Learn to Ride! A MARYLAND HORSE COUNCIL PUBLICATION While COVID-19 has shut down many

activities throughout the country, according to the American Horse Council, people are fl ocking to horseback riding due to its inherent amenability to social distancing and outdoor venues. Here in Maryland, horseback riding was one of the fi rst outdoor activities permitted by Governor Hogan’s executive orders, even be- fore Phase 1 of his recovery plan was initiated. Because of this, many lesson stables are seeing an uptick in new students. T e Equiery reached out to the 38 Horse Dis-

covery Centers in Maryland and while many stated they are purposely working at a smaller capacity than pre-COVID, they are getting more phone calls requesting lessons, and some even have growing wait-lists. If you are new to horseback riding or looking

for a new, socially distant activity for your chil- dren, picking the right lesson stable can seem daunting. To help guide new riders toward the perfect lesson stable fi t, T e Equiery created its “Learn to Ride!” guide in 2003. An abridged and updated version is printed here with the full version on To learn more about the Maryland Horse In-

dustry Board’s Horse Discovery Centers, read the sidebar in this article or go to www.mda. To fi nd a lesson stable, go to http://equiery. com/stables/

Stable Facilities T e Maryland Department of Agriculture,

through the Maryland Horse Industry Board, inspects public stables to ensure that the care of the horses and riding equipment meets certain minimum standards. Currently there are over 700 licensed stables in Maryland. Licensed stables must display Maryland De-

partment of Agriculture license certificates prominently on the premises. However, MDA li- censing does not ensure the quality of instruction.

Instructors Although Maryland does not require that in-

structors be certifi ed or licensed, there are many national and international programs that off er teaching certifi cations. Some of these organiza- tions with certifi cation programs include, but are not limited to: • T e American Riding Instructors Certifi ca- tion Program (ARICP) • T e British Horse Society (BHS) • Certified Horsemanship Association (CHA) • Professional Association of T erapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH Intl.)

• United States Dressage Federation (USDF) • United States Eventing Association (USEA) In addition, many colleges off er equine stud- ies degrees, which include certification pro- grams, or their equivalent. T ese certifications do not necessarily attest to the quality of instruction, or the integrity of the instructor. T ey only certify that the individu- als have a certain amount of knowledge and/or training. Some certifications do not require any updating, while others require periodic renewal with proof of continuing education. T e majority of these programs also require

instructors to maintain proper certifi cation for First Aid and CPR through an accred- ited national or international organization. T ose teaching within the umbrella of the U.S. Equestrian Federation and U.S. Pony Club, Inc., are also required to complete the Safe- Sport training program and complete yearly refresher courses. Please note, there are many outstanding in-

structors who hold no certification whatsoever. One of the best ways to learn more about an instructor before signing up for a lesson pro- gram is to watch them teach a few lessons and use your own judgement.

Finding a Lesson Stable

When starting the search for a lesson stable, the first thing to do is ask yourself a few simple questions: 1) Are you looking for a stable that caters

strictly to adults? Strictly to children? Or a mix of both adults and children? 2) Do you want to ride English or West-

ern? (T ere are many sub disciplines involved in both English and Western riding, but for fi rst time riders, we suggest picking one style to learn fi rst and then decide if you want to switch or pursue a specifi c discipline.) 3) Do you want to ride for pleasure, or do

you (or your child) have aspirations to show or compete?

T e answers to these questions will dictate

the direction of your search for the perfect les- son stable. 1) Some stables specialize in only children or

adults, and others are comfortable doing both. You need to be comfortable with the others who may be in the lessons with you or your child. 2) Many riders begin their lessons know-

ing which type, English or Western, that they want. Others do not. Some barns can provide introductory lessons in both styles of riding,


and students later specialize once they have continued...

Maryland Horse Discovery Centers

The Maryland Horse Industry Board created the Horse Discovery Center (HDC) program specifi cally to give potential new riders a list of facilities that provide introductory horse experiences. These experiences include un- mounted lessons on how to groom a horse, to pony rides, to trail rides, and introduc- tory lessons. The HDC program is a network throughout the state that helps boost the equine industry as a whole.

Currently there are 38 HDCs across Mary- land. According to MHIB’s recent HDC 2019 year in review report, these centers held over 600 events and introduced over 65,000 adults and children to horses. Centers were also represented at several 2019 fairs and festivals including Horseland at the Maryland State Fair. In 2019 alone, 70,250 people at these fairs and festivals participated in some sort of ac- tivity provided by various HDCs.

As stables throughout the state continue to

work through COVID-19 recovery plans, sev- eral HDCs shared their experiences.

“Prince George’s [Equestrian Center] is still closed so people are looking for shows to go to in our area and have asked us to host more this summer.” – Bobby Lindsley, A Moment in Time (St. Mary’s County)

“We are still closed to protect our staff [from COVID-19] but have discovered a whole new revenue source with a series of virtual les- sons we are producing on YouTube for stu- dents. We are also working with the county library system to make 30 minute episodes for their summer reading challenge.”

– Cathy Schmidt, Chesapeake Therapeutic Riding (Harford County)

“We are different than a lot of Discovery Centers and opened later than the boarding stables. People who have come here have said this is the fi rst place they have taken their kids because its outside and they feel more comfortable.” – Martha Clark, Clark’s Elioak Farm (Howard County)

“We are barely getting by and canceled our summer camps and parties. But our sponsor a horse program is still working well and

we started a ‘ponies and popsicles’ evening program that is almost completely full.” – Rick Holt, Dun-Pikin Farm (Anne Arundel County)

800-244-9580 |

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