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Am I expecting a bit much from DD's riding school?

(39 Posts)
Springersrock Fri 24-Feb-17 10:04:20

I know absolutely nothing about horse riding. Was never interested as a child so I don't have a clue.

DD 2 is 11 and started riding in April. We went to the local riding school where they suggested half hour group lessons.

10 months later, I can't say I'm all that impressed, but DD absolutely loves the place and doesn't want to change.

When we started she was in a group of 3, we're now up to 8 regularly, it has been more than that on occasion.

They all walk round the school for a bit, then take turns to trot or canter - as there's so many in the group most of the lesson is spent sitting doing nothing waiting for your turn. We've asked about longer or 1-to-1 lessons but they don't offer them

There doesn't seem to be any record keeping - if her regular teacher is off for a week the teacher taking over doesn't have a clue who's who or what they're doing.

We never get any feedback - the teacher will stand in the middle of the school and yell vague instructions, but she doesn't explain what she wants or how to do it. Just before Christmas we had a different teacher for a week who noticed that DD's heels weren't down properly and spent some time actually explaining to DD where she was going wrong and how to correct it.

There used another child with the same name as DD and every week we still get are you Child A or Child B - DD been going every week since the beginning of April and the other child hasn't been going since October. Out of everything, for some reason this pisses me off the most.

I want to change schools. I'm pissed off with paying for it, but from talking to other people, they all say this is pretty par for the course. DD loves the riding school and the horses so it's going to take some convincing for her to move


lastqueenofscotland Fri 24-Feb-17 12:39:15

it sounds pretty standard for a riding school...
Private lessons may be a slightly better option but sounds normal to me...
If it's for fun it's far more important that she enjoys it.

Springersrock Fri 24-Feb-17 13:10:18


I think she'd like to be making a bit more progress than she is.

She likes the school - she can go in at a weekend/holidays and muck out, etc which she really enjoys and she has a couple of horses that she really loves.

Progress-wise, I think she's getting a bit bored. Her group is so big now that the majority of her lesson is spent waiting for her turn. Some of the horses are really stubborn and don't want to trot or canter so some lessons are just spent walking, or waiting to walk.

There is a private teacher I've found. They're not really a riding school but will do 1-2-1 private 1 hour lessons for about the same £ which I'm trying to convince DD to do

I just can't sit there watching it anymore.

therealpippi Fri 24-Feb-17 14:27:19

Springer I have had the same issue in two riding schools.
In the end it was my daughters who got bored because after over a year after the initial they progress they kept doing the same thing, pretty much what you describe. It did piss me off too because we went regularly every week etc. We were lucky that the teacher was good and regular but still.
My lessons were good and I improved a lot but were private. The group lessons had a lot if standing about.

I had the feeling that they'd prefer kids to have their own horse there. But imo before I even think of that I'd want to be sure my child is really keen etc.

Now they want to start again. I might try a different place but I have the impression that that's what it is with riding.

Happy to be told otherwise.

Springersrock Fri 24-Feb-17 15:04:01


I guess it must be par for the course then. I just feel ripped off each week to be honest.

Another school does pony rides for a fiver in the summer/school holidays - I even think she'd get more out of them

The new place I've found is more livery with the owner doing a few 1-2-1 lessons on her own horses, might be a bit more progress.

She needs to be a bit more advanced before I even consider a horse. Neither DH or I know the first thing so it would all be on her

Noitsnotteatimeyet Fri 24-Feb-17 16:18:55

It sounds a bit rubbish to me ... at dd's riding school there's never more than 6 in a lesson and they always have the same instructor (barring illness or emergency). At the start of term we're given a lesson plan to let us know what's coming up - for example so far this term they've had a gridwork clinic, clear round jumping and a hack and for the rest of the term they're concentrating on dressage with a competition in the last lesson before Easter. The riders are all graded at different levels and when they pass a new level they get a badge and a rosette. Dd's in one of the more advanced classes and they've just started taking her to external competitions. They've got a wide range of horses there so can cater for lots of different abilities. Dd loves it and would spend every waking moment there if she could!

AChickenCalledKorma Fri 24-Feb-17 16:26:34

DD2 is also 11 and also spends a lot of time trotting around in circles. (Or in her case, getting frustrated with a particular pony who stubbornly refuses to trot round in circles.) They do keep them moving most of the time, though - they aren't sitting around watching each other. The whole ride is generally on the move at the same time (with the exception of stubborn pony incidents ...)

Her group is never more than 5 and sometimes only 2 or 3. They are very flexible about cancellations, so lots of people don't go every week.

The teaching quality is variable to say the least. One teacher is very good at talking to them individually about posture etc. Others are more of the "lean-on-the-fence-and-bellow" variety. On a good day they have a reasonable variety of exercises to do, including trotting over poles, figures of eight etc. Cantering is very limited. Sometimes they do balance exercises in the saddle. But trotting in a circle is definitely the main activity.

I wish they were able to groom the ponies etc - that sounds good - and I wish they'd occasionally have some little competitions etc. But to be honest, it's the cheapest stables in the area and she likes it, so I'll live with the monotony!

TheresHensInTheSkirting Fri 24-Feb-17 16:32:07

Bobbing about on ponies is a huge part of the fun. I wonder if you put her in a 121 class if she'd enjoy it quite as much because she'd have to work so much harder and concentrate so much more.
Also, they are still learning and gaining experience even when to the onlooker nothing much is happening.
Maybe try a 121 every month or 6 weeks, skipping the group lesson that week.

therealpippi Fri 24-Feb-17 17:05:38

Notitsnot your riding school sound fab. I bet it's nowhere near me...

Springersrock Fri 24-Feb-17 17:11:11

Noitsnot. That sounds fab! As a complete riding dunce, that is the kind of thing I was expecting to be honest. Like when DD1 did ballet

It's really vague and disorganised, and they still don't know whether my DD is Jane A or Jane B after 10 months.

It's pissing me off

Springersrock Fri 24-Feb-17 17:14:21

My take on it is....

the riding school is quite popular. It's the most local, well advertised, popular one and it quite over subscribed.

I get the impression that they're trying to keep the kids all at one level so they can move them up in big groups. Trouble is, more new children join the group so they keep holding them back

I know a couple of other parents are in agreement, but again, their kids like the school so they keep going

therealpippi Fri 24-Feb-17 17:23:33

The things that I don't get re riding schools compared to other sports is how little they plan especially in rel to the cost. Dd swimming, gymn, dance etc is £7 an hour and very irganised. The riding would be at least £20 and often is done by young girls with no planning etc. And this without considering the safety aspect.

I don't know, it's seems a bit a world of its own.

To compare with another 'dangerous' and expensive sport, I took dc to skiing lessons and it was well organised, with a set plan to move them forward and for them to reach a level in which they were able to be independent. I'd have thought the same would be for riding (albeit on a much slower pace of course).

(If anyone can suggest good riding school around north london...)

Pollyanna9 Fri 24-Feb-17 17:25:36

I used to work as a (fully qualified) riding instructor. Saturday kids lessons were always full up to 10 at a time. If all you do is get them going round in a circle all they ever do is end up walking round or trotting round waiting for their go.

It's poor teaching/lesson construction.

They could be doing even with a class of 8 or 10:
going over trotting poles/small jumps
setting up a small jumping course
teaching them how to turn on the forehand
teaching them some of the 'moves' you do when riding dressage (turns down the centre line, 20m circles, 10m circles etc)
they should always be explaining about correct riding position
talking about and discussing tack and they could show them how to put on and take off a saddle/bridle
drill rides (adults and children alike usually love this!) where they have to ride side by side in pairs and cut across between each other like a quadrille type display (great, great fun!)

It would certainly be worth asking around at a couple of other schools and ask them what types of activities do they actually do in their lessons for kids this age. To some extent the class size isn't the issue, it's what they're doing with those children (or not doing). It's not uncommon if you get lots of children wanting to ride on a Sat morning, you'll end up with different abilities. But quite simply, any decent instructor will soon learn which ones have a more advanced experience and who don't and they will simply add in challenges for the better ones and insist on things being more and more correct, precise and accurate for the better ones (which is also useful learning for the ones who are still relatively new to it).

So jumping for example can easily be accomplished and keep everyone happy whether they can only go over a trotting pole or if they can jump a 4ft fence!

It does sound like it's the instruction and lesson planning that's lacking. Is the instructor a BHSAI or BHSIT or BHSII??? Not always do 'instructors' go through a formal training and even then, their ability to actually teach can still be variable.

Floralnomad Fri 24-Feb-17 17:32:49

It sounds crap , but 30 mins is not really long enough for a group lesson with anything other than very young beginners . However you do need to check that any private individuals teaching on their own horse / pony have appropriate insurance cover , which I would doubt . The fact that they let the kids go and help is probably what attracts your DD and you may not get that so much at a bigger ,more professional school , depending on how much you pay could she have a private lesson every week or 2 somewhere better and still have her little group lesson where she is , you may find after a few weeks that she prefers to just go where she gets better quality teaching .

venys Fri 24-Feb-17 17:33:02

Does.the school do BHS exams? At my last riding school at least doing each level gave people something to aim towards. I had my own horses as a teenager. I have to admit going to a riding school for a group lesson each week as an adult I didn't really learn anything. I was used to a certain level of fitness and ability with my own horse, and the plodders at the school did nothing for me. I went for social reasons really. So I would suggest if you want your daughter to progress, start with BHS exams, and at a school that does a variety of activities - dressage, show jumping,, games, hacking etc. After which get your own horse if you can afford it both financially and time wise and make sure your stables have good facilities to practise.

Sadik Fri 24-Feb-17 17:41:38

Nothing like dd's riding school - and they are working in pretty difficult circumstances as we're a tourist /second home area so a lot of flux in who is riding week on week (esp as wages generally low so many local people can only afford say 1 or 2 lessons a month for dc).

All lessons are taught by the lady who owns the stables. Her assistants do lead hacks, but they definitely know all the regular riders. Riders matched to horses/ponies and moved around to stretch them / help learn different skills.

Lessons would be a max of 6 I'd say, and on the whole of roughly the same ability level, with the exception that generally within that 6 there will be at least one assistant riding a horse in need of schooling and also there to demonstrate correct ways of doing things. Often out of season there's only 3 or 4 in the lesson but obviously that's an advantage of living here!

They are definitely worked hard and learn new skills all the time - dd often comes out of a lesson slightly cross eyed from concentrating grin

However I do strongly wonder about the economics of the lessons - the stable owner is also master of the local hunt and there are second home owners horses on tack, so I suspect that's what makes it all add up financially . . .

Springersrock Fri 24-Feb-17 17:42:00

Thanks all!

No, they don't do any exams. They advertise as a 'BHS approved riding centre'

With one teacher they had, she kept the whole class moving while they took it in turns to trot or canter. When it was DD's turn to canter, the rest of them trotted round if that makes sense. The've not done it since. They just stand and wait for their turn.

Only 1 teacher has ever corrected her posture or foot position - after 8 months of lessons!

She finds some of the horses really frustrating - there's one particular horse and my heart sinks every time I see her on it. It won't even trot.

I've heard lots of good things about the new place, it's more of a grubby word of mouth place than a shiny website place. They are properly insured and qualified so I have no worries there, it's just convincing DD to give it a go

happygardening Fri 24-Feb-17 18:11:02

I'd be very careful about using a privately owned horse, riding school horses are deliberately kept slightly underfed and overworked so that they are quiet and are used to lots of people getting on their backs. Most privately owned horses are over fed and under exercised and are not used to lots of people getting on their backs. Riding stables at the very least are licensed and this means the horses are checked over by the councils vet, BHS approved stables are also inspected this sadly doesn't guarantee excellence but it helps. Riding stables have a duty of care to provide a safe horse for its clients and all should have indemnity insurance at the very least. Accidents do happen I'm afraid. A private individual is unlikely to have indemnity insurance this is essential and has no duty of care.
Is your DD's instructor qualified she should have her PTT at the very least, ask as should a private instructor.
Can you find another stables? Start a thread on here asking for a recommend in your area.

Pollyanna9 Fri 24-Feb-17 19:22:54

I didn't mean does the riding school teach people how to teach riding, I mean is the teacher qualified. To not help with postural tips is absolutely shite and I cannot believe that this person has gone through all the teaching exams. If they are BHS approved as they claim they will be registered with the British Horse Society - something you can check.

Yes that is normal that when one canters the others trot - that's totally normal. However along with that she should be hearing "good girl well done keep your heels down, don't look down always look ahead where you're going" that kind of thing.

Sadly there are always going to be more annoying horses and ponies. It can be difficult because as an instructor you are never going to get every group of horses all absolutely perfect. Part of learning to ride is dealing with slovenly horses, horses that are strong, horses that nap (this does not mean falling asleep btw!!), horses that are v sensitive etc. Part of what you do as an instructor is help that rider to learn how to ride these different types. What does this pony do when your daughter's riding him/her?

Pollyanna9 Fri 24-Feb-17 19:30:09

I can't agree with the statement that riding school horses are kept underfed and overexercised! That's not practice in ANY decent riding school that's for sure. Riding school horses and your typical riding school pony works hard having to cope with horribly unbalanced riders smashing up and down on their backs and virtually ripping their teeth out and giving conflicting aids so the animal doesn't know what the rider wants which are part and parcel of carrying novice riders. And huge numbers of them are VERY experienced animals who are poppets who look after their charges and are forgiving and generous in how they transport their riders around.

I do agree with the comparison you're drawing between a riding school horse and a privately owned one (aside from what I've said above!) in terms of the private horse/pony will not be used to a wide variety of people riding them and may not be as 'un-shy' as a riding school horse eg you could probably walk quietly up to the rear end of a riding school horse and it wouldn't flinch whilst one less used to the comings and goings of young humans might either kick them or run a mile so there is definitely a difference.

The issue of a private person not being insured is all well and good until an accident happens. Let us not forget that horses are VERY unpredictable and accidents and falls off can and do happen.

SnugglyBedSocks Fri 24-Feb-17 19:44:21

My son and I both ride. Our school has a max of 6 per lesson. They also offer privates, semi privates and hacks.

They also run pony club and fun days, camps and tot groups.

I just assumed that a riding instructor would have qualifications......however on speaking to my instructor ( who is qualified) apparently that is not the case!

I think the rules on that are changing this year.

I don't want to put on here where I am based but if you want to know please inbox me

Springersrock Fri 24-Feb-17 19:44:41

Yes that is normal that when one canters the others trot - that's totally normal

That has only ever happened one week, with one teacher. The normal teacher, and every other cover teacher has made them all stand in a line and wait their turn.

It was actually a lot better when they were all kept moving, DD enjoyed it more as she got to ride, rather than just sit on a horse for 20 minutes.

I've just had a look on their website and they name 1 instructor who is BHSAI qualified, but she's not DD's regular teacher.

The new stables are BHS registered and the teacher is BHSI. They are fully insured, but she usually teaches people on their own horses but she does have horses of her own to teach on. I have checked it out


Springersrock Fri 24-Feb-17 19:52:47

With the stubborn horse - it's a nightmare to get him to trot, she'll try and kick him into trot, but she's not really getting any instruction from the teacher as to how to do it, so before you know it, she's done her circuit and her turn is all over.

Pollyanna9 Fri 24-Feb-17 20:09:52

So with lazy pony, your DD should have a riding crop? Does she have one? She should be given advice to keep the reins short, good firm close contact with the legs, good couple of kicks appropriate to a horse who possibly has sides made of lead (!) and a crack of the riding crop just behind the left and a firmly shoudl "TROT ON!". Also where you position yourself as an instructor can have a HUGELY beneficial effect! With a horse like this you'd have seen me right NEXT to that pony with MY long dressage whip at the ready and that pony would bloody well know that I was there and I'd give a little flick of the whip in that general direction at the same time as the rider used their aids, and hey presto the pony would be off.

AI means assistant instructor (doesn't mean you can't be a good instructor at that level because you can) but for some instructors it's just that they got into riding school work as a groom then they started to do a bit of teaching and it's a funny old world the horse world anyway and it attracts all sorts. Some as PPs have said have switched on to the studying for the entry level BHS exams which gives you that mixture of riding proficiency, stable knowledge, horse knowledge etc so it means they have to be working towards something although at the time I was teaching they didn't have that but I knew what all my riders were capable of even if there were 8 or 10 of them in the class, knew the rider's personalities those who were timid, those who were confidence, which ponies they were riding, what we did last week and was always moving them on and teaching them more and more - so even without them doing that, it just sounds like not a nasty or intended, but just a generally low level of teaching ability and planning.

I have never ever ever ever ever ever in all my time had riders canter one at a time! If the rest of the class were on average still very unable to control their horses in trot, then I might make them walk while people cantered one by one until their proficiency got a bit better that the ones trotting were basically able to keep that going whilst the other one cantered. You do this with everyone in trot so that they person cantering gets enough of a journey round the enclosure for it to be worthwhile - or it's a blinkin' short few strides and canter is such a rhythmical pace it's a shame to not have chance to get into the swing of it.

Pollyanna9 Fri 24-Feb-17 20:11:25

Just behind the leg, not the left - sorry! And shout trot on not shoudl -sorry it's the brain fog of menopause kicking in once again. Can't even type any more!

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