A successful riding lesson program is one that has students coming back for more. With great fall weather following on the heels of school starting, there are multiple activities to highjack a student’s attention.

Try These 10 Things to Keep Students Coming Back

1. Give Good Lessons

Good lessons are the backbone of your program. Not only do you want students to know they have received quality for their money. You want them to leave each lesson riding a little better and knowing more than when they arrived.

Know your subject and have a system for teaching. A lesson plan will help you make sure you can deliver the goods. Check out this article Teach Riding With a Lesson Plan.

2. Use Good Lesson Horses

Learning on a horse that knows his job and is willing to do it makes learning more fun. A beginner can get discouraged if they have to manage a difficult horse. An unsuitable horse could keep your student for coming back for another lesson.

Good horses are the backbone of a lesson program, so be sure you take great care of them.  Give them comfortable equipment that fits well. I’d like to see more orthopedic saddle pads and joint supplements used for lesson horses when they need it. 

School your lesson horses periodically to keep them from getting sour. And give them plenty of down time in the pasture with their friends.

3. Keep the Schedule

Set a standard by example for your students. Begin and end lessons on time particularly when you have multiple lessons in a row. If you are late, they will be late. We all want students to respect our time, but that means we should respect theirs as well.  Making a student wait past the start time for their lesson, or running over at the end does not respect their time.  And with kids, it doesn’t respect their transporting parent, either.

Use a scheduling system. Set your riding lesson business up by the semester and be aware of holidays. Or set up by the month.

And be a smart business person by having students sign up for more than one lesson and take payment in advance.

4. Show You Care

Develop a sense of community with your barn. Be encouraging and positive in your lesson. Discuss your student’s goals and listen to their dreams. Even before problems arise, take the time to listen to students’ concerns. And be approachable. It’s not a good feeling to be afraid your instructor doesn’t want to hear what you have to say.

5. Make Lessons and Your Barn Fun

We all know that riding is learned through repetition. If you want to keep your students coming back, it’s up to you to find interesting ways to structure your lessons and prevent boredom. Incorporate games and challenges into lessons. Change the setting if possible. For example, use different arenas or get the indoor lesson outside even if it’s on a walk around the paddock.

An have a good attitude. No one wants to ride with a grouchy instructor.

Check out this article Teach Games! Have Fun! Or take a look at A Holiday Obstacle Course Idea from Meadow Sweet Ranch.

6. Keep Them Safe

Safety is particularly important with beginning riders.  Nothing will stop a student from coming back quicker than a frightening ride or an accident. Make sure your lesson horses are safe. Beginner lesson horses shouldn’t bite, kick, rear, pull back or buck. It just isn’t worth having those types of horses in a beginner program.

Make sure your equipment safe by checking and cleaning it regularly. Buy good quality  saddles and bridles. And always do a safety check before allowing beginning students to mount.

Check out this article – Signs of a Safe Riding Lesson Program.

7. More Time Riding and Less Time Wasting

Have everything you need at the arena before starting. If you’re using poles or obstacles set them up ahead of time if possible. Or have an assistant help. Make explanations simple.  Talk less and let students ride more.

And if you have students that drag their feet during prep time, get them excited to be on the horse rather than nag them to finish grooming. Help them or prepare their

8. Set Short Range Goals, Objectives, & Incentives

A student who can see the possibility of achievement will keep coming back to lessons to reach a goal. Think of when-you-can-do-this, you’re-ready-to-do-that. 

Give an award for perfect attendance for the semester. 

Offer Badges and certificates for accomplishing certain levels. Plan an at home schooling show with simple games or basic classes. Let students qualify for a rider’s weekend.

All it takes is an imagination on your part. If you make riding lessons a great place to be, your students will keep coming back.

9. Use Variety

Variety brings us back to making it fun. Put thought into how you can make mundane things challenging and new. Change horses. Get riders out of the arena. Ride in formation. Teach to music. Add a new game or a twist on a game.  Build an easy obstacle course. Check out The Riding Instructor’s Library for lots of ideas.

A group of riders riding horses in a paddock

10. Keep Continuity Between Lessons.

Keep students thinking about lessons and horses and your great program between lessons. Give them handouts to do for the next lesson. Recommend videos and educational websites. Sign them up to a private Facebook group for horse discussions. Give them exercises or activities to work on during the week that will help with riding. Keep their mind on horses all week long and they will keep coming back to ride.


Don’t Choose Favorites

Don’t judge your students according to their income, social standing, athletic ability or any other attribute. Choosing favorites sets the stage to develop a culture of exclusivity and is fertile ground for hurt feelings, misunderstanding, and gossip. Don’t use your teaching program to develop your personal social circle. Do your best to treat all of your students the same, even when it is difficult.

What do You do to Keep You Students Coming Back?

Please share your ideas! in the comments and tell me what I missed!

And thanks for joining me!

Barbara Ellin Fox


Barbara Ellin Fox TheRidingInstructor
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