Learn About Being a Riding Instructor
Get Career Info on Duties, Salary Expectations, Certification and More
Riding instructors provide coaching to their students in a wide variety of equestrian disciplines. They design skill-building exercises to improve performance and communication between horse and rider.
Riding instructors work with horses and their riders, designing exercises for the pairs to work through during lesson sessions. Instructors provide advice on proper technique for the discipline and troubleshoot communication issues between horse and rider. At times the instructor may get on horses to demonstrate the 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.
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 centers. 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.
Training & Certification
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.
The most prominent certification in the U.S. is granted by the American Riding Instructors Association (ARIA). ARIA certifies riding instructors in 15 different disciplines. The initial certification costs $595 and consists of oral, written, and practical tests. Re-certification is required at 5-year intervals and costs $200.
The Certified Horsemanship Association offers a 3-year certification after completion of a week-long clinic. During the clinic, the candidate must pass written tests, riding evaluations, practice lessons, and attend seminars. Every three years the certified instructor must complete 25 hours of continuing education. Certification costs around $200 and recertification is $75. Yearly membership to the organization is $60.
In Great Britain, there are two major certification organizations: the British Horse Society (BHS) and the Association of British Riding Schools (ABRS). The British certifications are particularly well recognized worldwide.
As usual with most careers, a riding instructor’s salary can vary based on years of experience, geographic location, certification, and specialty. Indeed.com cites a yearly salary of about $39,000. Simplyhired.com quotes a yearly salary of $37,000.
Generally, an instructor will charge from $25 to $40 per hour for a group lesson and $45 to $60 per hour for a private lesson. The facility that hosts the lessons may be entitled to a portion of that fee, especially if they provide lesson horses for the students to ride. Attending students generally contribute to the instructor’s travel expenses when they require coaching at competitions.
Common perks for instructors can include housing on the farm, freeboard for a horse, use of farm horses, and paid show entry fees. As independent contractors, most instructors are not offered paid health insurance.
Equestrian events have steadily grown in popularity through the years, and there is always demand for good instructors. It is quite possible for most experienced equestrians to follow this career path if they are committed to the endeavor and take the time to build up a steady clientele. Adding certifications and continuing education only increase the riding instructor’s potential for success.