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April 29, 2022

How to Choose a Riding School?

Part 1: School Horses and Facilities

In this article series, I would like to offer guidance to parents who have not decided where to take their children for riding lessons or who are not satisfied with their current stable. What are some aspects that we should not ignore if we want high-quality riding lessons and a safe riding experience for our child?  Let's take a look at this in detail.

In a high standard riding school, safe and joyful riding is considered to be the most important to achieve. From all the conditions for this, ideally, the riding school usually provides:

  • well-trained horses
  • safe place and facilities for learning horse riding
  • a positive-minded riding instructor who is good at their profession
  • comfortable and suitable tack
  • and often even the necessary riding equipment.

In this article let’s take a closer look at the school horses and the facilities of the riding school.

Neatness and Qualifications of Riding School Horses

A riding school horse is a saddle horse that is kept by riding schools for training students on them. I used to say that riding school horses should be seen as multilingual, reliable colleagues. They are both colleagues and teachers because these riding school horses will teach us how to ride, they must be familiar with the "profession," and must be calm and properly trained, but not overqualified. They need to understand things in several languages because they must be able to comprehend the rider's initially uncertain, little-clear signs or sometimes, on the contrary, even the rude signs that need to be refined. That's a lot of brainwork for them.

A good horse strives to understand its rider. But "translating" the controversial movements of novice riders is exhausting brainwork for horses, and they are only suitable for the task above a certain age, and even then not all of them are cut out for this job. Therefore, it is advisable to inquire at the riding school about the age of the school horses. If you get the answer that they are mostly older, experienced horses, then you are in the right place.

Let's take a look at the horses from a physical perspective. Only a well-fed, human-loving, physically and spiritually healthy horse can perform in good spirits. Take a look at their hooves. In a high standard stable, hoof care is carried out every 6-8 weeks by a specialist.

The Facilities

For beginners in an upmarket riding school, horse riding lessons are held in a fenced riding arena with suitable ground. (Consider that if you want to ride regularly in winter, it is best to ride in certain climates only in an indoor arena.) Ground quality is critically important. Think about how to expect a rider to seek a perfect balance on the horse's back if the horse itself cannot find its own balance, for example, because of uneven (unsmoothed) or slippery ground. However, it is also true that a so-called "all-year” surface, which can be used in all weather, can make up for the lack of an indoor arena even in places with particularly wet weather. You can and should ride in the rain, but it is not recommended on slippery ground caused by mud or frost!

Let us also examine the other facilities: safe, fenced paddocks, a passageway of sufficient width and non-slip flooring in the stables, a lockable saddle and a feed room – use common sense when looking around in the chosen stables! Ideally, a separate arena is used for beginner and more advanced riders’ lessons, but at least the same arena is used based on separate schedules. Some things you can't look away from for the sake of safety, but other things are a matter of habits. I have been to many stables in Central and Western Europe. I have often found that very high-quality professional training is also carried out in relatively low-cost places, whereas elsewhere accidents are common despite wasteful expenditures and due to the lack of expertise.

Attention to safety distinguishes one riding school from another.

It's simple: if you have any doubts or any bad feelings about safety, don't go to that stable.

In part 2 of the series we will examine the question of the personality and attitude of the riding instructor as it is particularly important since riding is a dangerous sport.

Anne-Marie Hussar
Anne-Marie Hussar is a Hungarian-born equestrian author, teacher, riding instructor. She has studied the methods of teaching English-style riding in various countries (United States, United Kingdom, Ireland, the Netherlands and Hungary) for more than twenty years to become an expert in equestrian pedagogy. Her knowledge is based on her research and international experience. In her books, lectures and courses she provides guidance on equestrian parenting, talent management and parental engagement as well as introduces a fully formed concept - the Happyriders Training Method - of how to do equestrian education differently. Her mission is rooted in multiple childhood traumas. She shares her thoughts with the aim that no child with equestrian interests should ever feel abandoned or unsupported. Contact: [email protected]

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