So your daughter or son has told you that they would like to ride. Now what do you do? Doing a little bit of investigation of stables and riding establishments in the area can save a lot of heartache and money in the long run.
Before signing up for riding lessons consider the following tips to make sure you are picking the right spot for your child:
- Finding the Right Place
If you are new to horses and the requirements of what to look for in a stable, do not go on alone, ask questions of friends, neighbours and family members regarding reputable stables in the area. After talking with friends, a few names usually resurface again and again, either good or bad. Keep these names in mind.
Make sure that the stable offers the discipline of riding that you want to do. If for example your son wants to learn how to ride western and ‘team pen’ (herding cattle) then taking him to a stable that specializes in English jumping is not going to be a good match. Ask the instructor what his/her area of expertise is. If it does not match with your expectation then continue looking.
- Investigating the Stable
Contact a few stables and ask if you can visit. Usually a public stable that offers riding lessons will be open and gladly welcome new clients. Be wary of stables that decline a visit from you and request that a scheduled appointment be made. Popping in unannounced is a great way to see how:
- the stable is kept – stalls should be clean and aisle way swept
- the horses are treated – they should be well fed and treated kindly
- lessons are taught – safety first and taught by a professional instructor
Take an assessment lesson. Most stables offer an ‘assessment’ trial lesson to see if the instructor-student relationship is a good match. If this is offered try it out. This is where parents and children can see if they like the routine and personality of the teacher. Sometimes stables charge a nominal fee and sometimes they are a “free” assessment.
Check the details of the lesson program. Each stable offers a different program. Some offer eight week program, some a six week package and some even offer lessons for a month. In each case be prepared to pay upfront for the eight, six or monthly lessons. Usually lessons are once per week, but as children progress they may be streamed into a competitive schedule that will require two, three or more rides per week.
- Investigate the cancellation policy and other terms. Most policies identify that 24 hours notice is required for a cancelled lesson. Some stables offer a ‘make-up’ lesson for the one lost. It pays to investigate the actual details of the cancellation policy to avoid lost lessons.
Does It Feel Right?
The final straw is to ask yourself, “Does it feel right?” If it is a good fit then it should feel right.
As with any sport safety should be at the top of the list. If the stable is safe, offers quality professional instruction and deals with children and horses in a respectful manner, then the stable will probably be a good fit for you.