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 Prospective students will want to download our printable Lesson Program Guidelines and our Barn Rules to help you prepare for prepare for lessons at HorseSense Riding Academy -- especially if this is your first experience with riding lessons.  Here are just a few of the tips you'll learn in the Guidelines:

correct attireWhat to wear – and what not to wear – for riding

We have three basic requirements:  long pants, helmets and boots.  We can supply the helmet for the first few lessons, but you’ll need to buy a properly fitted ASTM-SEI-approved riding helmet within a few months.  Ask us to help you find affordable models that expand to fit growing young heads.

We do require that students wear good sturdy boots with a defined heel (minimum of ½ inch) and a smooth sole (no heavy waffling). Initially, any well-fitting boots will do (including cowboy boots), but eventually you’ll want to invest in a pair of real paddock or jodhpur boots.

Students don’t necessarily need to be decked out in fancy riding clothes for lessons – in fact, we get so dirty that we recommend you save the nicer things for shows!  Stretchy jeans or leggings are fine -- but pants must reach the ankle to prevent chafing.  When your child begins to post to the trot, you’ll need to protect the inside of his legs with a pair of suede or leather half-chaps, preferably with jodhpurs or riding jeans.  In cold weather, you’ll need warm riding gloves –- inexpensive knit gloves with a pebbled surface on the palms and fingertips are ideal.  As with the helmet, we can usually let students borrow our half-chaps or gloves for a few lessons –- but not indefinitely.

If your child is ready for showing, ask us to help you select clothes that are a good value – and don’t forget to check out our used clothing bin!

Otherwise, the dress code is pretty simple:

don’t wear clothing that is too loose or too tight

don’t wear dangling jewelry that could get caught –- stud earrings and a watch are okay

long hair should be tied back away from the face

wear clothing appropriate for the weather –- esp. those warm riding gloves in the winter!

don’t wear anything that will embarrass anyone’s mother

remember sunscreen, even on sunny winter days

 

Water and other desirable substances

Riding is a strenuous activity, and dehydration is a serious risk when it’s hot. In the warmer months we maintain a cooler filled with ice water to help keep everyone hydrated – but we learned the hard way that we can’t afford to provide the INCREDIBLE number of disposable cups that our students go through each week!  So send your kid with a nice, eco-friendly personal water container of some kind.  If she won’t drink unflavored water, we recommend powdered or pre-packaged sports drinks, or juice, rather than sodas, which actually contribute to dehydration.  We also recommend that you teach your child to drink plenty of water the DAY BEFORE their lesson; it’s not really effective to wait until right before they go out to ride in the heat.

 

Candy and other illegal substances

We don’t allow wrapped candy at HorseSense because of those darn wrappers, which inevitably end up on the ground and pose a health hazard to our horses.  We also ask that our students leave their chewing gum at home so that we don’t have to practice the Heimlich Maneuver in the middle of a lesson.

 

lessonsPreparing for lessons

We start everyone out with a few introductory ground lessons to teach them how to safely work around horses, how to prepare for riding by grooming the horse, and how to tack up and untack.  We expect all of our students (except Rising Riders) to do this quickly and efficiently.  Please allow extra time for your child to prepare her pony BEFORE and AFTER her scheduled lesson time -- that means arriving 15-20 minutes early and staying 10-15 minutes after the lesson -- and be prepared to lend a hand if your child is REALLY slow.  Students should be in the arena and ready to ride promptly at their appointed time, or the cascading effect of tardiness will ruin Nikki’s whole day.

After the first few introductory lessons, Nikki generally allows an hour of riding time per lesson.  Sometimes in the course of a lesson Nikki will need extra time to work through an exercise successfully (it's very important for the horse's training that the lesson end with them performing correctly), so if you need your child to be finished by a specific time, please let Nikki know in advance.

You can help your child perform his best during lessons if she is well-rested, well-fed, thoroughly hydrated and reasonably fit and healthy when she rides.  A tired, hungry, dehydrated, out-of-shape kid on a horse is an accident waiting to happen!  Remind her that riding is an athletic activity, and she should learn to think like an athlete.

The loading zone

Our designated parking area for lessons and camps is the gravel lot between the arena and the barn. Please park facing out towards the pastures along the sides of the parking area, leaving the center free for trailer access between the farmhouse and the barn. Follow the signs to park for shows and events.

We encourage you to stay and watch your child’s lesson whenever possible – but if you need to drop her off and go elsewhere, please make sure that you have signed a Medical Release so that we can get emergency help for your child if required.

Scheduling group lesson

Nikki will work with you to determine a lesson schedule that works for everyone.  We post a copy of our seasonal lesson schedule for your convenience; look it over and contact us for openings.

We teach rain or shine; if weather conditions prohibit a riding lesson, we'll substitute a much-needed horsekeeping lesson.  We'll cancel lessons altogether only if traveling is hazardous.

 Please keep these additional points in mind:

Except for extreme conditions (lightning, blizzards, monsoons), we ride. In the event that weather won’t allow a riding lesson, we’ll substitute an unmounted lesson in the barn or farmhouse. Repeated unannounced failures to show up for lessons will either increase your lesson fees by $5 or will release you from that lesson slot, at our discretion.

 We currently have 50+ students, which restricts our ability to change the schedule around -- but we’ll try our best to accommodate any changes you need to make.  We tend to have more flexibility in the spring and fall, when temperatures are moderate and there are more daylight hours in which to ride.

It is important to arrive on time for your lessons.  When you are late, often other people and horses are standing around waiting for you.  Horses really don’t like waiting!  Any student who is more than 10 minutes late without calling us ahead of time will lose her stirrups for the first half of the lesson.  More than 20 minutes late and she rides the whole lesson without stirrups –- ouch!

We reserve the right to cancel the lesson after lateness exceeds 30 minutes.  Barring sudden illness or emergency,if a student fails to arrive for a scheduled lesson without calling, payment for that lesson is still due in full.

If you must cancel a lesson, please call and let us know at least 24 hours ahead of time whenever possible, so that we can offer that time or that horse to someone else.  We recommend leaving a message on both the barn voicemail and Nikki's cell phone if you can’t catch us in person.
NOTE: We don't use our cell phones much (they don't really mix well with horses!), so please use the farm phone (706-636-2123) to let us know of schedule changes. Email and Facebook messages will NOT work for cancelled lessons unless you send them at least 24 hours in advanced!

 School horses

We have some wonderful horses in our lesson program; most belong to us, but a few belong to students and are boarded here at the farm.  Each horse has a distinct personality and offers a unique set of joys and challenges for the aspiring rider.  Nikki will carefully match your child with the horse that is best suited to your child’s experience, temperament and ability.  As your child becomes more proficient, we’ll change mounts more frequently to present a fresh set of lessons.  Click here to learn more about our horses.

And yes, it’s okay to bring treats like apples or carrots for your favorite horse – just be sure that we show you how to feed them safely!  We don’t feed treats by hand to some horses because they tend to get greedy and nippy.  We also require that most of our horses learn to work for treats by performing some useful behavior.  No candy or other foodstuffs, please.

Be familiar with our Barn Rules

Barn Rules are posted at various places around the farm.  Make sure that everyone in your family and each of your guests is familiar with these basic rules for civilized behavior around horses -- you can look them over here.

Fees and payment options

Payment is due after each lesson, although some people prefer to pay ahead for lessons on a monthly basis.  If you are one of those people, let us know.

We accept cash and checks as payment. Checks should be payable to “HorseSense” – please write the lesson/camp dates on your check. Please note that there is a $25 returned check fee if your check is returned for any reason.

We can also accept electronic payments from your debit or credit card for lessons, camps, and other fees on our website, via PayPal’s secure connection. You don’t have to be a PayPal member to use the service, but do please include a the appropriate service charge to offset the fee PayPal charges us.  Click here for more information about online payments.

Our lesson and day camp fees are relatively low, especially compared to fees customarily charged in the metro Atlanta area. We started our school with a commitment to keeping our fees as low as possible so that we can offer riding experiences to a broader section of our community. We appreciate that many of our parents work hard and make sacrifices to provide their children with riding lessons – and we hope our low fees will allow you to extend those lessons with camps and clinics.

When we are forced to raise our fees, we apply the new rates only to new students – we don’t raise fees for current students enrolled in a regular lesson schedule. It’s one way we can reward those students who consistently dedicate time and effort to their lessons.  However, if you drop out of a regular lesson schedule, we reserve the right to reinstate you at the new rate.

 

jumping studentHow to track your child’s progression

Contrary to popular opinion, the most effective way to learn about your child’s progress in lessons is NOT to ask “so, how did your riding lesson go today?”

The best way to follow your child’s progression as she learns to ride is to be an active participant:  go sit in the arena and watch her lessons; ask questions about the things you don’t understand; be a cheerleader for your child’s accomplishments.

If you’re not able to have an active role in your child’s lessons, you can still keep track of what she’s learning:  make sure that you and your child download a copy of our exclusive Learning Levels program, a system that allows you to follow your child's progress with both mounted and unmounted instruction.  A chart that shows our students' achievements and explains each level is also posted in the farmhouse. 

At the very least, occasionally ask us, rather than your child, how the lessons are progressing!

Stay in the loop

We try hard to keep the lines of communication open so that both you and your child stay current with whatever’s happening at HorseSense.  Please take the time to browse our bulletin boards, bookmark our Latest News page, and "like" our Facebook page (see the link in the top left column) so you won’t miss the next barn party or day camp enrollment deadline.  Our quarterly newsletters are available online and in printed form at the barn, with scheduling updates and event reminders.  And check both sources periodically for photos of our students – including your child!