Home » Do You Need Horse Riding Lessons: An Honest Answer

Do You Need Horse Riding Lessons: An Honest Answer

Once you venture into the world of horseback riding, you’ll quickly discover that there is far more to it than just hopping on your horse and galloping across the country side.  Obviously, a well trained horse is critical but all the instructors I know argue that a well trained rider is even more important.

That leads us to the crux of the matter.  Do you really need horse riding lessons to be a better rider?  Here is a quick but helpful answer.

Horse riding lessons are highly recommended to gain both foundational and advanced equestrian skills without developing bad riding habits.  Yet, not all casual riders need formal lessons to learn basic riding safety and competence.  You can establish proper riding form and valuable horse training techniques by learning from friends, quality online resources or published literature.

That is the answer as I see it.  My experience with lessons was great for my personal situation.  You certainly have different needs and riding goals, so you’ll want to keep reading to find out if you honestly need riding lessons or if lessons are a waste of your time and money.   

Are horse riding lesson actually worth it

There really is no doubt that horse riding lessons from an experienced instructor are beneficial to almost any rider.  Instead, the heart of this question is whether or not those riding lessons are worth the cost.  In other words, will you learn enough and improve your riding enough to justify regular lessons.

If you want to participate and succeed in competitive English or Western riding disciplines, you will absolutely find lessons to be worth the investment.  There are some very specific horsemanship skills that are nearly impossible to perform well without an experienced trainer to help guide you.  Without lessons, you can easily develop bad riding habits that are a detriment to your success in competition.

On the other hand, casual riders, trail riders and riders with working farm horses probably won’t get as much value from formal lessons.  Especially, with a multitude of other resources available offering basic knowledge of horse riding skills.

Casual riders are more likely to have friends or family that are casual riders as well.  You can glean enough riding wisdom from experienced friends and family to grow your horse riding competence.

When it comes to introducing kids to the equestrian world, I think riding lesson are worth the expense.  While you might be able to teach your child the basics, a riding instructor can be more adept at enforcing good riding habits.  Plus, your child might learn they don’t like riding horses all together.  A single riding lesson is a much cheaper way for you to find that out as opposed to buying a horse first.

How many lessons do I need

Once you decide that lessons are right for you, the next question is how many?  Is one or two lessons enough?  Or should you continue lessons indefinitely?

The answer is different for everyone but likely lies somewhere in the middle.  A major factor for deciding how many lessons to have is what your riding goals are.  Complete beginners wanting to learn good form might only take 2 or 3 lessons to learn all they need.  Whereas someone looking to master dressage probably needs dozens of lessons starting from the fundamentals all the way through to highly advanced riding styles.

Since there isn’t really one correct answer, use the table below as a basic guide for determining how many horse riding lessons might be right for you.

Riding DisciplineLesson FocusNumber of Lessons
Personal/RecreationalRiding form, horse handling, basic horse behavior, horse training 1-4 depending on rider goals
Regional CompetitionDiscipline fundamentals, prepping for events, advanced riding techniques, horse training, grooming for eventsAt least 10.  More if horse and rider need additional work to place in events
Top-Tier CompetitionAdvanced competition work, specialized techniques, intense rider and horse trainingAt least 25 lessons over a long period of time.  Continual lessons are advised for National shows

What will riding lessons teach me

Again, every rider has their own riding goals to strive for.  A good lesson instructor will listen to what their student expects to learn or what skills they are trying to improve.  Whether you are a complete newbie or an advanced rider, the best horse riding trainers are able to assess each individual’s weaknesses and create custom tailored lessons.

For beginners, your first lesson or two will focus on mounting and dismounting, proper riding form and learning to understand how your horse moves.  Instructors will probably use a lead rope to walk you and your horse around until you are comfortable.  Subsequent lessons start to introduce trotting and horse control with an emphasis on safe riding habits.

Riding lessons for experienced riders will be much different.  Obviously, you will skip the fundamentals (unless your trainer notices a problem) and you’ll instead work on specific riding techniques.  

Naturally, this leads to another point I want to make.  Experienced riders need to find a lesson instructor with advanced skills in the same discipline of horse riding.  If your trainer doesn’t have experience with dressage then their advise will have minimal benefit for you if dressage mastery is your goal.  No trainer is a true expert for all riding disciplines.

Do you need a horse to take lessons

A lot of people forgo riding lessons until they have their own horse.  However, you are more than welcome to take lessons without a horse of your own.  Some trainers have horses available for you to practice a variety of riding skills with.  Usually, your lesson instructor will provide a horse that fits your experience level as well.  

Keep in mind, not all instructors have horses for students to use so check with them before signing up for lessons.

Who should get riding lessons

Among the most admirable traits of any rider is their ability to recognize when they need help.  It isn’t always easy to recognize if lessons will benefit you but there are certain times when lessons are advisable.

You should get lessons if you are pursuing competitive events and you have no clue how to start.  In addition, lesson are suggested for riders who feel their skills have plateaued and need a boost from more experienced mentors.  

Kids should also get riding lessons.  How many depends on your budget and your child’s level of interest.  But either way, lessons are a great start for any young rider.

Who doesn’t need lessons

Casual riders, working farmers and trail riders really don’t need lessons to make use of their horses.  The exception to that rule is if you are having training issues with your horse.  

Riding lessons are as much about your ability to control a horse as it is about the horse’s ability to be trained.  When you hit a stumbling block for even the most casual riding disciplines, a few lessons that focus on handling your horse might be your ticket to solving the problem.

Where do I find horse riding lessons

Nearly everywhere people own horses, you’ll find local trainers willing to give lessons.  Finding reputable trainers is another matter but there are a few reliable places to start looking for a compatible trainer.  

First and foremost, a quick internet search is the best place to get an overview of riding lessons offered near you.  The downside is you won’t be able to readily assess the quality of a trainer using a Google search alone.

For a better way to find quality lessons around your area, contact local horse riding clubs, 4-H clubs or horse farms.  Barns that have stabling services often have trainers associated with them that offer some level of lessons.

To find more technique specific lessons, your best bet is to start participating in events and clubs associated with your preferred discipline.  Not only will you learn a lot from your peers but they will have better insight about which instructors are worth taking lessons from.

How much do they cost

Without question, cost is a major concern for anyone pursuing riding lessons.  

Depending on the type of lessons you need, expect to pay around $60 per hour on average.  For that price, instructors usually provide the horse (if needed) and tack.  A discount is sometimes offered if you bring your own horse and tack.  

Introductory lessons for kids don’t usually cost as much and run about $45 per hour.  

While advanced lessons with specialized training could run you a $100 or more per hour.

In many cases, instructors offer lesson packages at a discount rate compared to single lessons.  Weekly lessons for a month at a time might save you 20 percent or more overall.  Not a bad deal in my opinion.  

Group lessons are also a great way to save and many established trainers with more horses and tack provide multi-rider discounts.  This is a great option for families that want to learn to ride together.

In summary

Admittedly, horse riding lesson are not for everyone.  Yet, chances are you read this article because you are interested in learning more about riding.  Here is my final bit of advice for you.

Find out if lessons are right for you by simply taking one or two lessons.  If they don’t help you much, then you are only out $120 or so and now you know.  But if the lesson proves to be worthwhile then by all means, continue until you are confident with your new horseback riding skills.