Where to go riding


Picking the right horse riding experience for you

Teachers/School Principals

How will you decide where to go, if you want to take your students and be involved with horse activities?

Parents/Adults looking for a well run horse program

How will you decide if the place you have seen advertised is a safe, well run horse program?

What you can do is:

  • Ask a series of questions
  • If possible, have a look before you commit yourself (your group/school) to attending the centre

Below is a list of the questions to ask, and what to look for if you have the chance to check out the site before you attend as riders.

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Questions to Ask

What qualifications do the horse staff have?

E.g. Horse Safety Australia/  EA / BHS . Make sure the qualifications are appropriate for the level and type of riding you will be doing.

Are these qualifications current?

Most groups require currency in experience and first aid qualifications for maintenance of registration.

Do the horse staff have current first aid qualifications?

And will they be the people running the horse activities? (sometimes there is someone on site who is qualified, but they are no where near where you are riding to be on hand if there is an emergency!)

Have their qualifications been completed or are they ‘in progress’?

Some operators may enrol and never do more than a couple of subjects by correspondence, but call themselves qualified!

Do they have public liability insurance?

With an APRA approved insurance company.

What qualified staff : client ratios will they use?

Should be a minimum of:

  • Trail riding 1:6 with a minimum of 2 staff on any ride
  • Arena 1:8

Do they follow the requirements of the Horse Safety Australia ‘Standards For Group Riding Programs’, The Safe Work Australia’s “Guide to managing risks when new or inexperienced persons interact with horses” and  the national Adventure Activity Standards for trail riding?

See the Standards page for these requirements. The Safe Work Australia Guide can be downloaded here Guide

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For Schools

Do they comply with your state’s Department of Education guidelines for horse activities in schools?

Are they experienced with the age and stage of rider that you are proposing to send to them?

For example:

  • a Pony Club qualified instructor is not necessarily experienced with beginners who have never been near a horse (they normally work with young people who own their own horses or have ridden before)
  • a Trail Guide is not normally experienced as a ‘dressage’ teacher
  • Students with special needs may need instructors with specific training in managing these needs (Riding for the Disabled)

If possible, obtain the contact details of other school groups who have recently used their services for you to check on their evaluations of the program offered

Check if the organisation (site) is accredited with HSA which means they have qualified staff and meet existing Australian standards.

Check with the peak bodies to see if they are reputable operators

  • Horse Safety Australia
  • Equestrian Australia

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What To Look For At The Site

  • The horse area is separated from public access / cars / children etc. and no one may enter without staff supervision
  • There is a waiver/permission form (varies from state to state) for parents to sign for those under 18, or for participants, if adults. This should include a warning that horseriding can be dangerous (this indicates a responsible attitude to their duty of care) The sites collect medical / allergy information on clients and emergency contact numbers
  • It looks clean, tidy and well cared for
  • There are Australian Standard 3838 helmets (or equivalent) provided which riders must wear (there is a metal tag on inside which indicates this number). Helmets are fitted and checked by staff. These helmets should be less than 5 years from date of manufacture (written on the tag inside the helmets)
  • Riders must wear smooth soled shoes with small heels /boots are provided…or stirrups are fitted with proven safety attachments to prevent feet being caught in them in the event of an accident (e.g. Smartrider Breakaway Stirrups/ Toestoppers/stirrup cages etc.)
  • The equipment looks in good repair (not split or frayed)
  • New riders are allocated individually to their horses, after being questioned as to their experience (not just allowed to choose one at will)
  • Riders are assisted to mount their horses in a hazard free, non slip, secure area. The horse is held by the instructor during the mounting procedure. Assistance is given to ensure the stirrups are a correct fit and length.
  • Riders are not permitted to go out of the secure area for trail riding until instructors are satisfied they can ‘control’ their horses (start, stop and turn independently)
  • Staff qualifications and ratios are adhered to.
  • Advice is given to riders on what to expect on the ride, care is taken with hydration, protection from the elements etc.
  • Trial rides for beginners should not be on main roads.
  • There are contingency plans for emergencies.
  • Communications devices to contact emergency services in the event of an incident are available at all horse activities.
  • First aid equipment is available at all horse activities; staff have current training in first aid.

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Minimum Age of Riders on Trail Rides

The recommended minimum age for trail riding is normally 10 years. Younger than this they should be on a lead rope at all times unless they have proven abilities and experience as riders and the rider/ horse combination has been specifically assessed as safe.
In an arena, the minimum age may be as young as 5 or even younger if being led by a qualified person (not a parent with no horse experience!).  However, the area used for young children should be restricted, and the ratio of instructors to clients should increase from 1:8 through to 1:1 as the riders decrease in age and experience.

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