When enrolling in horseback riding lessons, one must choose between group lessons and private instruction. Each instructional method has advantages and disadvantages. Ideally, most riders should take a combination of group and individual lessons. If this is not feasible, the choice between individual and group lessons should be made based on the needs of the horse and rider, as well as the discipline being taught.
Group Horseback Riding Lessons
Group lessons typically involve a group of between two and six horse and rider teams who need to practice similar exercises in order to continue advancing in their discipline. This type of instruction offers the opportunity for riders to learn by observing one another. However, the instructor will have less time to work one-on-one with each individual.
- A group of students at a similar level may learn more from one another than they would from an instructor alone.
- Group lessons are often more affordable.
- If the students will be showing their horses in group classes, a group lesson offers the most realistic simulation of a show.
- In group jumping lessons, students can continue learning while their horses rest between jumping rounds by watching other students take their turns.
- Group instruction can help young and/or green horses learn to focus in the presence of distracting stimuli.
- The instructor will give less individual attention to each student in a group situation.
- Group lessons don’t offer an opportunity to accurately simulate a show situation for disciplines like dressage and reining where one rider is judged at a time.
- If the riders in the group need to rent school horses, each individual rider has a reduced chance of being assigned his or her preferred schoolie.
- Beginning riders may not get the hands-on help they need if the instructor’s attention is divided.
- Perceived inequities in the instructor’s attention or praise may lead to interpersonal conflicts between students.
Private horseback riding lessons are the option favored by many riders at a high level of performance. Beginning riders, particularly small children, should start with private lessons in order to secure the instructor’s full attention for the entire lesson period. However, riders who focus solely on individual instruction may miss out on opportunities to learn by observation and to expose their horses to a variety of situations.
- Private lessons mean the student gets the instructor’s full attention at all times. This is useful for beginners or for riders at any level who need to focus intensely on a problem or a particular exercise they are struggling with.
- Riders in disciplines that emphasize an individual scored performance, rather than group competition, can benefit most from private lessons because they best simulate the atmosphere in which the horse and rider hope to excel.
- Very young or physically fragile riders should take private lessons for safety reasons; an instructor distracted by other students can’t be constantly ready to jump in if a beginning rider or physically disabled rider is in a tight spot.
- Individual instruction is best for young and/or green horses that need to focus on basic training with minimal distractions.
- Students who take only private lessons can’t correct their own equitation flaws by observing other riders struggling with the same issues. This subtracts a valuable tool from the student’s “learning toolbox.”
- A horse used to individual lessons only will not become accustomed to performing when other horses are present in the arena.
- Private lessons are often much more costly than group lessons.
- Students who take only private lessons may not develop as many friendships with other riders who work with the same instructor. Groups that lesson together often also see each other outside of the barn, while riders who only take individual lessons are sometimes excluded from social gatherings.