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When it comes to picking the right barn for your young rider, it is very important to take your time and ask the right questions. You want an environment that will teach, motivate and foster your young rider’s skills as an equestrian and as a person. Finding the right barn is not accomplished over a weekend, especially with all of the moving parts — like barn culture, training level, and facilities. Make sure to take your time and consider your options for finding the best environment for your young rider.
Barn culture is often established by the trainer or instructor. Some barns are very laid back and nurturing, while others are fast-paced and “to the point”. Think about the goals you and your child have at a barn — pleasure riding, lessons, competition, a fun hobby? All of these goals will have a different barn culture requirement. Look for a barn culture that fits with your goals.
As you start to tour barns, you will get a feel for the barn culture. You will also notice the barn cultures don’t mix — competition barns don’t usually have pleasure riders and vice versa. For young riders, consider a barn culture with lots of other young riders.
Just like the barn culture should match your goals, the level and quality of training should also match. Interview the trainer/instructor(s) at the facility (some facilities will have a few instructors for different disciplines, schedules, etc.) Will these instructors help your young rider advance? All instructors will have a different teaching style and level of training. Consider how your young rider learns best and seek out a trainer with that training style. Also, make sure the instructor’s level of training will enable your young rider to reach their goals (at least for the next couple of years). Remember, most riders will have multiple trainers through their riding career.
If you are planning to use the horses at the facility for lessons or leasing, the horses should also be considered in the training category. Are the horses fit and able to do the lessons, competitions, trail rides, etc. that your young rider is hoping for? Are they safe and well trained? For example, a three-year-old, green broke horse, while very sweet, may not be an ideal lesson horse for a beginner rider.
The type of facility may not impact you much depending on your location and goals. However, if you live in a cold climate and want to ride during the winter, an indoor arena is a necessity!
Other items to consider (depending on your goals and location) include:
In addition to the availability of these items, be sure to check on the level of maintenance and cleanliness. A well-maintained, clean facility will last longer and shows a level of care from the owners, instructors, and other horse lovers.