Most stables and ranches offer horseback riding lessons to beginners. Lessons are important if you have never ridden a horse before. In addition to riding instruction, you are also taught proper handling of a horse, horse care, and safety.
First decide whether your purpose in riding is for pleasure or to participate in competitions. Begin looking for an instructor that focuses on the direction you want to go.
For example, if you want to learn to ride horseback just to trail ride, you may not need an instructor who specializes in horse training for competitions. Often times, the competition trainer may work with another trainer who specializes in the basics, so just ask for a recommendation.
An instructor does not necessarily need to be certified to be a good horseback riding instructor. When you find an instructor that seems to be compatible to your needs, ask him or her if you can contact some current or former students for a reference. Ask about their experience, education, and safety record. Watch them teach a lesson before you sign up.
Schedule a tour of the ranch or stables that the instructor is affiliated with. Make sure the horses there are well-kept and healthy. The buildings and fences should be in good repair. The place does not need to be flush with money; however, you want to make sure the owner and hands are responsible and are taking care of what they do have. You want to be taught the basics by someone who has enough passion for what they do to do it properly.
If you have no horse of your own, ask the instructor if the ranch has extra horses that you may use for lessons and for practice. If you do not own a horse, you will probably want to take several lessons per week. If you do own your own horse, one lesson per week should suffice as long as you are practicing throughout the week with your horse.
New riders need experienced, well-trained horses. The horse should be calm, confident, and healthy. Your instructor should be seasoned to read your horse’s reactions to you. For example, your instructor should pick up if you are making the horse nervous, and can advise you to change some things in your own behavior so that you and the horse can be a better team as you are learning to ride.