6 Things to Look for When Instructor Shopping

It can be tough to find a riding instructor you really click with when you move to a new area or start a new discipline—or both, like I did. Here are a few tips I learned along the way. 

(cover image from Eurodressage)

If you want to learn how to do this, it will be easy to narrow down your options!

If you want to learn how to do this, it will be easy to narrow down your options!


What Do You Want to Learn? Setting a plan of your riding goals will help you to narrow down your options. Do you want to step up to a new level of competition? Or just start on the right foot with a new discipline? Asking these questions will help you to decide whether to run with an FEI competitor or simply a well-regarded instructor in your area. Generally it’s a good idea to avoid anyone who thinks that this is good advertisement.

How Much Will You Pay? Unfortunately, higher price doesn’t always correspond to quality instruction, and it can be extremely difficult to figure out what “quality” looks like if you’re new to horses, or new to a particular discipline. Do your research on what similar instructors charge to get a read on a fair rate.

Scheduling: Do you need the flexibility to change up your lesson times to fit with your schedule? Or do you need a set time every week? Make sure you communicate your needs to an instructor prospect to make sure your schedules will mesh.


Using your horse as shade…not the best lesson to learn


Red Flags: Before you fall in love with the price, location or anything else, decide your on dealbreakers before you step foot on the property. Do the horses look well cared for? Is the footing safe? Does the instructor forbid students from attending clinics or lessoning with other instructors? To me these are red flags, and you may have your own.

Scope Out the Territory: Once you’ve decided what you want, when you want it, and how much you’re willing to pay for it, it’s time to take an instructor prospect for a test ride. Ideally you should watch another student’s lesson before scheduling your own. This is often a good way to tell some things right away—does the trainer communicate well? Are they really teaching, or are the students simply passengers while the instructor fiddles with a cell phone? If lessons begin like this, walk away.

Does The Trainer Work for You? So if everything checks out, it’s time to take a lesson. This is when you’ll really find out if the instructor’s style works for you. At the end of a lesson, the question I like to ask is: did I learn something? Even if it’s something small, or continuing to work on a skill, in the end, that’s how I know I’m getting my money’s worth.

Do your research, stick to your guns, and be willing to try something new if you’re getting the sense it’s not working out. It’s your money, and your horse!

Go Riding.


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