In my book, anytime we teach horsemanship it’s a good way. In this post I talk about 4 different ways to include horsemanship in your teaching program. All are effective and have their pros and cons. Some programs focus on riding and require students know the minimum to manage the horse. Others teach everything a person should know to get a horse ready and head out for a ride.  And still other programs approach horsemanship immersion style. It all depends on your program’s goals. The method you use depends on your preference, the size of your program, and your style of teaching.

My description of horsemanship for this blog is the things to do with horses beyond riding.

 #1. As part of the regular lesson

Learning to halter, lead, tie, groom and tack up are basics for any rider, and some instructors consider them as important as being on the horse. Since beginners can be slow to get the hang of all the nuances of handling a horse and equipment, this suits a longer class. If you’re starting from the stall to the arena, allow at least hour with thirty minutes for the ground jobs and thirty minutes for riding.


  • Lessons are more casual allowing time for hands-on experience with the horse
  • Works well for a small program
  • Works well for a group class
  • Gives the rider an opportunity to become comfortable on the ground with the horse
  • Great for kids who want to get to know horses and see if they like being around them
  • Great for confidence building


  • A group requires helpers and an instructor who can have eyes in many places
  • Slow students will eat into the mounted portion
  • Frequently, students cannot finish everything in a half hour. You’ll end up helping, which is fine at first, but can develop overly dependent students.
  • Less time on the horse means slower progress for riding skills

#2. Multiple Separate classes as part of your program

Multiple separate classes work well for programs that sell lessons by the bundle or semester.  One day a month (or whatever number you chose) is set for unmounted lessons. Be creative with the structure for this. You might choose 1 time slot for all students. If you have lots of students you can offer several time slots to accommodate numbers and student schedules. Choose the lesson length. Perhaps you will set three classes for two hours each. Or maybe one longer morning class and one afternoon class. I recommend making these classes a requirement for your program.


  • Added value for your riding program.
  • These lessons can become social which is healthy for barn morale
  • Students have the time they need to become familiar with horses and equipment
  • Parents could be included to gain experience. Better yet create a class for parents or adults. You can have a separate class for adults who don’t want to learn to ride.
  • Multiple students can use one horse if they work in teams
  • Potential topics are endless
  • Students get to know one  another and mingle
  • Learning is more focused
  • Can be taught by a junior instructor or barn manager


I don’t find a lot of cons for this type of lesson, except that it takes a bit of organizing by the instructor and buy-in from parents and students.

  • Unmounted lessons are easier to cancel. Require a certain number be attended in order to remain in your program. Or have off-the-horse competition days to encourage participation. Consider giving awards.
  • Takes time from the stable’s schedule- but allows for more regular time in the saddle

#3. A single requirement

This suits a fast paced riding program for students and instructors with tight schedules. You design your class according to what students need to know for the riding portion, such as basic tacking up and how to check equipment. The class is held several times a year or semester according to need. Students are required to attend. 


  • Is great for tight schedules, busy riders, and parents who are stretched for time
  • Gives the student knowlege of the basic requirements
  • Perfect for the program that is intensive in riding instruction
  • Perfect in situations where students won’t own a horse


  • Student misses some of the one on one time with the horse
  • Does not have the advantage of familiarity through ground work
  • It can be hard to remember everything from one lesson

#4. In a summer program

Here is the opportunity for immersion. Sumer programs can be structured in multiple ways, from half day week long programs to overnight camps. I grew up in summer horsemanship camps a very long time ago. My experience was so positive that I have since developed programs for a number of camps of different types, so if I seem heavy on the pros, well…😃


  • Horses can be shared
  • There is more time for teaching lots of horsemanship subjects
  • Kids can work with other horse loving kids
  • Students have lots of hands-on time with horses
  • Can be a great introduction for new students
  • Creates lasting memories
  • provides a super foundation


  • Only last for a short while

That’s it:

My suggestions for 4 ways to include horsemanship into your riding program. What way is your favorite? Do you do something different or unusual? I’d love to read about it.

Whoa! I’m so excited that spring is just around the corner! Thanks for joining me at The Riding Instructor!

Barbara Ellin Fox

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Barbara Ellin Fox TheRidingInstructor
    • Hi Kath,
      That all depends on you. I’m guessing you mean the one time class. You could give a time period that the class must be completed by. Or you make it a requirement for moving on. If the student refuses then you’ll have to decide whether to cut them loose. If you’re asking about them not attending a regularly scheduled class I hope they’d see that they are just cheating themselves, especially if the class i part of your package. I’d like to think regular classes were interesting enough that riders would want to attend. If you find it a problem you could do an attendance or proficiency award. Those are just a couple of ideas. The goal though, is to make your classes something they don’t want to miss! Right? Thanks- Barbara

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