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.
In part 1 and 2 of the series we examined the question of the facilities of a riding school as well as the neatness of the school horses. In the following article let’s take a closer look at the stable management and organizational issues as there are other considerations here that make it easy to decide if you are in the right stable.
First off, don't be surprised if your riding time requests can't always be fully fulfilled. In fact, it's a sign of a high level of professionalism! In a fair riding stable, not only the guests’ aspects but also the aspects of the horses are taken into account. I'm sure even without pre-training, we know that horses are addicted to customs. They like things to happen the same way and at the same time, in the usual rhythm in their lives. They have daily, weekly, monthly, and seasonal cycles. When striving to meet their needs, the riding school owner or the lesson program manager must also take the above cycles into account. In many riding stables, the daily and weekly work and lesson schedules are mainly adapted to the needs of the guests, partly to the needs of the workers involved in the activity, with only very little account taken of the abovementioned cycles of the horse's needs. However, the most effective way for a horse to participate in horse training is to meet its needs to the maximum, from feeding and keeping to taking into account its daily, weekly, etc. cycles.
Let me share my story related to this:
I once taught at a very busy metropolitan riding school where guests could "pull" horses out of the stables at any time. There was no need to adjust to any lesson schedule; the guests groomed the horses themselves, equipped the horses with any equipment they could find in the stables or the tack room, and had no idea how many riders had ridden the given horse that day. It's called a "wage stable." Fortunately, fewer and fewer places are running stables in this way. These horses showed a clear sign of their frustration. They had welcomed those who entered their boxes with pinned back ears. When they were being groomed, they tried to make the job of the rider as hard as possible, wherever possible, constantly flapping their tails and shaking their heads, making it difficult to care for them. They were stomping and pawing the ground, trying to make the saddling impossible, and some even specialized in unexpectedly biting into the rider's bottom during mounting. Interestingly, after mounting, they performed their duties fairly, even if they had spent several hours working that day, which is clearly proof that their trainer had done a good job and that their undesirable displacement activities were only the result of deficiencies in the organizational work at the riding school. This could have been prevented by the right lesson schedule and by taking the daily cycle of the horses into account. Is it possible to break such a horse of its annoying habits? Hardly. Careful planning and full knowledge and consideration of the needs of horses is the solution – preventively.
If you are lucky enough to have the opportunity to take a stable management course as prospective equestrian parents, you can easily recognise the body language of the horses and judge for yourselves whether the horses are happy or not. Just as happy children can only be raised in a happy parenting environment, only happy horses can serve riding demands.
Based on my diversified experiences I am confident to say: It is the responsibility of the stable management to provide a safe infrastructure and of the instructor to provide the ideal environment for equestrian education.
I won’t lie to you: when teaching novice riders, especially children, we try to create artificially "dumbed down" conditions to minimize the chance of falling off the horse and creating a negative experience. Yes, everyone knows that a horse is an escape animal and can startle and hurtle at any time – and the parents and the children should consider this, but the management of the stables, the lesson schedule, the organization of work, and the establishment of the facilities must show that the pursuit of safety in the stables is a priority.