June 22, 2012 - When I first moved to Michigan, I left my mare in Texas because she was recovering from an injury.? I was lucky enough to find a riding lesson barn that focused on dressage with some??fence work.? I love trying something new, and it was refreshing to enjoy horses once a week minus the daily chores, especially while I was starting my new position at Michigan State.? It was also fun to ride a variety of horses, some babysitter hunters that could take me sailing over fences I wouldn't dare jump on my own horse.
All in all, I have had over a dozen riding instructors during my equestrian adventure that have represented different breeds and riding disciplines.? Some instructors have been inspiring and others not so much, but there is usually something to be learned from all of them.? As I get older, I appreciate an instructor that really makes me think long and hard after a lesson.? I also enjoy a relaxing and long warm up and cool down similar to my yoga classes.? I have instructed riding lessons since I was sixteen and at three different universities.? My broad range of instructors has helped mold my own teaching style.? I have a great appreciation for instructors that have the talent, communication skills and personality to teach riding effectively and enjoyably.
Watch this?sample lesson from the Certified Horseman Association.? I LOVE this instructor!
Lessons always seem expensive, ranging from $20 ? $70 at the average barn, depending on whether you are taking ? hour to 1 hour sessions, and if your lessons are private, semi- private (2 ? 3 students), or group (4 ? 6 students).?? While the cost may seem high compared to a Zumba or Yoga class, it is a bargain when you factor in the riding instructor?s expenses, including horses, facilities, and insurance (let alone their time and expertise!)
Take your time when choosing a lesson program.?? Try to get referrals from other horse people in your area.?? Watch a lesson or two and take one private lesson before signing up for a longer program.
As you are considering a riding program, follow these handy hints:
- find an instructor that suits your learning style and personality
- find an instructor that fits your current? equestrian interest
- make sure the facility is in good repair, with a well groomed fenced in riding arena
- make sure the lesson horses are healthy, good-tempered, and well-trained to fit your level of riding expertise
- stay away from riding programs that don't require approved safety helmets - they may be lax in other safety?measures as well.
Ideally, your riding instructor should have?completed some?sort of instructor certification program.? The two most popular programs in the United States are:
Many riding programs have their own schooling shows for their ?horseless? students, and will offer opportunities to ?get dirty? if you want to just hang out and help with chores.? The best programs create a social and fun atmosphere for their students and ensure that the students grow in their equestrian pursuits.
If you have taken lessons, share your experiences in the comment section below as well as any advice you can give to choosing a good lesson program.
For more information, read the following article from discoverhorses.com Taking Riding Lessons
Dr. Christine Skelly is an extension specialist at Michigan State University where she founded and directs My Horse University, an online horse management education program.? Dr. Skelly developed the free online course Purchasing and Owning a Horse 101, in partnership with Discover Horses.
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