What to Look for at a Riding School
When looking at a riding school to take lessons, it is important to look carefully at the facility before committing. Keep in mind the following things as you assess a riding school.
1. The Condition of the Facility
While most riding schools will not be top-notch facilities, it is important that the stables be kept in good condition. The barn should be clean and the stalls mucked on a daily basis. The outdoor arena should have decent footing and should be well fenced. If there is an indoor area it should be free of dangerous implements that a rider could get thrown into, and be in good condition. A viewing area should be available for parents or visitors. The paddocks should be well fenced with no barbed wire, and in good repair. There should be enough parking to manage the riding lesson crowds.
2. The Condition of the Horses
School horses may not be the fanciest animals out there, but they are hardy souls who should be well cared for by the facility for which they work. The horses should all be in good flesh with healthy coats and happy expressions. Ideally they should have lots of turn-out when not being used in lessons, and should not be worked more than 2 lessons a day. While some school horses may have less than pleasant personalities, most should be friendly and happy to meet you.
3. The Condition of the Tack
It is essential that the tack and equipment for the horses is in good condition. The saddles and bridles should be fitted to each individual horse, and all of the straps should be in good repair. If the barn provides brushes, they should show signs of being cleaned regularly and should be easy to access for all riders. Some barns require that the riders clean tack after each lesson. If this is the case there should be adequate space to clean the tack, and soap and sponges for the purpose.
4. Quality Instructors
Not all riding instructors are the same. Take the time to watch a lesson or two to see what the riding instructors are like. While certification is nice, some excellent instructors are not certified, while some terrible instructors are. What is more important than certification is that you and the instructor get along, and that you learn well from their teaching style.
5. Clear Rules and Guidelines
A quality riding school has clear rules and guidelines for the use of the horses and equipment. These rules should be posted around the facility and should be given to you when you inquire. Make sure that the rules are things that you can work with, and that they are adequate to keep you safe.