All instructors, whether they teach beginners or advanced riders, should utilize horseback riding lesson plans. Riding lesson plans for beginners are especially important for making sure they learn all of the basics. Riding instructor lesson plans and how you plan your lessons are important for all levels of teaching, and here’s why:

students happyHow you conduct your riding lessons says tons about you as an instructor, horseman and person. It also indicates your motives in our industry.  And let’s face it, horses are an industry, even though there are many of us who teach more for the love of horsemanship than the love of money.

Notwithstanding the rare exception, I have come to the opinion that people who teach off the cuff and don’t use a riding lesson plan, are usually ones who aren’t grounded in the basics and have a weak foundation.  They’re usually teaching as a means of keeping their cash flow going as their chief motivation.  They’re normally not students of horsemanship  but are artists of the quick fix, the gimmick and what to do for the best ribbon chasing. They’re the ‘users’ of the horse industry.

Or else they’re instructors who are ignorant of what it takes to plan a lesson, use a system or method, and develop depth in their riding program.

These folks do stupid things, such as; talk on their cell phones, text, tweet, or reply on face book during the lesson they’re teaching.  Or worse, they leave their student in the arena to search for something they forgot or need. Or they stop to talk to a prospective student or border who has a question. They’re the ones who take care of other business (or social life) during lessons.

Not every lesson you teach will be legendary, but but every lesson you teach and every student you work with  deserves your full attention the entire time you work with them. They also deserve 100% of your effort in preparing their lesson.  That’s where a good riding lesson plan comes in.

But when I talk about a riding lesson plan I’m not just referring to a plan you carry in your head.  I’m talking about a hardriding lesson plan copy, written on a sheet of paper and attached to your clip board or note book, riding lesson plan  that you can take to the arena. Or something you carry on your IPad or Smart Phone (OK the phone is acceptable in this case).

A Good Riding Lesson Plan Has Room For: 

Information about the lesson-

riding level
lesson title
what kind of riding area you need for the lesson
age group
private or group lesson
how long the lesson lasts.

Equipment/set up

what do you need for this lesson? Do you need cones, markers, poles, standards, old tires, eggs, or buckets and rocks.
When you use a riding lesson plan you can have all the tools you need gathered and at your arena before your student arrives. If you are jumping a grid or course have it set up ahead of time off the rail so that you don’t have to save timeuse precious lesson time for set up


do you need leaders, jump crew, horse holders, etc? Your riding lesson plan will help you to remember to make arrangements with helpers well before your lesson.  It will save you from looking for last minute help.


If grooming and tack up is part of the lesson, list areas you need to cover. If you want to go over something from the last lesson write it here. Include how much time you’ll allow for this and write it on the riding lesson plan.

Warm up:

What warm up exercises will you have students do? Note how much time will be given to warm up.

Lesson objective:

What do yo want your students to learn or improve on? Note how much time will be given to lesson objective.

Key Points:

This is you ‘note to self’ area so it doesn’t require a time estimate. List any special points you want to remember to note to selfemphasize with your student.


This is where you list how you’ll teach the lesson objective. Will you use grids? Courses? The Weaving Game? Practicing without stirrups? Turns on the forehand on corners? Have students ride a full dressage test?

List all of the things your riders will do during the lesson; such as

“trot poles
changing to trot poles and cross bars
changing to trot poles with cross bar and 2nd cross bar 18’ away
1st round trot.
By 5th round should trot in and canter out”

Or let’s say you’re teaching games.  Your list might look like this:
weaving poles walking both ways
weave up trot, weave back walk
Weave up and back at trot

Unless your students are spending a long time during prep, as new beginners may do, method/application should take up the bulk of the lesson time.  This is where students are riding and working on the objective.

Write down how much time you will devote to Method/Application in this lesson.

Cool Down:

This is when the riders and horses will wind down.  Note if you will have students practice stretches and toe touches while you review the lesson and answer questions. Or note if you will have students walk quietly while you talk about home work and handouts.  Be sure students realize the value of cool down for their horses.

Write down how much time will be given to cool down


This is another ‘note to self’ area.  List your review points, the hand outs you’ll give to students, or something you would like to have them work on between lessons

A Riding Lesson Plan Does Great Things:

Using a riding lesson plan can improve all instructors. It will help you to lay out time segments for your lesson so you can complete everything within the appropriate time frame. It will help you to provide continuity from one lesson to the next or if you have to ask another instructor to step in for you one week.

Riding lesson plans will help you to stay focussed, be more thorough with your curriculum and help prevent holes in your students’ riding education. Riding lesson plans also aid in keeping lessons from getting stale.

Every instructor knows that sometimes lessons just go off course.  Horse and rider can come to the lesson with their own special attitudes, issues or problems and sometimes it’s just impossible to keep lessons on track. Good riding instructors have to carry the ‘extra flexibility gene’ and need to be able to adapt and adjust during difficult lessons. You stand a greater off_coursechance of holding your lesson together if you use well thought out lesson plans  You’ll have fewer lessons go off course and you’ll have happier more successful students.

Thanks for reading The Riding Instructor!

Barbara Ellin Fox

Barbara Ellin Fox TheRidingInstructor
  • Thank you for the valuable information you are sharing here. Would I be able to get a copy/sample of your lesson plan template?

  • Hi there! I would love to have a copy of your lesson plan… thanks! I mostly teach very young beginner students.

  • I would like to receive your lesson plan. My daughter has started giving beginner lessons. I think this would help her. Thank you!

  • Hello, I m from France but now I m teaching in Poland . I m an instructor and I use plans for every lesson I give. It makes me feel more competent when my lessons are prepared especially with children . Every of your post assure me that I m doing my job in the right way. Thank you Barbara (and sorry for my english).

    • Caroline thank you so much for your encouragement. I love knowing that what I write is helpful. Best wishes to you for continued success in teaching! Barbara Ellin Fox PS. Your English is very good 😊

    • The easiest and fastest way to get the Riding Instructor’s Lesson planner is to sign up for the newsletter. You will receive a confirmation email. When you click the link to confirm your subscription you will be taken to a page with a link for your down load. If that doesn’t work for you, kindly let me know by emailing through the contacts page. Best wishes.

  • Hello! I would love a copy of your lesson plan! I have signed up for it to be auto mailed to me 3 times with no luck! I absolutely love what you have written here! Thank you so much for your time!

  • Hi i really enjoyed reading your article and would love a copy of some of your plans to get some inspiration for my lessons and improve on my teaching skills Thanks harriet

    • Hi Hannah, It’s on its way. Normally you would have received a link but RI News has switch newsletter providers and I’m still working on the link connection. A new learning curve! Best wishes Barbara Ellin Fox

      • May I please get a copy of the lesson plan? I did as instructed and signed up but I could not find the link. Thank you in advance.

  • Hi Barbara!

    This already very helpful!

    I would love a copy of your lesson plan and please add me to your mailing list.

    Thank you!!

    • Sydney – I hope you have received your planner by now. Please let me know if you had any trouble – Barbara

  • I have been asked by a friend to teach her daughter about horses and beginning riding. I would love a lesson planner to see how to get started. Thank you.

    • Cynthia
      Thanks! I’m glad you like the Riding Instructor. There is a Lesson Planner that I send when a person signs up for the RI News. Have you received it? It’s an outline that you can use over. Barbara

  • I’m have been in the education business for sometime. And I have been asked to teach ridding lessons to folks who are or have been in the criminal justice system. I haven’t taught in 16 years, but looking forward to getting back in the saddle. Thx you looking forward to here from you soon. Again thank you in advance. time

    • James, It sounds like you have an interesting project in front of you. I’d love to hear how things progress. Barbara

  • Signed up for both newsletters, would love to have both your lesson plan and the French Cavalry Manual. 🙂 I love to teach, have been doing it for awhile and I’m always looking for new inspiration and ideas. 🙂

  • Hi! I just signed up and would love a copy of the lesson plan. Thanks for everything y’all do to make the horse community working together to enjoy what we love!

    • Erin
      Thanks for your comment and thanks for signing up. You should have received The Riding Instructor’s Lesson Planner by now but if you have not, please let me know.

  • Hey there! I know alot of people are asking for your lesson plan but I woukd really like one!
    Me and my friend started a business a couple months ago for lessons and we already have 3 kids. But it seems like they get bored and we ran out of things todo. So we were just wanting to see if we could have a copy just to see what it looks like and get started.Thanks!!

    • Hi Bailey,
      I’m happy to send it. I signed you up for the newsletter,too. Good luck with your new business! Barbara

    • Hi Mera
      I’ve sent you the lesson planner. I hope you can put it to good use. I also signed you on for the newsletter. Barbara

    • Hi Shauna

      I sent The Riding Instructor’s Lesson Planner to you. It includes how to use it. I also signed you up for the newsletter. Thanks for asking. Barbara

  • I would love a copy of your lesson plan and to receive the Riding Instructor News. We never stop learning, even those that teach! Thank you!

    • Hi Karen,
      Lesson plan is on it’s way and I’ve signed you up. Thanks for joining The Riding Instructor. I love that we can all learn form each other! Barbara

  • I just started this year giving lessons and would live some ideas so that everyone stays involved. Thanks in advance

  • I WOULD LOVE A LESSON PLAN. I’ve asked for one a few times but kept losing it! So so sorry but so excited for a new one!

  • I am just starting to teach beginner lessons! I have such a passion for my horses and students and want to make sure I’m doing it right! I would love a PDF of your lesson plan

  • Love the information you provide. Thankyou. I would love to get a copy of a lesson plan. Just starting out. Thankyou regards Rosanne

  • I would love a lesson plan! I am giving lessons to a 5 year old girl who wants to eventually be a “barrel rider” and i have trouble keeping it interesting for her and on track. Thanks! Great article by the way!

  • I would love to improve my teaching and horsemanship with your lesson plan. Could you please send me a copy

  • Hi! I have just begun to teach riding lessons. Although I have been assisting for over 2 years now with lessons I am still so nervous to be doing it myself. I would love to have this lesson plan to help with creating my own. I also wanted to say I LOVE this site. It has always helped me understand many different aspects not only about being a better teacher but being a better rider as well.
    Thank you!

    • Dear Cait,
      Thanks for such an encouraging comment. I am so pleased to know that what I write helps. I hope you have researched your lesson planner. Let me know if you haven’t.

  • I would love a lesson plan PDF! I teach beginner and intermediate lessons, and have been struggling (or so I think) to keep my students on their toes and learning new things every lesson, so anything you have that you think would help me would be great! Thanks and have a great day!

    • Hi Sam,
      Thanks for your comment. I hope you have received your lesson plan.
      Something to think about – it’s not always necessary to teach something new at each lesson. Sometimes it helps to find new ways to teach something again. Everyone needs practice and unless they have their own horse to ride they are getting their practice in class.
      Thanks for reading RI!

  • Hello there, just trying to do riding lessons in my free time to help some family friends, so nothing big, trading riding for hay. I would love a copy of the plans! I really want those to love and enjoy horses as I do, I’m just having troubles conveying all my thoughts. So anything that could help me would be wonderful!
    Thank you! 🙂

    • Amanda- I have tried to send you a lesson plan several times and the e-mail you provided is not going through. Sorry

  • I would love to have a copy of your riding lesson plan. And anything else that could help me be a better instructor. I grew up in pony club have rode for many years. I have recently acquired a job as a riding instructor and want to be successful teaching others.
    Thank you,Tracy Smith

  • Wonderful article! I’d love a copy of your lesson plan. Please send when you have a moment. Thanking in advance, Dawn Hagen, Barn Manager, Organ Mountain Boarding Stables, Las Cruces, NM

  • I would like a printable pdf of “The Riding Instructor’s Lesson Plan” from the 17th September 2013 article by Barbara Ellin Fox, please.

  • I have been searching tirelessly for a ridig lesson plan and was super excited you had one to offer! If you can please send me a copy?

  • I am very interested in seeing one of your lesson plans! I teach a progressive program through a summer camp and as the Equestrian Director, I believe it is my responsibility to help grow our program and our riders. I am always looking for more ideas and look forward to seeing a lesson plan.

  • Hi , I’ve been thrown in the deep end a little to teach some young lead riders for a new pony club that has started in my area.
    Our 1st rally day went well and I did write up a lesson plan / activity plan for the day.
    I kinda winged it so would love to see a lesson plan by someone in the know 🙂

    • Tiffany
      When you do your News letter confirm you should get directions. Let me know if you have any trouble

  • I would love to sign up for your newsletter and receive your free copy of your pdf lesson plan! Thank you very much!

    • Holly,
      I hope you have received your lesson planner. Please contact me if you did not get it. Thanks for signing up!

  • I WOULD ABSOLUTELY LOVE A LESSON PROGRAM. I am working on becoming an instructor and although I am creating my own curriculum and riding program, I always want to learn more ways of doing things. Please send to my email!

  • How to get The Riding Instructor’s Lesson Plan-

    I love to send out the Riding Instructor’s Lesson Plan complete with instructions for filling it out. When you sign up for the Riding Instructor News you should automatically receive an e-mail that will tell you how to down load the lesson plan, plus you’ll receive the terrific Riding Instructor News. Please let me know if you do not receive the lesson plan when you join the newsletter. And thank you so much for reading The Riding Instructor!

    Barbara Ellin Fox

  • Thank you so much for writing this article! I am still new to instructing (have been going for about a year) and am always looking for ways to improve!

    I have always written out a lesson plan (as I am naturally an introvert and like to feel as prepared as possible) but have only recently started printing them out and bringing them into the arena (the only trouble being when I am giving a lunge line lesson, as I have to stuff it in my pocket haha).

    I have never written in time frames to complete things though, so I appreciate all of the little tips in this post. I already signed up and am eager to see your lesson plan format!

    My students pay me their hard earned money and I want to make sure that they get the best lesson possible :).

    Thanks again! I have been reading so many of your articles and find them all SO helpful! I really appreciate the time you take to keep up this blog :).

    • Cassandra
      Thank you so much for your very kind comments. It’s so nice to be encouraged! Best of luck to you in your teaching career.

  • I would love a copy of your lesson plan as I am new to this and can use all the help I can get. thank you for such a great article.
    River Run Ranch Horsemanship Academy

  • Hi Barbara,

    I recently stumbled upon your blog and really love your articles! I’d love to have a copy of your riding plan if I could. We’re in the process of revamping our riding program at the barn and while I always come to lessons with a plan in my head, I think having something like this would be amazing to be able to use and work from.

    Thank you! 🙂

  • I would love to see your recommended lesson plan. I live in Mexico and have a meeting with my daughters riding school who is asking for my suggestions on how they can improve their school. Using lesson plans is a great idea and I would love to show them what they can do to make they school more professional.

  • Thank you for this blog! I found it refreshing and so helpful! Keep it going please.

    I’d love to receive copy of lessons plan!

    • Candi
      You should have received a link to the lesson plan shortly after you signed up for the newsletter. If you didn’t receive it, please let me know! Thanks for following The Riding Instructor

  • Thank you 🙂 The Lesson plan topic is always a “hot one”… I try to have everything ready and have a Basic 20 lesson plan for Beginners….. Appreciate your input. 🙂

  • Hello again, I can’t seem to find the email with the lesson plan but if you could send it along it would be greatly appreciated!

  • New to this site. I am a newer instructor within the last 2 years and I am in the process of creating my lesson plans. Could you please send me what you have so I have some more insite on how I am going to structure mine? Much appreciated!

  • Thank you so much for the wonderful article and all the info shared on the website. Could I please get a copy of your lesson plan and info for subscribing to the site?
    Thank you again, looking forward to new ideas great reminders

  • Hi,

    I have keep lessons now about 17 years, and never carried any plans with me. And here because not: Firts of all, I teach riders to FEEL, how horse feels today, is horse stiff, lack of impulsion, too much forward going etc. Every horse needs DIFFERENT kind of a warm-up. Someone needs lateral movements to bend, carrying themselfs correctly and bending all hindleg joints. Some horse needs back stretching warm up, some needs something else. So, if I am a real horsemen, I always think about HORSE, and how do I get best result with a horse.

    So that is the reason, I don´t teach with clipboard. Horses got different days, so does riders, they just don´t go with plan that I have made. I teach things that rides and a horse needs right in that moment.

    Of course beginners, needs basic things first and so on, but beginners also develops differently. Some one does not want to canter at all (yet), someone wants. So If I have a plan that today we will learn how to canter, one of student is forced to canter only because of MY plan is complete. It´s not fair to student nor the horse.

    And a good instructor can teach students with EYE, what he/she needs now to develop. And always look at the horse, what a horse needs today. For example, we are going to jump, let´s say some gymnastic jumping, one horse is lack of impulsion and one is going too fast (running away from rider), we just can´t have same kind of warm up, don´t we? One needs relaxing excercise and other needs raising of impulsion. THEN we can start jumping.

    • Hi Louise when you sign up for The Riding Instructor News you’ll receive an email with a link to download the lesson plan. The sign up form is on the upper right hand of The Riding Instructor.

  • Love this article. Like with our students, sometimes you just have to revisit the solid building blocks knows as the basics. This is a great way for experienced RIDERS to make sure they don’t miss TEACHING anything to a newer student. Sometimes riders can be “too experienced” and skills may just come second nature to them – which makes those things hard to break down and teach!!! Writing a lesson plan can be VERY helpful for those who need to be more step-by-step and thorough in their instruction.

    LOVE IT and would love to see your copy of the lesson plan please!

    Thanks so much!

  • Thank you for the inspiration! It is a challenge to keep it all organised sometimes. Would also love a copy of your lesson plan 🙂

  • I’m not sure if I like the idea of taking the written lesson plan into the arena. As a student, if I saw my instructor reading out of a book or off a sheet of paper, I’d probably lose some confidence in the instructor.

    • Hi Kevin – Thanks for your comment, especially because it brings up two good topics – the purpose of a lesson plan and how to use it. I agree that it would be disconcerting to have your instructor waving a paper around that they had to check in order to determine what part of the lesson came next. Lesson plans are used by professors, teachers and coaches all over the world to make sure that they teach by a proven system and cover all the topics that are necessary for the student’s education. It’s preparation. Whether you, the student, sees that lesson plan or not is irrelevant. The lesson plan is for the instructor/teacher/coach. I promise that your kindergarten teacher used one, your teacher that taught grammar used one, and even your college creative writing teacher used a plan. Rugby and soccer coaches use lesson or session plans for practice. Coaches use play books during foot ball games. Why not riding instructors?
      There is a sales pitch in todays lesson culture that goes sort of like this:”We treat every one as an individual and design your lesson plan for the individual.” Translated that means the instructor has no plan and isn’t going to take the time to make one. To that instructor, you are money and they will entertain you with something on lesson day according to how you feel. That kind of instruction is a rip off. With the trend toward clinics there is also the feeling that a riding instructor should walk in, evaluate the student and make a plan from there. Johnny Carson used to do a skit about this very same thing. It was called Karnak, the Magician. But I can promise you that any good clinician comes to your barn with a plan. They have put the work into planning what will be done during the clinic, what tools they will need, and how many helpers or horses are required.
      Instructors who teach by whim or by pulling everything out of their memory are mediocre at best. They are not giving their students a solid riding education.
      So Kevin if your instructor shows up with a sheet of paper to tell them what to do next in your lesson or has to look the next step up in a book… skip the lesson and go for a nice trail ride.

  • Thanks for the reminder! It’s easy to get lazy (it’s in my head, right?). I think that I’ve never seen someone teach from a hard copy (other than Pony Club kids practicing teaching for their certifications).

    • I think that when you have used plans long enough, the lesson becomes so second nature that you reach a point that maybe you don’t have to carry it on top of your stack to the arena but if I have a long teaching day, you won’t see me at the arena without my notebook or clip board and the directions for what I wanted to achieve and have my students work on for each class. I might not need to look at it and maybe no one else will see it but I promise that in order to teach a day of good lessons I’ve had to do my prep. Because you are a Pony Club instructor and DC I know prep is a well exercised term in your vocabulary, too! I hope the lesson plan that I sent to you is a tool that you can use with those Pony Club kids when they have to plan out lessons for certifications. Thanks for your comment. I always love to hear from you. . Keep up the good work and thanks for working with the Pony Club kids

      • Hello, Just in need of some help with advanced rider lesson plans, working in a hot climate so mainly flatwork content. Dont want to be boring so Im studying more dressage and leg yielding movements but not sure which to introduce first as I want a safe and well thought out structure so as not to rush ahead. Also giving horses time to accept and learn the movements.

        Can you please please help me!?

        Also I would like any other lesson plans etc you could send… every little helps!

        • Hi Fiona,
          I have a few things in the works but would suggest that you look at one of the books that has the “101” titles. They are great sources for activities to work into your lesson. You could plug those into the Riding Instructor’s Lesson Plan

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