It doesn’t matter whether you’re brand new to riding or you just want to brush up on some flatwork: if you’ve decided to take lessons, you’ll need to feel confident you are in good hands. There are poor quality teachers out there but they can be avoided.
Firstly, you absolutely must make sure you go to a British Horse Society (BHS) or Association of British Riding Schools (ABRS)-approved riding school that has a good local reputation and BHS-qualified, registered instructors, so do your homework before you book in.
Once you’ve located the right place, you need to visit and watch the instructors at work because they will all have different styles of teaching. Some will be gently encouraging and others will push you harder; have a think about which kind of approach you prefer, and make sure you get an instructor who will get the best out of you.
You also need to decide between individual or group lessons, or a combination of the two. Individual lessons mean you get exclusive attention and make progress more quickly. Group lessons are cheaper and fun, and you can often benefit from the advice others receive but you’re also less likely to improve as fast.
All beginners have individual lessons to start with. If it’s your first time, make sure the instructor is very clear about what they are asking you to do. If you finish the lesson feeling frustrated because you didn’t understand what was being asked of you, it’s not your fault and you might want to look for someone else to work with.
Riders with previous experience will initially be assessed in an individual session when they start at a new school but can then move into group lessons if they wish. Groups can be useful for adults or children returning to lessons because they will be able to practice with a little bit of guidance, according to Emma Harford, an instructor at the Talland School of Equitation in Gloucestershire.
If you already have experience, you may want to work on particular skills: perhaps you’ve always hacked out but want to work on some of the finer points of schooling or try some jumping. You will be able to discuss all this with your instructor once you’ve had your first couple of lessons and they should develop a programme tailored specifically to you.
Prices depend hugely on where you are in the country; learning in Liverpool is much cheaper than learning in London. A 60-minute private lesson for a child starts at around £30 and group lessons start at around £20. Adults will usually pay from £35 up to around £50 for a private 60-minute lesson and from £30 for group tuition.
Expect to pay significantly more in London, where prices vary from just under £50 to well over £100 for an hour’s private lesson. As a rule, the further you are from the centre, the cheaper lessons will be, although this isn’t always the case.
Both in London and elsewhere, some places have a membership programme which reduces prices for those who join. Other schools offer packages of lessons at a discounted price and it’s worth asking about a programme which will suit your budget — the thing about lessons is you need to keep having them!