Horse riding for beginners - where can I practice?

The ideal place to start horse-riding is an approved riding school. They’ll have a range of horses and ponies in all shapes and sizes, with kind, steady temperaments suitable for horse-riding for beginners. You’ll be asked for your height and weight so the instructor can find your perfect match. You may find that you can ask to ride the same horse every week. 

Pick an approved riding school

When you’re searching for a riding school, it’s best to choose one that has been approved by either the British Horse Society (BHS) or the Association of British Riding Schools (ABRS). This ensures the school meets certain standards around the welfare of the horses and standard of teaching. Riding schools are inspected every year, so make sure the approval is up-to-date.

Your instructor may have a particular BHS qualification. These start at BHSPTC and progress through BHSAI, BHSII, BHSI to FBHS. A BHSPTC or BHSAI will be well equipped to teach horse-riding for beginners. 

Even with an approved school and a well-qualified instructor, horse riding can be risky due to the unpredictable nature of horses and ponies. So check your instructor has had first aid training too.

Private or group lessons?

You can choose from a private, semi-private or group lesson. In the case of horse-riding for beginners, a private lesson is really helpful. You’ll get one-to-one tuition on how to mount the horse, how to sit, and hold the reins etc. But after a couple of private lessons, you might find a semi-private where you get two or three in a lesson or a group lesson is more fun, as there will be a few of you learning together. Group lessons are also cheaper.

By the way - riding uses the muscles you never knew you had! So think about just booking a half-hour lesson for the first time. You might well ache the next day, until you've had a couple of lessons and your muscles have got used to it.

Fair-weather rider?

Part of the joy of horse-riding is getting out into the elements. But it’s not so much fun riding in the pouring rain. Some riding schools have what’s called an indoor school. This is a covered area that you can ride in, like a huge barn. It might influence your decision on where to start horse-riding. It’s likely all the schools you visit will have an all-weather surface for riding on, so you can enjoy a lesson in all weathers

Riding with a friend

If you’re lucky enough to know a friend with their own horse, happy to teach you, this can be a cheaper option. But do stay safe. Check with them that they have liability insurance. Also that they are sure their horse is safe enough for a beginner to ride. Make sure the horse you are riding isn’t fresh – hopefully he or she will have spent some time relaxing in the field beforehand. Have your friend hold the horse’s head while you get on for the first time in an enclosed space. Before you get on, make sure the chin strap of your hat is done up and your jacket is zipped up so that it doesn’t blow in the wind and spook the horse.

Help at your local stables

Many stables offer ‘own a pony or horse for a week’ deals, which can be a good way to learn more about caring for a horse and enjoy some of the perks of owning your own. They’re very sociable and can introduce you to other people you can perhaps share horse-riding lessons with.

Your stables will always be grateful for help on the yard, bringing horses in and out of the field, filling haynets and grooming. Just offer your help when you can. 

Once you start horse riding, you’ll find there are lots of opportunities to enjoy horses more and more.