You thought it through, did your research and now you are just days or hours until you are going to go to the farm for the first time. Being prepared and knowing what to expect will make the first time less nerve-wracking. Hopefully, in your phone conversations or emails, you have established what equipment you need and have purchased it if you don’t already have it.
As some people say, if you are not 5 minutes early you are late. That is not entirely true of course! It is important though to arrive early for your lesson. On the first day, there will be new client paperwork you need to fill out, information sheets and liability release forms. If you get there early you can take care of the administrative stuff without cutting into your actual horse time.
At your first lesson expect that you may spend more time on the ground with the horse than in the saddle. A good program is going to insist that you learn how to groom and tack your horse, as well as safety on the ground. Depending if your lesson is an hour or a half hour, private or semi-private, will determine how much time you spend on the ground and mounted. Learning horsemanship involves learning everything, the whole package, so take in as much as you can about all aspects.
What to expect
Ask questions! Even if you are nervous or shy, instructors want new students to ask questions! Trust me, I’m eager to answer any questions you might have rather than have an awkward silence, or have to try and make small talk.
Your first time at a new facility should include
- New rider paperwork
- Introduction to the instructor and other students if you are in a group lesson
- Introduction to the facility
- Finding a properly fitted helmet or having the instructor check the fit of the helmet that you bought.
- Introduction to the horse you are going to ride
- Basic safety rules on the ground
- How to halter and lead the horse
- Shown how to tack up the horse
- How to mount from the ground or mounting block
These are things that happen in every beginner lesson. All instructors are a little different in how they progressively teach new riders. Some instructors start with beginners mostly sitting still on the horse to learn the proper position, others teach how to walk, stop and turn at the same time as teaching the proper position.
I believe that the goal of any first-time lesson is that you gain a comfort level with your instructor, as well as being around the horse. It should be a low key, fun experience. Even if you have prior experience and already know the basics, it will be a low key lesson, as the instructor will need to evaluate your skill level.
The lesson should end on a good note. You should feel like you are much more comfortable and won’t be as apprehensive the next time you come. The instructor should discuss with you all you did today in to review and give you a chance to ask questions or make comments. Also, you should leave the lesson with a plan of what you will continue on to learn next week. I urge you to ask a question if you have one, you may forget before your next lesson rolls around.
You did it!
Hopefully, you have a great first-time experience and the first farm you go to is the right fit for you. I feel that if you do your research your gut will lead you in the right direction. If for some reason it does not, don’t get discouraged. Just go back to your list of possible facilities and try another one.
Just like everything else in life, some people just click better than others. It might take you a lesson or two to find the right instructor and facility that you feel comfortable with. There is a right place for everyone and you will find yours, hopefully, sooner than later!
Check this list and see if you can check off these points!
- Learned your instructor’s name, other staff, and students names as well
- Filled out new rider paperwork
- Made sure you had a properly fitted helmet
- Began to learn where your horse is kept
- Began to learn how to lead him and groom him
- Learned where the tack room was and began to learn how to tack up
- How to properly mount
- Learned how to properly position your feet in the stirrups and hold the reins
These are the sorts of things that I expect in a good introductory lesson. Anything more is great, but taking things slow and steady is the best way for new riders to gain confidence. Good instructors know this and will take their time and make sure you have a comfort level with one skill before moving onto the next skill.
Remember to ask questions at the end of the lesson. If you don’t remember a question until later, write it in your riding journal. What riding journal do you ask? The one I’m going to tell you how to keep in my next post.