When learning to ride, many people forget that their relationship with their instructor is the key to improving. If you do not get on, they lessons will become a chore. With so many different styles and disciplines, you may also need to find someone with special expertise. You can take control to make sure you, and your horse, gets the most out of your lesson.
In a way it is easier to be a novice when looking for a riding instructor. Many riding schools cater for novices, offering joint classes for different age groups, a range of riding instructors, and different school master horses.
Looking for a trainer or advanced instructor can be labour intensive. Trainers are usually the best option if you want to learn a specific style of riding, develop your competitive ability, or work with both you and your horse. Consider carefully what you want to learn – classical riding, show jumping, enlightened riding, dressage or even cross country riding. Do you want regular lessons, or an intensive course? Are you willing to travel with your horse? Find a lecture or demonstration at a local event to see exactly what is possible – many large riding schools and equine events have these throughout the year so you can see what is achievable and whether the method is really what you want to learn.
Research online what other riders have found helped. If your horse lacks confidence or has behavioural problems, attending a course that shows you how to use natural horsemanship may give you the skills to teach your horse yourself. Does your horse have problems with certain dressage movements – try a mechanical horse lesson to review your own riding first, to see how you may need to improve to help him. One size doesn’t fit all.
Travelling can be the biggest consideration when looking for an instructor. For regular lessons, you will want to pick an instructor in your local area. It will be a lot easier to travel to, get a regular slot and also transport your horse. Long transportation could affect your horse, and give you an unrealistic result in your lesson.
Many riders prefer to have a lesson at their own base. This is more familiar to the horse, and doesn’t require you to hire or use a horsebox. Not all trainers or instructors offer mobile services, and you may have to adapt your own plans to fit into their schedule.
If there is a local trainer who also offers livery services, this may be your best option. You can watch their methods, use the same arena and improved facilities, as well as have regular lessons “at home”.
Most instructors and trainers in the UK are accredited with the British Horse Society. The BHS assess and register all those who wish to teach in the UK. Instructors will have a BHSAI (Assistant Instructor) certificate, or BHSI (Instructor) certificate. There is a list of instructors on the BHS web site, but this is not complete. Your instructor or trainer will however have these certificates framed on the property, and you can request confirmation from the BHS if unsure.
Some trainers may have qualified overseas, or trained with leading Masters or Riding Schools (such as the Cadre Noir, Spanish Riding School, or competitive riders). This is a little harder to check, but you will find evidence of it online.
If you are attending courses at their school, make sure they have insurance to cover your lesson. You should always have your own insurance – both medical and for your horse.
When researching the instructors in your area, you will find a number of forums and discussion boards that local riders post on. On here you will find reviews and opinions in your area. This will give you an idea of what the instructor is like and their methods. Always remember to treat flame posts with a little bit of scepticism, as the internet is prone to such abuse even about good people.
Contact those who have used the instructor to get a review and some detailed examples of what they learned and experienced.
Always make sure to check the instructor’s website, if they have one. They will include testimonials from their success stories.
When you have found an instructor you think is right for you, contact them and ask if you can watch a lesson. There is no replacement for seeing a trainer teach in person. As you watch you will also start to see ways they can help, and list questions you may have about your own situation.
Some trainers may also require you to provide a video of your horse, showing your riding and any issues you want to focus on. Take this along, so you can hand it over in person.
If you are going to learn in their yard, look around the stables. Horses should look healthy and have clean stalls. Tack rooms should be neat, with each horse having their own bride and saddle. If you are looking to also move your horse into livery there, look at the facilities carefully. Paddocks should be secure and rotated frequently. When can you use the school? All of these steps will help reassure you that this is the right place to go.
Every one responds to different personalities when being taught. Some thrive when challenged, others prefer a softer approach. If you want to improve dramatically, consider which teacher at school helped you achieve the most, not necessarily you’re favourite but the one that drove you to get better grades. If you are lacking in confidence, which teacher inspired you and helped you grow in confidence. These are the personalities that you should look for in an instructor.
If you and your instructor’s personality clashes, do not be afraid to talk over the lesson with them afterwards. Sometimes it can just be a misunderstanding. Make sure they know a lot about you and your horse, so they can get to know you and adapt their style to best suit you.