Whether you want to achieve a riding resolution, need to work on your confidence or could do with some eyes on the ground, a trip to a riding school might just be in order.
When most people think about riding schools, they imagine Thelwell ponies obediently carrying around small children and popping over cross poles. This association, although partly accurate, is misleading as riding schools offer so much more to riders of all ages.
Our understanding of horse behaviour, training techniques and correct equitation is always improving, so whether you are just starting out or have been riding for as long as you can remember, you will always find something to benefit your style.
For those without a horse or pony, a riding school can offer the experience of exercising and caring for your own, without all the veterinary and insurance responsibilities – or the early mornings and late nights for that matter! Many offer schemes such as ‘Own a Pony’ that demonstrate the daily duties of ownership, which can be very useful for deciding whether or not you or your pony mad child is ready to own their own.
With most equestrian centres offering a variety of lesson lengths, as well as group or private lessons, there is often something to suit every budget. Many also carry spare equipment such as hats and boots, meaning you needn’t buy your own until you are sure riding is the sport for you.
A bad fall or a lengthy period of time out of the saddle can result in a knock on your confidence. Rather than struggling, a helping hand from an instructor or trustworthy lesson horse can make a huge difference and restore your happiness in the saddle.
Eyes on the ground
For those with their own horse or pony, attending a riding school for lessons will have a hugely positive effect on performance. Even the best, top-level riders still have lessons and areas to work on. When it comes to training a horse, different methods work for different animals, and it is very unlikely you will know exactly what to do in every situation. Getting input from an instructor will give you new ideas and help develop new techniques or find ways of tailoring your own.
Lessons can also be a great way to break any bad habits you have developed over the years. From turned in hands to sticking out toes, having someone on the ground closely watching your every move and correcting when necessary is hugely beneficial, especially if you haven’t got access to arena mirrors.
If you aren’t interested in competing, having monthly lessons gives you short term goals to work towards and ensures your riding is always focused on improving, rather getting stuck in a rut.
If your interests lay with jumping, an extra pair of hands will never go amiss! From constructing a course, to altering distances and putting jumps up, an instructor will make your jumping session positive and help you fulfil all your objectives – an invaluable help.
Many riding centres organise clubs or teams that regular riders are welcome to join, as well as a number of social occasions throughout the year. This is a great added bonus, allowing you to interact with likeminded people and if you have recently moved to a new area, these can be a great way to become part of the local community.
If you are unsure of where your nearest riding school is, The British Horse Society run a useful database of BHS Approved Establishments on their website.