You can learn so much from your first riding experience!
For most beginners this will be completely different to any other activity they have tried before. To help with this, here is a guide explaining what to expect when it comes to your first lesson.
Booking your first lesson
When you come to book your first lesson it is likely that you will be asked a number of questions. These are designed to ensure that you are partnered with the right horse and are put into a class with people of a similar ability. Alternatively, if you want to have a one-to-one lesson to begin with you can enquire about booking a private lesson.
Here are some of the questions they are likely to ask:
- What is your riding ability - have you had any past experience?
- What is your age, height and weight? (If you do not know your height and weight then its likely you will get asked to jump on the scales when you get to the riding centre)
These are some questions you might want to ask the riding centre before you arrive:
- Do you have riding hats and other safety equipment that I can borrow?
- Who is your riding school accredited by? (We recommend that you use a Member Body of the British Equestrian Federation [BEF] accredited facility such as The British Horse Society, the Association of British Riding Schools, The Pony Club or Riding for the Disabled Association)
Arriving on the yard
When you have arrived head to the reception area or find a helpful member of staff. For your safety you should avoid heading into any fields or approaching the horses before you know if it is safe to do so. Once you have been greeted by a member of staff they will help you get ready for your first riding lesson. You will normally be met by the yard owner, manager or a senior instructor.
They will ask you to fill out a rider registration form before you get on, this will ask for information such as contact details and any medical conditions that your instructor needs to be aware of.
Getting kitted out
Most centres will be able to provide you with a riding hat if you don't have your own, but we recommend that you check with them when you book. The teaching staff should all be trained in fitting a hat correctly and they will help to ensure that it looks in good condition, has the correct safety standard and that it is comfortable for you.
Meeting your mount
When meeting your horse for the first time, approach them calmly but with confidence, ask the staff if there is anything that they particularly like or dislike - some horses love having lots of fuss and others prefer their own space. Horses and ponies have limited vision directly in front of them so talking to them softly as you get closer will ensure they know you are coming and won’t startle them.
Remember to NEVER approach a horse from behind.
Similar to many other animals, horses rely on smell so let them get a good sniff of you. If they are interested in your hands then just hold your palm out flat.
Most horses love to be patted on the neck and shoulders - this is used as positive reinforcement when they have done something right, your instructor will remind you throughout your lessons to pat your horse.
Be aware of where your feet are, despite their size horses are very agile and can move quickly so ensure you keep a good distance between your feet and theirs to avoid any trodden toes.
Getting on and off
Your instructor will take you through the process step by step, from getting into the saddle, how to hold the reins, how to place your feet in the stirrups and what body position you should have in the saddle. You will have a leader who will hold on to the horse at all times, controlling them so that you can concentrate on learning the commands.
Getting off correctly is just as much of a skill as getting on so wait for your instructor to show you how!
Your horse will now need to be untacked, cooled down and put away. Most centres welcome help from their clients and this is a great way to learn more about your horse. This will also help give you more confidence when you are next around them.
Remember there are no silly questions. If you don't understand something or if you feel uncomfortable or nervous then let the instructor know and they will help answer any questions to ease your worries.