As an equestrian who doesn’t own her own horse, I have spent hours and hours trying to find the best possible barn to take lessons at. Riders that have their own horses may have a different set of priorities when looking at barns to board their horses. This post will focus primarily on lessoning and leasing riders.
Before I go any further, all of this advice is from my own experience and is meant to be helpful!
When looking for a place to take lessons you have two best friends: Google and your actual best friend.
Whether you are a first time rider or have been riding for years, when looking into a new barn: Google it. Google long and hard! I cannot say how many hours I have spent looking at barns within a 50 mile radius of my town in hopes of stumbling upon a gem. At any one time I will have between two and six links on my desktop of “potential” barns. (yes, judge me, I’m a barn hopper!)
The second thing you should do is ask your horsey best friend for her input. If you are new to riding, go to the closest tack store and start chatting with the employees–they ride too! Lucky for me, my best friend also rides and she is always eager to spend hours talking horses/barns/etc.
After you’ve done your initial google search and talked with some people, email or call the potential barn. Inquire about a rate sheet if they have one (a complete list of all their services including lesson costs). Only you will know the typical cost of lessons in your area (if you’re a current rider) and if you don’t try to do some research beforehand so you’re informed. **Where I live in Connecticut, lessons are anywhere from $60-$120 depending on private vs. group, 30 min vs. 1 hour but everywhere is different**
Once you’ve found a potential barn that you’re interested in, VISIT! Either call and schedule a visit if necessary, or stop by anytime if you’re allowed. I’ve found that some barns may appear perfect from the description and pictures but a visit might show something you wouldn’t realize (like the indoor is a million miles away from the barn!). While you’re there, try to talk with some lesson riders (or even boarders) to see what they like/dislike about the barn.
If you enjoyed your visit, the next step is to take a lesson at the new barn. Almost more important than the barn itself is how your first lesson at the new barn goes. As a strictly lesson rider, you don’t have to worry so much about the size of the tack room, number of wash stalls, or type of hay they feed because you won’t be boarding a horse. If there are multiple trainers at the barn, find out if one teaches your preferred discipline, or try a lesson with each one to see who you mesh with the best. **Some barns have head trainers that only teach the show riders or boarders and assistant trainers teach the schooling riders**
After your first lesson or two, carefully evaluate your experience.
- Did you like the trainer’s style of teaching?
- Did you get along with the school horse or horses that you rode?
- Did you feel safe at all times?
- Is the commute to the barn reasonable for weekly lessons?
- Are you comfortable with the price of the lessons?
Finally, if you feel that this is going to be “your barn,” ask the barn manager, head trainer, or owner about lesson packages. Often times barns will have a special buy 5 lessons, get the 6th free or something similar if you pay for a number of lessons ahead of time.
I hope this post has been helpful to fellow lesson riders like me. I have been taking riding lessons for 8 years…and like I said before, I’m ashamedly a barn hopper. The first barn for 4 years, the second for 1 year, the third for 2 years, and the fourth for 1 year. This post is at the perfect time considering I have to move barns yet again. 😦
Whatever barn you end up choosing, remember that you should always expect excellent treatment. I don’t mean that you get waited on hand and foot by a groom, but you should never feel you are being skimped in your lessons, mistreated, or disrespected. You can always leave your current barn if you feel for any reason that you aren’t satisfied with your lessons, remember YOU are paying to ride there so why shouldn’t you have a fabulous experience?