Private Vs. Group Horseback Riding Lessons: Which is best?

Considering taking riding lessons but feeling overwhelmed by all the choices and information? In this article we’ll talk about the types of riding lessons most farms offer and how to decide which is best for you. Often times there is a difference in price when it comes to lessons but you’ll also need to weigh your experience level.

And, if you’re feeling a bit nervous about getting started with horseback riding, check out these articles which outline what to expect at your first riding lesson and what you’ll learn at your first riding lesson.

Types Of Riding Lessons

Let’s start with the basics. Most farms offer a variety of riding lessons and typically the price is determined by the length of the riding lesson along with how many other riders there are.

Usually horseback riding lessons can be purchased in 30 minute or 1 hour sessions, some farms offer 45 minute sessions. And, some farms have restrictions that only allow children under a certain age to take 30 minute lessons.

Once you get familiar with riding and are able to ride independently, half an hour just isn’t enough time to make progress. However, often times young children under the age of 10 aren’t able to concentrate long enough to ride for an hour.

Next there are private, semi-private and group riding lessons which we will discuss in more detail below. And, they are exactly how they sound. A private lesson means you are the only rider in your lesson, semi-private means there are 2 people in the lesson and a group riding lesson is 3 or more horses. For the sake of this article we will include semi-private lessons in the group category.

Private Riding Lessons

Now that we know a private riding lesson means you are the only rider in the lesson, let’s talk about the pros and cons.

The advantage of taking private riding lessons is that all of your trainer’s attention will be highly focused on you. If you want to compete, own your own horse, lease a horse, trail ride independently etc., then at some point in your riding career, you’ll need to take some private lessons.

Private riding lessons are also a good way to keep beginner riders safe as they learn how to cue the horse and act appropriately in the barn. Most farms require beginners, or riders that are new to the farm to take a couple of private riding lessons before allowing them to ride in a group. This is to ensure the rider is safely able to steer, stop and balance during a ride and to prevent a dangerous situation.

Often times very novice equestrians do not understand arena etiquette and horse body language. So, they run the risk of riding too close to a green horse, causing an accident or panicking under pressure. All of which are dangerous.

When it comes to private riding lessons, they typically have a heftier price tag than group riding lessons. This boils down to efficiency. If the instructor is only teaching one person at a time, they are unable to earn as much revenue per hour. However, if you are just starting out the extra cash is worth it until you have enough skill to stay safe. And, if you have big goals, private lessons are a necessity.

Group Riding Lessons

Group riding lessons are typically reserved for riders who can safely navigate their way around the arena without crashing into other horses. Riders who understand the basics of arena etiquette like passing another horse left shoulder to left shoulder when riding in opposite directions. As well as passing on the inside when traveling in the same direction as other riders. Riders also need to be aware of horses that are jumping, riding a test, working with a green horse that may act up and other riders entering and exiting the arena. If you’re a beginner, this probably sounds like complete chaos.

On the other hand, the benefit of riding in group lessons are many. Firstly, the way to learn how to ride with other horses is to ride with other horses. And, in a safe lesson environment your instructor likely has you working on the same exercise an traveling in the same direction.

Secondly, and probably the largest benefit of all is that riding in a group allows you to observe other riders. Yes, you’ll need to pay attention to your own horse. However, learning a new skill is hard and sometimes imitation is the first step to making progress. If you’re struggling with body position around a turn, watching another rider may help your instructor’s advice click. And all of a sudden you’re able to do it too! Plus, riding with friends is always fun!

Of course, some may think the third benefit is the most important. Riding in group lessons is usually cheaper (not by much) than riding in private lessons. So, you’re thinking more value for money! But, is it? Maybe, depends on your instructor and the other riders in your group.

Group lessons might be starting to sound like the best option at this point. But, you’ll need to consider the environment at your farm and how serious you are about riding. While everyone needs to learn to ride in a group, you may find that you don’t get enough one on one attention during the lesson. Most trainers try to provide a mixture of working on exercises as a group with some individualized attention. But, managing an arena full of students is no easy feat.

Private Vs. Group Riding Lessons

Private Horseback Riding LessonsGroup Horseback Riding Lessons
More expensiveLess expensive
No other students to watch in lessonWatch and learn from peers
Focused individual attention from instructorLess one on one time with instructor
Good for beginnersNeed more competency
Great for making progressFun to ride with friends

Factors You Need To Consider

What are your riding goals? Don’t have any? Check out this article to learn how to set some!

If your goals are to excel rapidly, buy your own horse, lease a horse or compete you probably need to take a good amount of private lessons. But, riding in a group can help you stay motivated and enjoy riding. I like to take some private lessons and enjoy riding with friends too!

How experienced are you? If you have been riding for less than a few months, you may need to stick with private lessons for a while. If you’ve been around horses for a while and are competent enough to ride independently, then group lessons might be beneficial.

What’s your budget? If your budget is slim but you’re not experienced enough for group lessons, try starting with half hour private lessons. And, talk to your trainer about a plan to prepare for group riding lessons. Also, buying lessons in a package may save you a few bucks. If you have the experience and need to save money, try group riding lessons.

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