Career as a Riding Instructor

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Have you ever considered a career as a riding instructor? If you love riding and being around horses, and you have good people skills, this could be a very exciting and rewarding career opportunity.

So what does a riding instructor do, exactly? As the name implies, a riding instructor teaches the art and science of horse riding (and horse care as well) to beginners, intermediate riders and even advanced riders in some situations. In fact some instructors even serve as coaches during equestrian events and competitions.

Most riding instructors are self-employed and travel from stable to stable to work with clients, while others are employed at riding schools, large stables or training centers around the country.

Some of the benefits of working in this exciting and challenging field are

  • The ability to work around horses, and with people.
  • The ability to work outdoors.
  • The ability to work for yourself and have your own business.
  • The satisfaction of helping others to improve their riding skills.

While a college degree isn’t a requirement for becoming a riding instructor, you will need to complete a training program and have a background in riding and working around horses.

About the job

A riding instructor is different from a horse trainer in the fact that he or she works mostly with human students, while the horse trainer is more focused on the animal. There is an art and science to proper horsemanship, and the instructor helps the student develop good riding habits and the proper form, depending on the type of riding in question.

In fact many riding instructors specialize in a particular type of horsemanship. Three common riding disciplines are Western, English, and dressage. In addition, some instructors only work with beginners, while others focus on more advanced riders and techniques.

As mentioned earlier, most riding instructors are self-employed and work with a local riding stable or riding school. In most cases the instructor is responsible for marketing his or her business, and bringing in their own clientele.

They also provide the horses used during the lessons, although some students bring their own horse for a better learning experience. In exchange for using the stable, the instructor typically pays the stable owner a commission that has been agreed upon in advance.

Some additional duties of riding instructors include

  • Teaching beginning students how to saddle, groom, bridle and care for horses.
  • Teaching both beginning students, and more advanced students, how to master a particular form of riding discipline such as Western style or English style. Some instructors also specialize in either children or adult students.
  • General business duties such as marketing, bookkeeping, tax preparation, employee payroll (if any) and more.
  • According to recent surveys, the majority of riding instructors are female.

Working conditions

Working conditions for riding instructors are generally favorable. But also be aware that you’ll be performing your job on location, and outdoors most of the time. So expect to be out in all kinds of weather, as students usually are on a schedule and won’t want to cancel an appointment unless there’s a blizzard or driving rainstorm.

Which means you’ll be outside during the heat of the summer, and on chilly winter days as well. Riding instructors also tend to work a lot of mornings, evenings and weekends.

Since most adult students have regular day jobs to go to, they have to fit lessons into their schedule, which means you’ll probably have a lull in the middle of the day as well. Some instructors have their own jobs to go to, and fit in lessons around their own work schedule

And since most instructors work at a stable or riding school, you’ll be around all of the dust, hay, flies, and strong odors that come with those environments. If you have allergies to these things, you might want to consider a different career path.

Educational requirements and job outlook

In the US, riding instructors aren’t required by law to be certified or licensed. There are several organizations that offer voluntary certification programs, however, which helps give the instructor credibility with his or her peers.

These organizations include the American Riding Instructors Association, Certified Horsemanship Association, American Association For Horsemanship, and the United States Dressage Federation.

The advantages of a certification from one or more of these organizations include an increased likelihood of gaining employment and clients, and will also help the student become a better riding instructor in the process.

In addition to any of these voluntary certification programs, you can also learn to become a writing instructor by taking a certificate or diploma program in writing instruction at a private school that offers an equestrian program. These schools usually require a high school diploma or GED, along with some prior experience working with horses.

Working as a groom or assistant to a writing instructor is another way to learn the ropes, although you most likely won’t be paid for your work. Some instructors will exchange lessons for the work of assistance and grooms, however.

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