So, you have signed up for your first riding lesson! Turning the dream of riding horses into a reality is exciting for anyone from children to adults. Whether you are taking your first lesson or taking your kids for their first lesson, here are a few things that you will want to bring with you so that your lesson starts off on the right foot!
Each riding instructor and barn is different in his or her approach to beginner lessons as well as the requirements for what you need to bring with you to each session. The following information is a general list for what to bring to an English or Western riding lesson but it is always a good idea to ask your instructor what they expect you to provide beforehand. When you ask what to bring, also remember to ask when to arrive and what to expect the first time! Visiting the barn and watching a few lessons before your appointment is also very helpful in understanding what to expect.
The one thing you will need to purchase is a good pair of riding boots. Whether it’s cowboy boots for Western lessons or paddock boots for English lessons, they are a must have! These closed-toe boots should have at least a ½” heel to keep your foot from sliding through the stirrup and getting caught. Ask your riding instructor what style and type they prefer like lace, zip, or pull on. There are lots of options and price points available that make finding the perfect pair easy. For English lessons, you may also be required to pair your paddock boots with half chaps to provide better grip and help protect your lower leg from being pinched by the stirrup leathers.
Riding boots are typically the only item that riding instructors require you to bring with you the first time. That’s a relief for parents whose children may choose a different sport every week or adults who are not sure that the dream of riding will meet up with the reality of it. However, if you know you are committed to the equestrian lifestyle there are a few more items that would be handy to have.
Most facilities provide riding helmets (be sure to ask your instructor if this is true for your lesson) but if you are not fond of using someone else’s sweaty head gear, consider purchasing one of your own. Schooling helmets start at $30 and are easy to find online or at your local tack shop. Now we all like taking short cuts and saving a few bucks but please don’t skimp on your helmet. Horse riding helmets are ASTM certified which means they meet safety standards specific to this sport. So, your bike helmet will not be a good substitute. You also NEVER want to purchase a used helmet (you would not purchase a used child’s car seat, right?) because you do not know life it has already had and helmets should be replaced every 3-5 years.
Now you know what to bring but what should you wear? You should wear comfortable clothes that you don’t mind getting a little dirty. Your outfit should not be too loose as this will make it difficult for your instructor to see your body position. If you are riding English, you can purchase breeches or jodhpurs with a polo shirt, comfortable button-up, or a snug fitting t-shirt. If your lesson is Western, you can wear jeans (a little stretch in the fabric will be helpful) with a polo shirt, comfortable button-up or a snug fitting t-shirt. Look neat and presentable but consider the weather as layers may be required. And riding gloves are typically optional but ask your instructor to be sure!
It looks like you are just about ready to climb on board for your first lesson. Just a few more things you will want to remember! Staying hydrated is very important; be sure to bring water especially in hot weather. Don’t forget the sun screen too! Riding out in the arena under the sun for an hour or so can create quite the burn. The professionals make it look easy but riding is a lot of work! Bring snacks for after you ride. And, be ready with that camera, Mom, or bring a friend who can take pictures and video for you! You won’t want to miss the moments and it’s a great way to document how far you have come later on. Another great tip is start a riding journal or notebook so you can jot down your triumphs and you’re learning moments. And, lastly, ask your riding instructor if it is alright to bring your new horsey-friend an apple, carrot, or horse cookie!
Your first lesson will be exciting and nerve racking all at the same time but with these few things you can start yourself off on the right foot. And remember to smile, have fun, and enjoy the ride!