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We have collated answers to a number of questions typically asked when you first venture forth into the world of Horse Riding.
In SchoolsOn, we agree with the adage "the only dumb question is the question you don't ask!"

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Horse Riding for Beginners Ė FAQ - (Stage 1)

Am I ready for Horse Riding?
Lets first see whether you are ready for horse riding.

What is the right age to start riding? Horse riding requires a combination of physical strength, mental and emotional maturity. Each child matures differently, so it is difficult to say at what age a child is ready for horse riding. Australian horse riding centres have a minimum age of 6 before they allow children to ride a horse on their own. Children may start earlier if they are led, supervised or instructed in an enclosed area.

Am I too small or big for the horse? Weight, size and strength will determine if you are the right size for the horse. While horses are able to carry the weight of riders, some people are too large (height or weight) or small for the size of horse. For example, if you are too large for the horse, you could injure yourself, the horse or put unnecessary pressure on the horseís spine.

Alternatively, the riders legs need to be long and strong enough to clear the saddle, kick, squeeze or move the horse and balance the rider. Arms need to have sufficient strength to slow, stop, steer or guide the horse.

How often should I attend lessons? You will get more out of your lessons if you attend classes on a weekly basis. Regular lessons will provide you with the correct skills and muscle development necessary for you to enjoy your horse riding safely.

What to wear
Safety is of utmost importance when choosing suitable horse riding clothes and equipment. Here are a few points to look out for.

Helmets: The wearing of Helmets is compulsory. The recommended type of helmet should be an industry standard AS/NZS 3838 helmet with an effective chinstrap that is fastened before mounting a horse. Riders should ensure helmets are correctly fitted to feel snug on the head, they should not fall forward over the eyes or behind the head. White or black helmets are the usual colours with an optional sun protection brim attached to them. They can be bought at most horse riding stores.

Riding boots: Boots should be fully enclosed elastic sided, ankle or full-length with reasonably smooth soles and a small heel. Joggers, school shoes and sandals are not suitable.

Riding pants: Long pants, preferably jodhpurs or jeans are suitable. Darker coloured pants are more practical.

Riding shirt: Long sleeved shirts with a collar are preferable and offer the best protection against sunburn and abrasions.

Sunscreen: Should be applied to exposed skin such as hands, face, neck, etc.

Sunglasses: Need to be well fitting and preferable not made of hard rigid materials that can break, shatter or cut a rider in case of a fall.

Jackets: Should not be loose, flapping or noisy, ie; Plastic raincoats are not suitable for riders and may cause the horse to take fright.

Jewellery: All forms of jewellery are not recommended as they may get caught in the saddlery, broken or damaged by the horse. This includes; earrings, bracelets, necklaces, rings etc.

Riding gloves: Are optional, these can protect riderís hands from being chaffed.

Riding croup: May sometimes be necessary however riders should first seek approval from the instructor or horse riding school before using a riding croup. Usage will depend on the horse, instructor and riding conditions.

Mobile phones: Are not recommended. They can be bulky to wear and may cause the horse to take fright.

Backpacks/Hand bags/purses/wallets: Are not recommended as these can get in the way of the lesson and can cause distraction.

Drinks: Horse riding is a vigorous form of exercising, therefore riders should ensure sufficient fluid intake (preferably water) as with most exercises.

How to select a Horse Riding School
Horse riding schools will vary in size, number and type of facilities, type of lessons and purpose. The following is a list of questions for you.

Insurance: Horse riding schools need to abide to Government, industry and insurance guidelines to ensure that safe riding standards are practised. Horse riding schools need to have a current public liability insurance policy at all times.

Type of riding lessons: Lessons are important to build confidence, safety and understanding through encouraging and nurturing the potential of the rider. There are many types of horse riding lessons to choose from, they range from; dressage, show riding, western pleasure, trail riding, etc. The best advice is to find an instructor who understands what you are looking for and can offer the right type of riding lessons to suit you.

Size of classes: Beginner riders need extra attention with lots of explanation of horse terminology and the mechanics of horses. The class size should be small - preferably no more than 6 riders in a beginners class.

Size and type of schooling arena: Lessons should be held in a safe learning environment preferably in an enclosed arena, or separated from other riders. Arenas may vary in size, arena surface, under cover, enclosed or open, and they may include obstacles such as cavalettis, poles, markers, barrels, or witches hats etc. It is recommended that lessons are held where distractions are limited and riders can clearly hear the instructor.

How do I find a good instructor? First you need to decide what type of horse riding lessons you are looking for, then find a suitable instructor. Some times an instructor may have qualifications but they are not a good communicator. The trick is to find a balance between skill level, empathy and the ability to impart knowledge. Proven experience in horse riding and horse management will be beneficial too. Another way to select an instructor is to talk to previous or current students and observe how the studentís ride.

Qualifications of instructors: All instructors should also have a current 1st Aid Certificate. They will usually have qualifications in horse riding instruction through organisations such as; Pony Club Australia (PCA), Equestrian Federation of Australia (EFA) or Australian Horse Riding Centres (AHRC) or they may be a talented communicator. Each organisation has their own method of rating and accrediting instructors.

Breed, size and temperament of horses: As a beginner rider, you need to start with a slow, calm, horse. The size of the horse is not necessarily an indicator of how quiet the horse is (temperament), however it is well known that some breeds of horses are more highly strung, such as thoroughbreds, ponies and Arabs, although this is not always the case.

How long do I need to take lessons?: It is very important not to overestimate your horse riding ability, as tempting as it may sometimes be. As a general rule, a strong rider is someone who can get a slow horse to move freely, and slow a fast horse down. Until you reach that point you are still learning.

Price: Horse-riding lessons vary according to the type, level, instructor and length of lesson. The usual riding lesson lasts for 1 hour. Prices may range from $40.00 to $90.00 per hour. In some cases, the price may vary depending on the number of students in each class. Leading Australian instructors or International guest instructors may run special half day or full day clinics, the price for these range from $100.00 upwards.

Other activities: If you are a horse lover, chances are you are looking for other horse related activities other than horse riding. This may include; feeding, veterinary care, stable management, cleaning saddlery (tack), Gymkhanas, sports or games days, trail riding, Pony Club, Shows, Polo, Polocrosse, etc. Ask about any other activities your Riding School may offer.

Kids Camps: Riding Schools frequently hold School holiday camps for children who want to learn more about horse riding and horse care. The Kids camps vary from 2 days to 2 weeks. Children can book in and camp or stay overnight at the horse riding school. They learn and experience the discipline of horse management ie; grooming, cleaning, feeding, watering and generally looking after a horse. They are a lot of fun but parents need to book well in advance to secure a place.


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