For any rider the choice of riding school can be difficult but particularly so for the first time rider wishing to take those first lessons.
There are two organisations that set standards for riding schools: the British Horse Society (BHS) and the Association of British Riding Schools (ABRS) . Any riding school approved by one or both of these organisations ensures that they meet the standard required by these organisations. Therefore it is always
best to locate a school which has been approved by one or both of these organisations. Riding schools are inspected every year and so any approval should be current.
The BHS and the ABRS both set riding instruction examinations. The BHS Qualifications start at BHSPTC and progressing through BHSAI, BHSII, BHSI to FBHS. The ABRS qualifications start at ABRS
ITA, progressing through ABRS TC, ABRS AT Diploma to ABRS Principal's Diploma. The level of instructor at any riding school may vary but even the lowest level of qualified instructor is able
to teach basic riding to a beginner or novice rider. It is only when progressing to a higher level of riding that the level of instructor employed by a riding
school may become more important.
Even with an approved school and a well qualified instructor horse riding can be dangerous due to the unpredictable nature of horses and ponies. Therefore it is important that instructors
have had first aid training and preferably hold a current first aid certificate. This will ensure that if the worst happens they can administer the first aid necessary to the rider.
Riding schools usually offer a variety of lessons from private, where one rider is taught by an instructor, to semi-private where two or three people are taught in the same lesson or group
lessons where larger groups of people are taught in the same lesson by one instructor. Prices vary with private being more expensive and group lessons being cheaper. However, for first time riders private lessons are preferable and although more expensive a lot more will be learnt in a half hour private lesson than will be learnt in a one hour group lesson. Many schools will not teach beginners in group lessons, prefering to teach beginners on a one-to-one basis.
The facilities at riding schools varies and whilst some will have outdoor schools for teaching,
others have covered or indoor schools and the size of the schools will vary. There are advantages
and disadvantages to both types of school - indoor schools are warmer during the winter but
some can become very dusty in the heat of summer. Most outdoor schools have all weather surfaces
and so unless the weather is terrible, riding lessons are carried out all year round.
It is always a good idea to visit any riding school before booking that first lesson as this will give an idea of the school in general. Although it is not possible to keep any stable yard
spotless a tidy and well organised yard will indicate the level of pride that is taken by the owners and employees in their work and you will also have a chance to have a look at the horses
If it not possible to visit before booking that first lesson and the booking is made by phone the riding school will need to know your height and weight so that they can ensure that they select
a suitable horse or pony for your lesson.
Warning: Riding uses the muscles you never knew you had! Therefore it is best not to be over-ambitious and just to book a half-hour lesson for the first time. Be prepared for some aching in
the day or two to follow until you've had a couple of lessons and your muscles have got used to it.
Horse riding can be a dangerous hobby because of the unpredictable nature of horses and this section deals with some of the safety aspects relating to horse riding.
There may be times when it is necessary to ride on roads and it is important that this is made as safe as possible for the sake of rider, horse and car drivers.
Riders should be aware of the Highway Code and avoid main or busy roads if possible. The rider should always remain in control of the horse keeping rein contact. Horses are unpredictable and
riding with a loose rein can all to easily lead to an accident if the horse is startled.
Riders should ride on the left hand side of the road near the kerb, never riding more than two abreast. Riding two abreast is particularly recommended if riding a young or inexperienced horse,
with the more experienced horse being nearest to the centre of the road. However, when traffic approaches it may be necessary to ride single file with the experienced horse taking the lead.
There should always be a gap of a horse's length between each horse being ridden behind another.
Riders should not ride on footpaths but can ride on grass verges if these are available unless local bye-laws state that this is forbidden. Riders should not canter on grass verges.
Always look behind regularly to be aware of traffic behind and continually look and listen for hazards which may alarm the horse. Unnecessary hazards should be avoided, taking a detour if
possible so as not to alarm the horse.
Turning and Junctions
Riders should always keep to the left of the road even when approaching a junction and intending to turn right. Before turning or approaching a junction always check for traffic and signal
to indicate your intention. When signalling your intention to turn left or right, ensure that your whip is in the hand that remains on the reins and hold your other arm out horizontally for
3 seconds so that surrounding traffic are able to clearly see the signal. Always watch and listen for traffic and be prepared to stop at a junction before turning if necessary.
Additional signals may sometimes be required, particularly if the rider is experiencing a problem with a horse. Holding out the right arm and slowly waving it up and down indicates to an approaching
driver to slow down, whilst holding the arm out with fingers pointing up showing the palm of the hand to the car driver indicates that the rider requires the driver to stop.
If approaching a hazard such as a parked car which requires the horse to be moved towards the centre of the road in order to pass always check ahead and behind for approaching traffic preparing
to stop and wait if necessary before passing. Always signal your intention to move towards the centre of the road to pass the hazard to car drivers.
If approaching a noisy or dangerous hazard always reassure your horse and if your horse seems relunctant to pass the hazard get another horse to lead. If necessary avoid the hazard by taking
Riders should always wear a hard hat conforming to the current standards. It may also be advisable to wear a body protector, and a fluorescent tabbard particularly if riding a young or inexperienced
Road Safety Test
The British Horse Society (BHS) operate a Riding and Road Safety Test and many Riding Schools carry out training days in Riding and Road Safety.
It is important to carry out routine checks of your saddlery and tack, not only for the benefit of your horse's comfort but also to ensure safe riding. If your saddlery or tack fails any of
the checks below then have it repaired or replaced before you ride.
Checking the Saddle
Check the saddle for any weakness or wear including cracking.
Check the tree of the saddle is in good shape by squeezing the sides of the saddle together - there should be no movement. If there is this indicates damage to the tree which could seriously
damage the horse's back.
Check the girth straps under the saddle flap to ensure that all straps and stitching is secure.
Check the bars which hold the stirrup leathers to make sure they are secure.
Check the stirrup leathers for wear and cracking.
Checking the Girth
Check that all stictching around the girth buckles is secure and that the buckles themselves are not damaged or bent.
Check the girth for signs of wear and tear.
Checking the Bridle
Check all leather for any weakness, wear or cracking.
Check all stitching is secure.
Check all buckles to ensure they are secure and not bent.
Check the reins for weakness, wear or cracking and ensure stitching is secure.
Check the bit for any dirt or rough edges that may damage the horse's mouth.