems with your pony, having someone on the ground can help you a lot. If you feel that you’re not improving as a rider, regular lessons will sharpen up your skills.
And if you’re a new rider, a trainer is a must. Not only will she help you learn how to ride, but if she’s a good trainer, she’ll make sure you’ll learn how to take care of a horse properly, too. Here are some tips to help you find a good trainer.
Ask your friends to recommend a good trainer. If they like riding with a certain trainer, you might like him, too. You can also ask the local 4-H or Pony Club leaders. They will know most of the trainers in your area.
If you still can’t find a trainer, go to a local tack shop and look on the bulletin board. Many trainers will have posted signs or cards on the board. If you see a card that looks interesting, ask the shop employee if she knows the trainer and what she’s heard about him.
If a trainer sounds good, call her and have a chat with her about your riding experience. Let her know what kind of riding activities you’d like to do. Have your parents talk to her too.
You should enjoy talking to the trainer. She should be pleasant and sound knowledgeable. Ask how long she’s been teaching and about her riding experiences. A good trainer has ridden and competed successfully for many years.
Try to find a trainer who has been through the American Riding Instructor Association certification program. ARIA tests instructors to make sure they are qualified to teach riding. Check out www. riding-instructor.com. The United States venting Association and the United Dressage Federation also have special programs that certify instructors. Check out http://www.eventingusa.com/ and http://www.usdf.org/.
What kind of riding do you want to do? If you want to jump, you shouldn’t go to a western trainer. If you want to learn how to rein, you don’t want to go to an eventing trainer. Make sure you know what style of riding the trainer teaches.
Find out how much the trainer charges before you sign up for lessons. Ask your friends the going rate for lessons in your area. Some trainers give you a discount if you pay in advance for a large number of lessons. Individual lessons cost more than group ones.
Once you find a trainer, you and your parents should go watch a couple of lessons. Here are some signs of a good instructor:
- She is patient and doesn’t mind explaining things.
- Her classes are small and each student gets plenty of attention.
- Her lesson horses are well mannered and can do what is asked of them.
- Her students look confident and seem to be having a good time.
- Her classes are varied and students do not spend the entire lesson working on the same thing.
- She doesn’t shout at or bully her students.
- Her students wear safe riding clothes, including a helmet, boots, and jeans or jodhpurs.
If you like what you see, book a few lessons.
A good trainer will ask your parents to sign a release form before she starts teaching you. The form usually states thatyour parents understand that riding is a dangerous sport and that you will not hold the trainer responsible if you get hurt.
A good trainer will want to give you several private lessons before placing you in a group lesson. This is so she can determine how well you ride and place you in a class with riders at your level.
A good English trainer dresses professionally in breeches and safe boots during lessons. She’ll set a good example to her students by wearing a safety helmet when mounted.
A good western trainer will have on chaps or jeans and boots with a heel. A trainer wearing sandals and shorts can’t get on your horse to ride him if you’re having problems.
A trainer may teach at her own barn or a boarding barn. Visit the barn. It should be tidy. Manure and straw should be swept onto a muckheap and the stables should be clean. If horses are standing in piles of manure or puddles, it’s best to leave and find a more professional trainer. Buildings should be in good repair, and there shouldn’t be any broken glass or equipment with sharp edges lying around. People should not smoke at the barn. One spark can set a bale of hay alight and cause a fire.
If you’re going to be riding the trainer’s horses during a lesson, take a look at them. They should be alert and interested in what’s going on around them.
They should be well groomed and look like they have enough to eat. You shouldn’t be able to see their ribs sticking out. Don’t ride with a trainer who has horses that look tired and in poor condition. Ask how many times a horse gets ridden. A horse should be used in no more than three lessons per day. You don’t want to ride a tired horse.
The trainer’s employees should be kind and firm. You should not see them yelling or beating horses.
If you want to go to horse shows, ask the trainer if she takes her students to events. Find out how much she charges to train students at a show.