From group to private to semi-private, deciding which lesson formats to offer and how many of each format can be difficult for riding instructors. However, it’s an important step for every riding instructor as he or she decides how to structure and operate their business.
Weigh the Pros and Cons
Typically, private lessons are the most expensive option provided, then semi-private, then group lessons. “Kids take mainly group lessons as they like to be around other horse-crazy kids, and the parents prefer the less-expensive version,” said Christina Sdrenka, who is the owner and head instructor at Saddlewood Horse Club in Cape Coral, Florida, and a Level 3 CHA Certified Instructor. “Most of my adults take private lessons as they learn differently than children.”
Carol Parker, a CHA, PATH, and Centered Riding Instructor in New Fairfield, Connecticut, prefers teaching private lessons so that she can focus all of her attention on one horse-and-rider combination. “It is easier in a private lesson to be flexible with the day’s lesson plan depending on how that rider-horse combination responds as the lesson progresses,” said Parker. She added that private lessons don’t have as many distractions.
When Parker does teach a group lesson, she keeps it to four riders or less. “The lesson will be structured around specific exercises with the expectation that the riders are a bit more independent and will be able to stay on task without too much supervision,” said Parker. She noted that having one rider who is on a different skill level than the group can cause complications.
"When it comes to fine-tuning techniques and supporting horse-specific goals, private lessons are the way to go,” said Angela Greenshields, a CHA Master Instructor in Olympia, Washington. “Group lessons facilitate more independent riding, add a social component, and prepare students for show environments.”
Greenshields said she enjoys teaching all three formats. “Each has its strengths and weaknesses,” she added.
It’s important for instructors to determine what riders want in their local market. Talking to people in the community to determine what they want can help make the final decision on what lesson formats to offer.