Find freedom, exercise and joy with horseback riding lessons. If you have always dreamed of learning to ride a horse, riding lessons will take you every step of the way. Horseback riding lessons are available for adults (and kids!) of any skill level. You can be a beginner who is slightly terrified of horses or a competition-level professional looking to fine-tune your skills or improve your general horsemanship. You can find a horseback riding instructor to meet you at any level. Often, horseback riding lessons take place at a farm, ranch or barn. Your lessons may be inside a barn, out in a fenced pasture, on a trail, or on an area that's set up as a racecourse or obstacle course. The type of location will depend on your skill level and your horseback riding goals.
You can learn a range of horseback riding styles. Instructors offer lessons in Western or English riding, or you can focus on a specialty such as jumping or racing. You may take horseback riding lessons for fun and relaxation, for dressage, to improve your competition skills, for trail riding, or for show jumping. Many people also take horseback lessons for therapeutic reasons.
Fortunately, you don't need to own a horse to take horseback riding lessons. Barns and stables that provide lessons professionally are well-equipped with saddles, blankets, helmets, reins and all the other accoutrements of horseback riding. You just need to show up and be willing. Lesson costs typically include the use of a horse owned by the instructor or stable. Several factors affect the cost of horseback riding lessons.
Most horseback riding instruction begins with an introductory lesson, during which the coach can evaluate the student's skill level and determine the best lesson plan. Depending on the teacher or riding academy, the intro class may cost more or less than subsequent lessons. Devine Gaits Farm in Litchfield, Ohio, explains that their intro lessons cost more ($15 more) than their standard individual lessons because the intro lessons take longer. During intro lessons at Devine Gaits Farm, the instructor will familiarize the student with the facility and horses, discuss the student's goals, assess the student's knowledge and skills, and develop a lesson plan for achieving their goals. Here are some examples of average pricing for intro lessons:
- Intro lesson with Julie Blackburn in Bridgewater, Massachusetts: $45
- One-hour evaluation session with Debut Arabians' head instructor at the company's stables in Seagoville, Texas: $80
Lesson length directly affects the cost. Students pay for not only the teacher's expertise but his or her time. Lessons are commonly offered in 30-, 45- or 60-minute increments. Your goals can help determine the length of horseback riding lesson you want or need. Here are some average pricing examples based on lesson length:
- Julie Blackburn: Half-hour private lesson for $45; one-hour private lesson for $60
- Hillary Carlson LLC in Westerville, Ohio: Half-hour private lesson for $50; one-hour private lesson for $75
Private lessons will almost always cost more than semi-private or group lessons because students get the exclusive time and attention of the teacher. The more in-demand a teacher's time is, the higher his or her private lesson rates will be. Debut Arabians only offers private instruction, in keeping with their training beliefs. Each private half-hour lesson (beyond the company's introductory one-hour lesson) costs $45. At Summer Wind Stables in Chesterland, Ohio, private lessons have tiered pricing based on lesson length. A 60-minute lesson costs $65, a 45-minute private lesson costs $55, and a 30-minute private lesson costs $40. If you would like private attention to hone a particular skill, but also want to careful with your budget, consider attending semi-private or small group lessons regularly, with a private lesson every two weeks or once a month to address specific needs.
Semi-private horseback riding lessons are often made up of groups of two or three riders. They tend to be less expensive than private lessons but more expensive than group lessons. Students still benefit from individualized instruction in semi-private lessons, and the teacher may address areas of need in a more targeted way than in a group lesson of about 4-6 students. Here are some examples of semi-private lesson average pricing:
- Julie Blackburn: $45 per rider for a one-hour semi-private lesson
- Hillary Carlson LLC: $60 per rider for a one-hour semi-private lesson
Group lessons, which Hillary Carlson LLC defines as a lesson with four or more riders, often cost less per person. For example, Hillary Carlson LLC charges $50 per rider for a one-hour group lesson, which is a $10 savings over her one-hour semi-private lesson and a $25 savings over her one-hour private lesson.
Some instructors offer horseback riding lesson packages, which typically must be prepaid. The immediate cost will be higher, but the price is lower per lesson. Most experts recommend taking an intro lesson with an instructor before purchasing a package, so you can learn whether you like the instructor's teaching style and the setup of the stables before making a major financial commitment. At Summer Wind Stables in Chesterland, Ohio, the owners provide financial incentives to students who pre-purchase lesson bundles. The price for one small-group (3-4 people) lesson at Summer Wind Stables is $55 for a 60-minute lesson. If a student pays upfront for the quarterly small group package, they receive 13 lessons over 3 months for $599. This represents a $116 savings over paying for each class individually, or the equivalent of two free lessons.
What to wear
Most stables will have a welcome email or packet that outlines everything you should do to be fully prepared and comfortable for your first day of horseback riding, including what clothes and shoes to wear. It's not necessary to buy special clothes, but wear comfortable clothing that allows for movement. Wear long pants, as your legs will be in contact with the horse and saddle while you're mounted. Staci Graham, owner and trainer of Horizon Arabians in Dixon, California, recommends wearing a closed-toe shoe with a small heel, such as a boot or walking shoe. The small heel helps your foot can stay more securely in the stirrup; don't wear high heels. If you don't have any practical, safe shoes with a small heel, a sneaker should be fine. Just don't wear open-toe shoes. Wear your sunscreen and sunglasses if you'll be outside. Most stables will provide a helmet, but double-check whether you should bring your own.
How to find horseback riding lessons
If you are ready to take horseback riding lessons, Staci Graham of Horizon Arabians has some suggestions for how to find the right stable:
- Look for a stable that offers the style of riding (Western or English) that you want to learn. If you're undecided, find a stable that offers lessons in both styles.
- Research the stable both online and in person. Graham says you'll want to see what their setup is like and how they operate their stables before committing to working with an instructor. Obvious red flags are poorly maintained facilities or animals that do not seem well cared for.
- Meet the instructor you will be working with before committing to ongoing lessons or buying a package. A great way to do this is by taking an intro lesson. You'll have a chance to experience their teaching style and become familiar with their personality.
- Find an instructor who can help you reach your goals. If you just want to become comfortable riding a horse and learning general horseback riding skills, you can likely find a great instructor at almost any stable. If you want to eventually compete in barrel racing or show in dressage, do your research and find an instructor who excels at teaching in your area of interest.
English vs. Western riding
There are two main styles of horseback riding lessons that you can take, Western and English. There are a few major differences; English-style saddles are smaller and do not have a horn. Western saddles are larger with more components, including a horn, which is directly related to cattle roping often associated with Western-style riding. Different competitive sports are associated with the different riding styles. Western-style riding is typically associated with barrel racing and roping, while English-style riding is often associated with dressage and jumping. Many stables offer lessons in both styles.
If you are an adult learning to ride, you may not know which style you'd like to learn just by reading about them. In fact, some pros, such as Staci Graham of Horizon Arabians, recommend that undecided students find a stable that can teach you about both English and Western riding. According to Graham, some students may take up to a year to make a choice while they master the basics of riding. Graham explains that it's often easier for kids to get the hang of horseback riding and let go of fears, whereas many adults take a few more lessons to settle into and trust the experience of riding on such a large animal.
Horseback riding is a lifelong passion for many people. There are many physical and emotional benefits of spending time with horses, but it can be an expensive hobby. If you decide that you want to move beyond taking lessons to owning a horse, you can start out part-time and ease into ownership. Some stables offer horse leasing for students who are considering purchasing a horse. For example, Debut Arabians has a program that allows riders to lease a stable horse for either $250 (part-time) or $500 (full access) per month; the stable boards and cares for the horse, but the riders can ride whenever they like.
Working with horses is not only fun physical fitness, it also has proven therapeutic results. If you have stress, anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or substance abuse concerns, there is proven evidence that horse-assisted therapy can help. If you are seeking horseback riding for therapeutic reasons, it is imperative that you work with your health care providers as you plan where, how and how often to ride. One study of youth with substance abuse issues found that horse-assisted therapy improved their participation in, time in and completion of substance abuse treatment. The therapeutic value of horseback riding has led to the creation of programs to treat PTSD in veterans. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs offers various equestrian programs to help veterans who struggle with anxiety, PTSD and the transition back into civilian life.
- Read client reviews and follow up with references to make sure you're choosing the right instructor for you or your child. For more, check out our tips for smart hiring.