Getting Started

LEARNING TO RIDE – FIRST STEPS

So your child loves horses and has expressed a desire to ride? Or maybe you as adult want to start the sport of equestrian and you are not sure where to begin? You don’t have to incur the expenses of buying and boarding a horse to learn to ride. Taking lessons at a facility which offers school horses can be the best way for you and yours to begin their equestrian journey. Choosing a riding facility can seem like a daunting task but there are things you can look for and questions you can ask to help you make an informed decision.

For a listing of some facilities which offer lessons in Manitoba, you can go to www.manitobaequinedirectory.ca and look through the businesses listed there to see which ones offer school horses or beginner programs. (MHC cannot recommend any particular facility - see our Help Me Find a Coach page for more tips on choosing a riding facility)

Find out about the lesson program and the credentials of the instructors/coaches teaching lessons. Find out if they have experience teaching beginner riders and if they are certified and current.

The Manitoba Horse Council highly recommends working with certified coaches who maintain their “active” to ensure their first aid certificate and training is current. All active certified coaches are listed on the Current NCCP Coaches page. Asking for references can also be helpful when looking for an instructor/coach.

CHOOSING A RIDING FACILITY

  • Does the facility and lesson program look professional, safe and well managed?
  • Aisleways and any areas where the horses are being handled should be tidy and free of objects which could be tripping hazards.
  • Riders should be supervised by a qualified person while handling the horses, including grooming, tacking, mounting and dismounting. The instructor or coach should also do a safety check of the rider’s tack before the lessons begin.
  • The arena should be enclosed by a fence, wall or gates that are closed during the lesson, and only lesson equipment should be in the arena such as trot and jumping poles, jump standards, jump filler (boxes, flowers etc.)/safety cones/markers.
  • Group lessons should not exceed 8 riders but any size group should have enough room to ride safely together.
  • What personal equipment do I need to ride?
  • Riders should all have proper safe riding attire. All riders should wear long pants, fitted shirts, an approved ASTM riding helmet and boots with a half-inch to one-inch heel to avoid the foot from slipping through the stirrup. Riders should NOT wear running shoes, shorts or helmets made for other sports.
  • Is the instructor/coach certified to teach riding lessons?
  • Do the school horses look healthy and well behaved?
  • Horses used in schooling lessons comes in all shapes and sizes and different breeds. The primary talents of a good beginner school horse are good manners and an even forgiving temperament. The horse should be well fed, relatively clean with no untreated cuts or wounds. They should walk freely and willingly (not lame).
  • Are there rules about parental involvement, such as watching lessons?
  • Stables and coaches will have different rules about how closely a parent or friend is involved during tacking, lessons and untacking. For your own safety and for the safety of others you should stay out of the ring or arena during lessons. Some facilities will have a designated viewing area for you to watch from.
  • Observe a beginner lesson. How does the instructor/coach interact with the riders?

There are many teaching styles among coaches. A good coach or instructor will recognize the needs of their students and make adjustments to help them learn and be successful. You should discuss your expectations with your prospective coach and, when watching their lesson, look for a theme or goal in the lesson. Some coaches will be more explicit than others, but it helps the students if they understand the goals of the lesson and how the exercises help achieve that goal.

WHY CHOOSE A CERTIFIED COACH?

The National Coaching Certification Program (NCCP) is a government initiated program designed to give the public safe, qualified instructors and coaches at every level of all sports.
Teachers have a significant responsibility. With thousands of Canadian children and adults involved in riding lessons yearly, the stables, instructors and coaches that service these riders have a duty to provide, safe qualified and professional service.

WHAT IS A CERTIFIED COACH?

Certification as an Instructor or Coach demonstrates that the individual is professional and accountable, and abides by the standards of ethics and the Equine Code of Conduct. They are also skilled in first aid and safety procedures. A certified instructor or coach also has the equestrian knowledge and technical competency, as well as a commitment to completing the testing process and continue to maintain skills through ongoing training and education.

WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT LEVELS OF COACHING CERTIFICATION?

INSTRUCTOR OF BEGINNER
This program is focused on those who wish to take on the instruction of children and adults learning to ride with the goal of teaching foundational riding skills with an eye on safety.

COMPETITION COACH
This program is focused on those who are interested in coaching riders in the competitive environment. Competition coaches have more advanced skills in the development of training programs tailored for individual competitors and can provide performance analysis and assist with mental preparation for competitions.

COMPETITION SPECIALIST COACH
This program is a further progression of the Competition Coach program and is focused on riders competing at the provincial and national levels. In addition to the skills of a competition coach, a working knowledge of the Equestrian Canada competition rules for the level and discipline they are teaching is required.

HIGH PERFORMANCE COACH
This program is administered by Equestrian Canada. These coaches specialize in developing athletes who are preparing for competition at the national and international levels.


 

RIDER CERTIFICATION PROGRAMS

Riders who want to track their progress and test their skills may want to participate in a rider certification program.

P’tit Trot is an introductory program for children 5 years of age or older who love horses and want to learn about riding and caring for horses. The P’tit Trot handbook introduces beginners to the basics of English and Western and how to care for a horse or pony. This programs is fun and educational, designed to introduce children to horses, to prepare for activities offered at riding camps and as preparation to begin the

Equestrian Canada Learn to Ride program

Learn to Ride is a non- competitive national program for both English and Western riders to teach safe horsemanship and practices. Both recreational and competitive riders are rewarded with Certificates of Achievement for advancing their learning.

Western Learn to Ride is bases on the Western Learn to Ride and Intermediate Rider manuals which evaluate an individual’s skills through levels 1-4, as well as an intermediate level and covers a variety of areas.
English Rider Level 1-10 has been designed to help riders who would like to advance their riding skills on the flat but may not want to continue to over fences. Participants will have the option at Rider Level 3 to either take the full ridin phase or only the flat section.

Pony Club

Pony Club is a member-based National association mandated to serve the needs of Canadian youth, ages 6 to 25 years of age, who are interested in riding, learning about and/or caring for horses or ponies. The Canadian Pony Club curriculum has been carefully designed to give members a solid foundation of Horsemanship and Stable management knowledge and skills. The gradual progression of difficulty guides and prepares members to successfully achieve testing levels from Beginner through to Advanced. Although testing is not mandatory, it is encouraged to help set benchmarks for Members. The program is often drawn parallel with grade school through to University

There are also Learn to Ride programs currently under development for the disciplines of Saddle Seat and Driving and Endurance.

If you or your child is interested in learning more about the above programs please visit the Manitoba Horse Council’s website at www.manitobahorsecouncil.ca or call 204 925- 5719


 

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Q: What can I expect at my first riding lesson?
A: Riding lesson formats vary. You may not even ride at your first lesson. Initial lessons typically focus on grooming and handling in order to teach the preparation of the horse for riding and safe handling techniques on the ground. Ask your instructor or coach when you schedule your first lesson how long the lesson will be and what you can expect to learn.

Q: Will I need to buy a saddle or a bridle?
A: Your riding school should provide all the necessary tack for the horse you will be riding.

Q: My child wants to ride and I would like to try it too, are riding lessons just for kids?
A: Riding lessons are for everyone! Regardless of your age or experience level, riding lessons will enable you to develop correct skills in a safe environment. A certified instructor/coach has the training necessary to tailor a lesson plan to your needs, learning style and abilities. AEF has individual and family memberships!

Q: I am not interested in showing. Should I still take lessons?
A: Of course! Everyone has their own riding goals and a certified instructor/coach will be able to design a lesson program to help you achieve them. Riding lessons give you the knowledge and skills needed to be a safe and effective rider no matter what discipline you ride or how you choose to enjoy your horse. Goal-oriented riders may be interested in the Learn to Ride program. For more information on the Learn to Ride program, see page 18.

Q: How old does my child need to be to participate in riding lessons?
A: A certified instructor/coach can help you determine if, and when, your child is ready. The age at which a child is ready to take riding lessons depends on the individual. Every child matures differently, both physically and mentally, and this needs to be taken into consideration.

Q: How old is too old to take up riding?
A: Riding has no age restrictions, it’s for the young and the young at heart! There is something for everyone whether you choose recreationally or competitively. The bond and mutual trust between horses and humans can be absolutely amazing. Why not give it a try!

Q: Should I buy a horse?
A: Horse ownership is extremely rewarding. However, it also requires a major commitment. Financial considerations such as if you plan to keep the horse at home, outdoor boarding, indoor boarding will have an impact. In almost all cases, expenses to be considered are boarding, hay, bedding, feed, supplements, water, equipment such as hoses, shovels, pitch forks, etc. Keep in mind that horse owners should always have a bank account reserved for unexpected expenses, such as emergency veterinary bills, dental, farrier and yearly vaccines. Leasing or part boarding a horse is also an option that may make the investment easier.

 

 

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