If you are serious about learning to ride, there are options to do so on a budget; however, they are likely to require quite a time commitment.
A good place to start is to work out how much of your monthly budget can be devoted to riding, and then go from there. Become familiar with how much riding lessons cost in your area and set your budget on the low end. Look for any opportunities to learn as much as you can without having to deviate from that budget.
Learning to ride horses is expensive, here are 6 ways budget riders make it work:
Audit a Training Clinic
Many riding stables host events called “clinics.” In a riding clinic, people can bring their horses and learn from a riding instructor who is visiting the area. Sometimes, trainers giving clinics are especially good- or even famous riders!
These clinics often have a specific focus and may not always be directed toward what you are currently working on. Despite that, there is still a lot that can be learned from them, and as a plus, you don’t even need to bring a horse along.
Often, auditing (watching and listening) a clinic is free or inexpensive. This allows more people to take part and learn without the arena getting over-crowded with people on horses. To get the most out of watching a clinic, bring a notepad and a friend and try to soak up as much information as you can.
Watch Riders in Other Lessons
One suggestion is to watch other lessons. So much can be learned from watching others. Whether they are at your riding level and working on the same things you are, or much more experienced, there is always something that can be picked up and applied to your own riding.
You can show up early to the barn and watch the lesson before yours, or stay late and watch the one after. You could also ask your instructor if there are any particular lesson times that would be good for you to watch; perhaps there is another rider working on the same things you are and it may help to watch them.
Film Your Ride to Watch Later
It can be very helpful to be able to see yourself riding. This is where a camera comes in handy. You can ask someone to film you riding in a lesson, and then you can watch the video later and take notes about anything that stands out to you – good or bad. Sometimes just seeing yourself from a different perspective can help things click. You don’t need to film every ride. Try filming once every couple of months, and make a list of what you want to work on. When you feel like you have made improvements, make another video to check in with yourself and see what the results are. Film is a great way to track your progression.
Become a Working Student
Another option is to become a working student at a local barn. A working student is someone who works at the barn in exchange for lessons, discounts on board, or possibly a discounted lease on a lesson horse. The work can include anything from stall cleaning to helping with lessons. Being a working student has the added benefit of giving you a chance to learn all aspects of horse care in addition to riding lessons.
Lease a Lesson Horse
Leases can be expensive, but it could be worth inquiring about leasing a lesson horse. A lease allows you to pay a fee for additional riding time on a specific horse. The benefit of a lease is that you are able to ride the horse in between lesson days, which will give you an opportunity to practice what was learned in the lesson each week.
While not all barns offer leases on lesson horses, the ones that do will usually offer a full or partial lease. A partial lease will likely give you access to the horse one day a week in addition to a riding lesson and is the less expensive option, whereas a full lease is more likely to be three to five days plus a lesson. If you are also able to combine this with being a working student, you may be able to work off some of the cost of the lease.
Ride With a Buddy
If you are able to work out a lease or have access to a horse to ride in between lessons another way, it would be beneficial to find a friend to ride with you on those extra days. You can both discuss the things you want to work on, or something you have been struggling with beforehand.
This way, during the ride, you can watch each other and give out pointers and words of encouragement. There is also a safety benefit to riding with a partner. It is always a good idea to have another person around just in case something happens.
Exercise Other Horses at the Barn
It may be worth checking with your instructor if there are any horses boarded at the barn that need additional exercise. If so, ask the owner if you can ride their horse.
Sometimes owners do not have time to ride as regularly as they would like, or possibly they have other things going on in their lives that currently prevent them from riding as they normally would. Their horse would still need exercise, though, so it would be a mutually beneficial exchange.
This is not an ideal route for a beginner rider, but once you have gained some experience it may be a good option. It will be necessary for the owner to be on board with it, and the horse will need to be a good fit for your level of riding. Some riders are even able to start a business exercising horses.
Learning to ride on a budget can be done, although it may require some creativity and a lot of commitment to get the absolute most out of the money you do spend. Do not get discouraged if a barn does not have what you’re looking for. You may need to check out a few different barns in your area to find the right fit for your budget, both cost-wise and based on the opportunities they offer.