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8 Tips for Choosing the Best Horseback Riding Lessons

Living in or near horse-crazy Loudoun County, chances are you’ve considered riding lessons for your children. But if you have no experience with horses yourself, how do you choose the right program? As with any other program, you’d choose for your child, look for quality instruction and safety first.

According to the US Pony Club, an organization that develops horsemanship curriculums for children, a program should have “a clear progression of skills in riding and horse management and provide opportunities for goal setting.” Consider that and the following when evaluating an equestrian program:

• Instructors should be well-versed not only in equestrian skills but in teaching. Many trainers are certified by the governing bodies of their sport, such as the US Hunter Jumper Association. These bodies have requirements regarding training, safety, and horsemanship.

• Visit the centers you are considering and sit-in on several lessons to determine if a trainer or a center is a good fit for your child.

• Most riding programs have school horses which can be used by students for lessons. These horses should be well-cared for, well-groomed, and healthy.

• Your child should be paired with the horse that is best for his or her skills and size. Ask how students are paired with horses.

• Look for a clean and well-kept facility with tack in good condition.

• Your child should have the opportunity to learn not only riding skills but horse management skills such as grooming.

• Your child’s lesson should take place within a fully enclosed ring, and your child should first learn proper safety procedures when handling horses, such as safely approaching, mounting, dismounting, and leading horses. A facility with a covered ring is a bonus too — so inclement weather doesn’t cause as many cancellations.

• Look for a program that insists on full mastery of basic skills before advancement. This not only ensures your child has sound fundamental horsemanship skills but ensures the safety of your child.

Equestrian equipment can be expensive. Fortunately, most facilities will allow students to borrow essential equipment such as helmets for lessons. However, if you plan to take lessons more than a couple times you will need to make some purchases. Essential purchases for every student include:

• An approved riding helmet

• Boots with a heel. Paddock boots are best for younger students.

• Long pants with some stretch such as jodhpurs or riding tights

• Gloves with a grip

Don’t know where to begin? has a comprehensive directory of lesson facilities and providers here. Have one to add or more suggestions? Let us know by emailing us at [email protected].

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