Orig-Jazzy1That should not even be a question!

I've met many people who are fascinated by horses enough to want to 'get' their own horse. Often, acquaintances or people I've met will ask me my opinion about buying a horse - where do they start?

I run through all the typical questions with them: Why do you want a horse? Are you aware of all the aspects of horse ownership? Have you budgeted for all the upkeep costs (and we go through the breakdown - the initial purchase price of the horse is dwarfed when compared to maintenance costs, never mind emergency vet bills should they happen).

Why wouldn't you want to lease a horse, part-board or take weekly (multiple?) lessons first, to see if you really are interested in all the associated responsibilities in the long run?

And then, after all these questions are articulated and clearly answered, I hit them with my final question: Are you willing to take lessons (yes, on your own horse!) long-term?

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At times, this can become a contentious issue. Many people are not committed to taking lessons, especially if they are themselves, or know of, long-term horse owners. The argument: "Well, so-and-so has had horses forever and never took lessons. They learned from their horse, and they're doing just fine!"

The world of lessons opens up a range of experiences that are not possible to achieve on your own:

- technical know-how (this should go without saying - you can't possibly "know" how to do something if you've never been officially taught it in the first place!)

- help in resolving problem behaviour or finding the source of issues - riding or horsekeeping

- exchange of ideas and information (from a person who presumably knows something you deem valuable to hear from)

- goal setting advice from someone other than yourself (where are you now? what should be your next step?)

- encouragement when you need it, and a "push" when you equally need that

I watch with wonder when some people get on and ride their horses with nary a lesson in years, while on the other hand, I see the "top riders" of our sport working tirelessly with their mentors/trainers even though they are at the peak of performance and technical ability. Of course we are not all heading for the Olympics, nor are we riding in that sort of capacity. But certainly some input can be useful for everyone at some point in time.

As for the final question: How do you know if you've found the right instructor?

The answer to that one is easy - just listen to your horse!

What are your thoughts on taking riding lessons? Comment below.

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When Do You Start Riding Your Horse? This question was being posed to me by a very respected and horse-wise mentor one day long ago, early in my riding development.

How To Be An Active Horseback Rider (a.k.a. Riding With Intention): What do you do when your ride isn’t going as planned? How do you respond when your horse scoots out from under you, spooks at the horse-killing object, or flat out ignores you?


  1. Yes, yes, a thousand times yes! 😀 I’m always astounded at people who tell me that I’d do fine at starting my own horse, and that although I’m unconfident with riding all I need is to get in the saddle more. I agree… I need to get in the saddle more on a good lesson horse under the supervision of a qualified instructor! 😀 I’m working on scheduling something with a local hunter/jumper trainer and really excited at the prospect of getting some actual riding instruction again… I haven’t done lessons since I was 18, and now that my horse is being started under saddle (by a professional :D) I’m looking forward to doing lessons with her for as long and as often as I can afford.

    1. In the “peak” of my lesson-taking, I was riding with my instructor 4 times a week, every week over a course of SIX years! Sometimes, she was on the ground teaching me, and more often, she was riding her own horse while I rode at the same time. Those were incredibly valuable sessions too, because she could model for me on her own horse and I could (try to!) imitate. During that time, I progressed very quickly…. Hope your lessons work out.

  2. Lessons from a good instructor give you the tools in toolbox to take with you through a riding career. And a good instructor isn’t intimidated by a rider taking clinics or lessons from other instructors either because they know people sometimes need a different perspective. I would no more give up my lessons (twice weekly most months, three times weekly in August) than I would my horses.

    1. KT – thanks for your comment. I am always amazed, when I watch or ride in a clinic, how everything from my regular lessons tends to come out in the clinic as well. And of course it’s nice to hear something being said in just a little different way than what you’re used to hearing – might help you make a connection that you hadn’t thought of before.
      It’s so true that good instructors don’t think twice about you going to clinics or learning from others. That’s what makes them GOOD – as instructors, and as human beings.

  3. When have you found a good ‘teacher/mentor’; very similar to attending classes at a gym, as someone once told me. There are a variety of classes, however, one is always drawn to one, maybe 2 instructors, and you keep attending their classes because you are energized and happy to keep up the hard work and progress. You almost find yourself skipping if a substitute comes in, waiting for that one person that drives you. A good instructor will leave you and your equine partner wanting more and happy with the process; even when some lessons are trying.

  4. So true! I rode for years without an instructor and just kept repeating the same old mistakes. I am working with someone now that I am happy with. It makes all the difference in the world!

  5. Undoubtedly experience in handling and riding is important. The type of training and the length of time spent training largely depends on your goals. Not every rider wants to compete. There are plenty of good times to be enjoyed riding a horse that don’t involve training.

    1. Good riding is universal. While there are safety factors, especially at the earliest stages of riding, pleasure riders can also learn a lot in lessons even if they have the basics down. Their lessons would not include show ring strategy but can improve rider stability, horse control, and understanding horse psychology.

  6. If you really want to have the most fun possible when riding, then take lessons because Riding is a sport and like all sports [skiing, tennis, sailing to name a few], there are techniques that need to be learned and practiced. If only to make sure you don’t hurt yourself.

  7. I love my coach, he doesn’t let me get away with anything. I hate my coach, he doesn’t let me get away with anything.

  8. I was able to ride one of my instructors, horses in training. It was several levels above my ability and that of my horses. That ride really inspired me and instantly helped me to realize what I was trying to achieve with my own horse.
    I was afraid to ask to ride someone else’s horse. Apparently I did well enough to be invited to repeat the process. I am looking forward to my next out of level experience.

  9. I feel so fortunate that when I bought my first horse (a 4 year old) at 56 that the trainer insisted that she would only sell him to me if I boarded with her and continued to take lessons from her. Now, 4 years later, I think we have a good partnership that would not have occurred without the lessons. My horse has taken really good care of me, an inexperienced rider, but I feel that if I hadn’t taken the lessons, a scary incidence or two would have occurred and I would not be still riding. Thank you to my instructor and trainer!

  10. I think it’s so important to lesson on your own horse. You have many days to practice but you need another set of eyes to help you. Even trainers take lessons as due the top riders in the world.

  11. I believe that lessons are valuable: however, the point MUST be made that one has to work to find the best match for horse and rider. Since most trainers aren’t themselves trained to be instructors, but just “hang out a shingle”, we must do our due diligence by watching several different trainers teach; by talking to some of their past students , by writing down our questions and being open to answers. Does the trainer wear a helmet when riding ? Does the trainer teach both horse and rider ? Does the trainer take lessons herself to further her own education ? Is the trainer open and encouraging to her students who want to clinic ? Does the trainer suggest books, videos, programs that would enhance the rider’s education ? And don’t settle.