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What to Expect From a "Trial" or One Time Riding Lesson

Updated on July 1, 2019
Ellison Hartley profile image

Ellison is a professional horse trainer and riding instructor. She runs a summer camp program and offers kids a safe introduction to horses.


A One Time Riding Experience

Running a lesson program, we have semesters throughout the year. Our students pay for the semester up front. If they miss a lesson, they get two make-ups per semester.

What about those people we have that call and just want a one time ride? I have had phone calls from grandparents with grandchildren visiting. People going on vacations where they were doing a ride and wanted to get familiar with it beforehand. We have parents who call unsure about if their child will want to do it. They ask if we can do a one time lesson, just to see if it is something their child really wants to do. All of these situations are times when our clients want to do a one time lesson, rather than commit to the semester. Which is totally understandable.

Riders Considering Signing Up Taking A Trial Ride

The problem is that I think sometimes people's expectations for a one time lesson are just a little too high. For new riders, considering taking lessons, my goal is to safely give them a taste of what being in the lesson program is like. For these riders, they learn basic safety, they groom the horse, they watch us tack the horse and help when possible. We put them on one of our reliable horses. Teach them to sit properly. How to hold their reins and place their feet in the stirrups. We talk them through the basics of steering and stopping. Also, the most important part I think, is we talk to the riders about building on these basics. Explaining that is what they would do in the lesson program.

These trial lessons are meant to give riders a taste of what lessons are like. They are also meant to see if rider and instructor are a good fit for each other. Some people just "jive" better with certain people, and not with others. In order to be safe and learn we need to have a comfortable relationship with our instructor. The trial lesson is a way to feel that out a bit before signing up.


Just In Town For A Visit And Want To Do Something Fun!

For visiting riders just doing a one time lesson, the goal is a little different. We always ask in advance about the experience level of the riders. This is a baseline for us and we basically can see for ourselves when they get there. People's idea of what "experienced rider" is very varied ( that is a whole different blog post for a different day! )

Visiting one time riders, of course, are taught the basics of safety around horses. That is always a given at my barn. They get to groom the horses. Some are more interested in this than others. We usually tack the horses up for them. When they get on we teach them the basic proper position, how to stop and steer. These lessons are more centered around having fun. We are not going to push a nervous rider. We want everyone to have a good experience. We often play basic mounted games with these one time visitors. They really seem to enjoy it. Hopefully, it will leave them with fun memories of their time with horses at our farm. After we work in the ring we take them on a "trail ride". I use the term "trail ride" loosely! Our "trail ride" is a walk around the perimeter of our property. We don't really have access to regular riding trails. Our one time guests still seem to really like this part of the experience. Then, of course, they always get a kick out of feeding the horses treats and getting pictures of them

Preparing For A Vacation Or Riding On A Trip

Our other clients that come for one time riding lessons are usually the ones going on a trip. They are going to ride on vacation. They don't want their first experience to be in a place where they most likely won't get much instruction. I'm sure some places are better than others about instructing their riders on trail rides of what to do. Even if they do provide a lot of coaching, the riders are always more confident if they have at least sat on a horse before!

For these riders, our focus is on proper position. The better their position on the horse is the more balanced and relaxed they will feel. We do go over steering and stopping. Though sometimes it doesn't seem too necessary since a lot of trail horses sort of follow the tail in front of them! It gives the riders confidence to think they could steer and stop the horse on their own if necessary. We also always try to remember to work on instructing them on how their position should change going up and down hills. The goal of these lessons is to build confidence. We want to send the riders off feeling like they aren't anxious about the ride they have planned. We want them to feel like they can at the minimum, be able to get on and feel balanced and secure.


Communicate To Get The Best Horse Experience For You!

If you call a farm or stable and inquire about a one time lesson. Make sure that they know what the situation is. Are you visiting? Considering signing up? If the instructor knows the situation they will be able to better plan your time with the horses. Different riders that are just passing through are part of the business. We want to make sure that they have a safe and fun learning experience. In order to do this, we need to understand what it is you want to get out of your one time experience with horses. That way you can leave our barn with good memories and basic confidence around horses!

Horsemanship is a journey, not a day trip! You never know, giving these one time clients a good experience with horses might just get them started on a horsemanship journey of their own!


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