If you are interested in becoming a riding instructor, take heart in the knowledge that you aren’t alone. Thousands of other equestrians all around the world aspire to this career choice because it allows you to work directly with people and animals.
Most riding instructors were once students themselves, and therefore bring with them to their jobs the skills and techniques they were taught. Some riding instructors own equestrian facilities from which they teach, though the majority are employed by other horse business owners.
This is good news for young equestrian professionals who lack the financial capital and requisite experience to start their own horse farms.
Riding Instructor Schedules
For the most part, riding instructors teach children in the evenings after school, and all day during the summer and on weekends. Part-time jobs are common in this field because it is both logistically and physically difficult to teach riding lessons eight hours per day, every day.
This is why many riding instructors fill other positions in the horse business. Horse jobs such as horse trainer, stable manager, summer camp counselor, and horse trainer assistant all complement riding instruction well.
Since riding instructors often teach in the evenings after children are released from school, their days are free to pursue other endeavors. However, full-time riding instructors can teach adults and homeschooled children during the day if they desire.
In addition to teaching actual lessons, which usually last one hour each, riding instructors must also attend to administrative tasks. Billing clients, scheduling lessons, caring for school horses, and communicating with clients are all part of this horse job.
Riding Instructor Workplace
As with most horse jobs, riding instructors work at barns, stables, and farms. The majority of their days are spent outside, exposed to the elements. Although some stables are equipped with indoor arenas, it is not the same as working an office job.
For the most part, the riding instructor’s workplace is fairly informal. There are no required uniforms unless your boss prefers it, and you have optimum flexibility in terms of scheduling riding lessons and other appointments.
Riding Instructor Experience, Education, and Training
Riding instructors should be experts in horseback riding and horsemanship. They don’t need to be high-level competitors or world-renowned trainers, but they should have significant experience riding and working with horses.
Like other horse jobs, there are no formal education requirements unless a particular employer prefers it. However, it is a good idea for prospective riding instructors to get an education, especially in business administration and management. This will prepare them for careers as entrepreneurs.
It is also a good idea for riding instructors to obtain certification through the American Riding Instructors Association or similar organization. Even if they don’t continue to renew their certifications, the experience is good and it will establish credibility for employers and clients alike.
Some riding instructors apprentice with an established instructor before venturing out on their own. This type of arrangement is particularly beneficial because it allows the student to gain hands-on experience and valuable insight into the job. These apprenticeships are usually informal and arranged between two professionals.
Riding Instructor Responsibilities & Duties
Every riding instructor job is different. There are no set rules or even guidelines, so it is impossible to tell what will be required of a particular teacher without first speaking with the employer.
However, these responsibilities and duties are common in this type of horse job:
Teaching riding lessons in half-hour and one-hour sessions
Preparing school horses for lessons
Cooling down and putting away school horses after lessons
Looking after school horses
Scheduling riding lessons with new students
Communicating with students and/or their parents about progress
Taking students to horse shows
Schooling students during horse shows
Assigning students to school horses
Helping students buy horses for themselves
Selecting school horses for the riding program
Establishing and enforcing barn rules
Making sure minor students are picked up after lessons
Reporting and/or seeking help for injuries that occur during riding lessons
Organizing clinics, seminars and other educational events for students
This is not an exhaustive list, but it will give aspiring riding instructors an idea of what their professional lives will look like.
The primary responsibility of a riding instructor, however, is to keep his or her students and horses safe. This means observing the rules of working with horses and constantly watching all of his or her charges so he or she can prevent accidents.
Riding Instructor Skills
Inherent skills are different from education and training. Although some can be taught, it is important for riding instructors to possess inherent abilities that help them communicate with their students.
Riding instructors should be able to teach according to all the different learning styles (visual, auditory, reading/writing, kinesthetic/tactile). They need to be able to explain and demonstrate horseback riding techniques so that students can understand and apply those techniques.
They must also be excellent listeners and they should be able to pair students with school horses for the safest and most efficient riding experience.
All riding instructors should be able to lift at least 50 pounds, and should be capable of working on their feet most of the day. Athletic riding instructors are the most successful because, like most horse jobs, riding instruction requires constant movement.
There are, of course, always exceptions. If a riding instructor is physically disabled, for example, he or she may be able to perform this horse job with the help of an assistant.
Riding Instructor Employment Prospects
There are numerous ways for riding instructors to find work. Because these horse jobs are not as easy to find as mainstream careers, it is important for aspiring instructors to network with horse business owners in the geographic area where they want to work.
Riding academies, summer camp venues, dude ranches, equestrian centers, and start-up horse farms are just a few places where riding instructors should look.
Riding Instructor Earnings
Riding instructors’ earnings vary depending on where they live and their financial arrangement with their employers.
Some riding instructors are employees, which means that they earn a specific salary or wage per hour. Full-time employees may receive benefits (such as health insurance, vacation time, and sick pay), while others receive no benefits.
It is more common, however, for riding instructors to be classified as independent contractors. This means they earn a set amount for each lesson they teach. If they own the stable where they work, they keep 100 percent of the profits. If they work at someone else’s stable, on the other hand, they will have to give the property owner a portion of their earnings—often called “paying a grounds fee.”
Riding instructors can earn anywhere from minimum wage to more than $75 per hour, though the reality is usually somewhere in between. A beginning instructor working as an independent contractor, for example, might earn $8 per student he or she teaches. If he teaches four students in a class, he would earn $32 for each hour of instruction. Keep in mind, however, that full-time schedules are rare for independent contractors.