Every so often a Riding Instructor University reader sends me a question about his or her horse business. Last week I received the following query from a riding instructor and horse business owner named Kiran, who hails from Minneapolis, MN:
I hope you have the time to answer this, Laura. I’m a riding instructor and I’ve got lots of great kids in our riding program. Many of them have expressed an interest in coming to the barn on non-lesson days to help out, but I know they expect to get to ride. Should I let my students ride outside their lessons? Thanks so much in advance!
One of your priorities as a riding instructor is to keep your school horses safe. This means, in part, making sure none of your lesson horses is over-worked in an attempt to keep your students happy.
When you say that your students want to ride outside lessons, I assume this means they will be hacking your school ponies. While this might be acceptable on special occasions, it can also lead to problems with the horses themselves.
Some riding instructors have thirty or forty school horses at their disposal, in which case it is unlucky any will be overworked. If you have plenty of inventory and you are there to supervise your students, I see no problem in letting them pick up rides on non-lesson days.
If, on the other hand, you only have eight or ten lesson horses, letting kids pick up extra rides might mean compromising other students who are taking lessons on that given day. Furthermore, the horses will be used more often than normal, which can lead to over-exertion.
There are also liability issues involved, not to mention potential scheduling problems if parents don’t pick up their kids on time. You run the risk of running a free (for the parents) daycare and losing valuable time in which you could be making money as a riding instructor.
Tread carefully in this situation and make sure to establish rules about kids riding horses outside of lessons. You might want to set a minimum age and receive parental consent in writing before you set up this kind of arrangement.
Good luck, Kiran, and to anyone else who might be struggling with this conundrum. And if you have a question about riding instruction or the horse business, don’t hesitate to write me and ask!