I found my lesson barn in late February, about a month after I started riding again. There’s no doubt in my mind that it’s an absolute gem. It’s only eight minutes away from work, I like all of the people in the lesson program, the horses are well trained without being dead broke, and my instructor takes a personal interest in my growth as a rider. Most importantly, I never feel like my instructor is counting the minutes during my lesson or my lease time. They truly care about all of my accomplishments!
Before I found my barn, though, I went through The Search. I tried out no less than four other lesson programs, most of which were good (but not great) and some of which were, well… disastrous. One of the better barns taught me the basics of English over the course of a few months, but then kept putting me in the same formulaic walk-trot-canter-reverse-walk-trot-canter lessons, without any planned course of progression or consideration for my abilities. I turned down another barn because they started me, a rider in my twenties, out on a lunge line. Worse yet, one lesson barn’s trainer made me very uncomfortable—he spent three-quarters of the time lecturing me while I sat on the horse and then physically moved me into the right position (without consent and in a very creepy, almost suggestive way).
Needless to say, I feel pretty lucky to have found my barn.
Looking back on how I got my start after a five year hiatus has made me think about what sort of things I look for in a lesson program. The search for a good lesson barn is a common topic among both new and returning riders (I see posts about it all the time on websites like The Horse Forum, My Horse Forum, and The Chronicle Forums). Everyone wants to know what they should be looking for in a lesson barn and whether or not the negative parts of their lesson experience are just inconveniences or actual deal breakers.
Here’s a list of the big things that I was looking for:
- Good atmosphere and friendly people.
- An instructor that was both knowledgeable and relatable.
- A lesson program that was tailored to my experience and goals.
- Horses that were safe, but not trained to the point of being opinionless.
There are some very small things I would change about my lesson barn (if anyone reading this is from management and would be willing to install some Instagram-friendly lighting in the ready room instead of the bright yellow bulbs we have now, that’d be swell!), but I’m 100% satisfied with how my equestrian education is being handled by my instructor. I can’t be thankful enough for all of the fantastic, horse-loving people that have entered my life since I stumbled upon the right lesson barn.