What the job involves
Horse riding instructors teach people of all ages, levels of ability and experience to ride.
Your work could involve:
- teaching people who want to ride as a hobby
- helping experienced riders to prepare for competitions
- developing training programmes
- spotting and helping riders to correct problems
You may also help to teach assistant riding instructors. Some jobs can combine other duties such as the grooming and caring of horses in the riding yard.
You will need to be patient, have excellent communication skills and the ability to encourage and motivate people whilst remaining calm under pressure.
You will need to be a skilled rider and be willing to work outside in all types of weather.
It is common for instructors to work varied hours including evenings and weekends. Part-time work may be available. Some positions can involve you having to live in at the riding school.
You would usually work outdoors, in all weather conditions, although larger riding schools may also have indoor facilities. If you are freelance, you will need to travel between riding schools and be flexible with hours.
Qualifications and training
Employers will usually expect you to have qualifications from the British Horse Society (BHS) or Association of British Riding Schools (ABRS). To gain the qualifications, you will need to complete training which will give you the skills and knowledge needed to pass the BHS or ABRS exams.
BHS qualifications for instructors are:
- BHS Preliminary Teaching Test
- Assistant Instructor Certificate (BHSAI)
- Intermediate Instructor Certificate (BHSII)
- BHS Instructor’s Certificate (BHSI)
- Fellowship of the BHS
ABRS exams are practical and do not involve written papers. You do not need to be a member of the ABRS to take the exams, which include:
- ABRS Initial Teaching Award
- ABRS Teaching Certificate
You can train as a riding instructor in several ways:
- on an apprenticeship scheme
- attending a college course
- as a fee-paying student at a riding school (fees tend to be high)
- through private study and distance learning programmes if you are in a relevant job.
You can complete other specialist instructor awards through organisations such as the Pony Club and the British Driving Society. To work with people with disabilities, you need a Riding for the Disabled Association Instructors’ Certificate.
It is likely your work will include working with children, young people or other vulnerable groups at some stage if not on a regular basis therefore you will need a cleared Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) certificate.
You will also need to have human first aid training and ensure that training is carried out safely at all times.
Getting into the profession
Opportunities to train as riding instructor alongside employment exist and allow you to earn at the same time as gaining qualifications and experience. There are a number of online job sites that advertise equine vacancies, these include:
You can also look at undertaking an apprenticeship. Apprenticeship vacancies may be advertised on the National Apprenticeship Service’s Vacancy Matching Service.
Salary and benefits
Your salary will depend on the organisation you work for, however, starting salaries for trainee and assistant instructors are usually between £12,000 and £15,000 a year. Experienced instructors can earn up to £25,000 a year. Rates of pay depend upon the size of the centre, your qualifications, and whether accommodation, meals and further training are included as part of the salary. As a self-employed instructor your earnings would depend on experience, success in attracting business and the number of hours you work. Figures are intended as a guideline only.
As a trained horse riding instructor you could work at a riding school, competition yard, private stables and agricultural or equine college stables. Trekking centres, riding holiday centres and the Pony Club may also offer seasonal work. You could become a head or senior instructor at a riding school, or a competition judge. You may have the opportunity to work abroad – the IGEC Passport enables instructors to have their qualifications recognised and accepted in IGEQ member countries thus making working abroad a lot easier.
With experience as an instructor you could become self-employed and possibly work on a freelance basis for several centres. Another option would be to run your own riding school.
You may also wish to continue with your learning and complete an equine-related degree. This is not needed for working as a riding instructor, but could be useful if you want to progress into management.