Horse Riding Instructor

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Skill Level 3

Horse riding instructors teach students skills in horsemanship, including proper technique, grooming and equine health. They require experience in horsemanship and possibly competition.

A horse riding instructor instructs students in horsemanship and specific riding skills to prepare them for equestrian competitions and specialized events at the amateur, collegiate and/or professionalFuture Growth Very Strong level. Instructors may work with individuals or teams in school athletic departments, stables, ranches, camps, or independent facilities. Extensive riding and competition experience, professional certification, and/or formal education can increase an instructor's professional efficacy and earning potential. 

ANZSCO ID: 452313

Alternative names: Horse Riding Coach,

Specialisations: Dressage Instructor, Polo Coach, Show Jumping Instructor.

Knowledge, skills and attributes

  • the ability to communicate well with all age groups

  • patience and the skills to motivate and encourage people

  • the ability to remain calm under pressure

  • business and clerical skills, if self-employed

On beach
(Source: Photopin)


Duties and Tasks

The main duties of a horse riding instructor involve helping students learn and master specialized riding skills, with an emphasis on assisting students in developing proper technique and form. Instructors also help promote safety for horse and rider. At minimum, a horse riding instructor may teach the basics of horsemanship and riding to beginner, first-time, or one-time riders; at the most advanced level, an instructor prepares professional athletes for national and international equestrian competitions in disciplines such as saddle seat equitation, dressage, Western, hunter, combined driving, vaulting, and English pleasure.

An instructor works with a student in lessons or training sessions to enrich the student's understanding of the relationship between horse and rider; and to improve the student's riding ability and performance. In addition to riding techniques, instructors may teach:

  • Horse feeding, grooming, and care

  • Health issues

  • Human and equine anatomy and physiology

  • Training and communication

  • Proper use of tack and equipment

Your day-to-day duties may involve:

  • teaching people who want to ride as a leisure activity

  • helping prepare for competitions like show jumping, eventing or dressage

  • making sure health and safety rules are followed

  • helping horses and riders to warm up and cool down during training

  • developing training programmes suited to individual riders

  • giving practical demonstrations

  • helping riders correct problems

  • giving feedback and keeping records of rider development

  • assessing riders who are working towards qualifications

You may also teach assistant instructors, supervise work in a stable, or combine instructing with working as a groom.

Girls riding
(Source: Photopin)

Working conditions

At times the instructor may get on horses to demonstrate correct technique. They also teach horsemanship skills such as grooming, saddling, and tack cleaning.

Instructors may offer group or private lessons. They are usually responsible for scheduling lessons, collecting lesson fees, and keeping track of payments. They may also schedule other instructors in the discipline to visit their facility and provide training clinics, or provide special training clinics themselves.

Some instructors offer training services for young horses or those being trained for a new discipline. They may also be involved with barn management duties such as turning out horses to paddocks or pastures, wrapping legs, feeding, and performing basic medical treatments.

Riding instructors often travel to provide coaching for their students at competitions and shows. They must be familiar with the rules for competition in their discipline and make sure their students comply with those rules.

The instructor may also drive a horse van to transport horses to the events.

It is common for instructors to work varied hours including evenings and weekends. Unless the facility has an indoor riding arena, you must be prepared to work outside in changing weather conditions. Patience and good communication skills are key traits of a good instructor.

Career Options

Riding instructors can work in a wide variety of locations such as equestrian centers, camps, training facilities, ranches, and colleges or universities. Some instructors work exclusively as clinicians, traveling to various riding centres.

Instructors can specialize in many different disciplines such as dressage, hunt seat, show jumping, saddle seat, western pleasure, reining, cross country, driving, and vaulting.

Some instructors specialize in working exclusively with young students or adults. Some go on to coach intercollegiate equestrian teams. Some obtain additional certifications to coach therapeutic riding lessons for handicapped students. 

Education and training/entrance requirements

No formal training is required to be a riding instructor, but many instructors were upper-level competitors in their division of the sport and have a certificate or degree to enhance their credentials.

While a college degree is not necessary for this career, several colleges offer equine programs.

Did You Know?

The Conversation

Every dressage horse at the Olympics must compete with two metal bits in its mouth, one of which is a lever that tightens a metal chain under the chin.

Called a double bridle, this head-gear demands more rider skill than a simple (snaffle) bridle. With two bits in place, horses are highly motivated to open their mouths to find comfort, especially when the reins are pulled, but in dressage competition, mouth-opening attracts penalties.

Don’t be misled, this is a good rule because it penalises rough riding manifested when the horse gapes or lolls out its tongue.

To avoid penalties, many riders crank the jaws together with a system of leather pulleys (a crank noseband). This device is permitted under noseband rules written before cranking was conceived, even though it increases pain and discomfort from the bits.

This pain and discomfort, in turn, calls the horse’s attention to the bits and boosts the rider’s control of the horse, which is why such nosebands appeal not only to dressage riders but to many show jumpers and eventers.

Relentless pressure from nosebands applies pressure similar to that from a tourniquet and can reach levels associated in humans with tissue and nerve damage. Nosebands are padded to avoid cutting the skin, but inside the mouth, they force the cheeks against (naturally) sharp molars and are associated with lacerations and ulcers.
(Source: The Conversation)

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