What makes a person qualified to be a riding instructor? In the USA we don’t have rules, you don’t have to be qualified or certified to be a riding instructor, we have no standards. This leaves the door wide open for anyone to hang up their shingle and start taking money for lessons. So, how do you sort them out and find that right person who will give you value for your money or maybe more importantly keep your child safe as they learn to ride.
You can always look for one of those people who did bother to get some education, maybe through a college or a program that actually does testing and certification. But I warn you even then you will still want to run through the list of questions below because not all people are qualified to be instructors some just don’t have the people skills, problem solving abilities, and experience with horses to really give you bang for your buck.
My list of questions to help you find a qualified instructor would be this;
- First and most important would be safety, does the instructor teach, enforce and demonstrate safety in the way they handle horses, the way they set their riding arena up and the way they house horses?
- Are the lesson horses safe and appropriate for the skill and age level of the student?
- Or if you are using your own horse can the instructor help you train that horse at the level your horse is at and to the level you want to reach? If it’s a green broke horse do they have the knowledge to advance it (have they trained green horses)? If it’s a finished horse in a specific event what knowledge do they have about that event?
- Does the instructor have the ability to help you train your horse if that is your goal? Some instructors don’t have this experience they don’t train horses.
- Do they have the ability to read a horses body language and know when a horse is safe and not safe?
- How many years has the instructor trained horses or given lessons? I’m just sneaking that one in the middle here, it probably should be the first thing you ask and then follow-up on checking that it’s true.
- Can the instructor identify unsafe or ill-fitting tack? Is the instructor able to tell you how a piece of tack works to help you communicate with your horse? If you are going to show the horse does the instructor know what tack is legal and how to use it legally?
- Next is communication. Can the instructor explain something in a lot of different ways? Everyone has a different learning style and a seasoned instructor can recognize this and change-up the lesson to help all students learn. Are they willing to talk it out with you when you run into a problem?
- Are the lessons challenging you to become a better rider? Does the instructor push you just enough out of your comfort zone that you get better or at least see some improvement in either your horse or yourself?
- Are you walking away from the lesson with some new information and something to practice at home? And did you get to ask clarifying questions before the lesson ended?
- And on the opposite side of challenging you to get better, can be an instructor who over challenges or over faces the horse or rider, putting them in danger of getting hurt or losing confidence. Do you feel more or less confident at the end of your lesson?
- Does the instructor know the beginning, intermediate and advanced steps for teaching the specific maneuver? If they don’t you and your horse will be confused and/or angry. Every instructor should know how to take a step backwards to fix a problem rather than try to beat a horse through something. Do you feel like your lesson is borderline abusive to your horse?
- Does the instructor recognize and correct incorrect body, hand and leg positions? And are they at least trying to get you to fix it? I say trying because this is the hardest thing to get a rider to change.
- Does the instructor talk to you in a positive way about the health and care you are giving your horse?
I hope these questions help you find a wonderful riding instructor. If you have anything to add to the list or comments, please leave them below. Remember this list is only suggestions always use your own common sense and judgement when hiring a riding instructor. Dream big and ride a great horse.