There are lots of ways to determine if a particular stable is the right place for you to take lessons. One way is to look at the horses. Are they in good health? do they seem content? Are they unafraid of visitors? Another way is to take a good look around at cleanliness and safety.

The other day I discovered another factor that would help me decide if this was a good progam or not. I visited a barn that seemed to be very efficient. Stalls were clean. There were all sorts of charts on the walls listing everything from the turn out schedule to the blanketing schedule. Each horse had its own clean blanket, a sign listing the owner, vet, feed etc. This place was so neat an tidy that it looked like it had just been built. (I found out later that they blew the aisle out with a leaf blower at least once a day). I thought, now here's an efficiently run quality operation. That is until I stepped into the tack room. Whoa!

A tack room will tell you a lot. If there are all sorts of "gadgets" hanging around, or if there are few snaffles but more severe bits, you might decide that this stable is not for you. But the first thing I noticed in this tack room was that every bit was well caked with dirt and dried slobber. I thought, egaads- who would put that into a horse's mouth. Wanting to give the benefit of the doubt I thought that perhaps they cleaned the bits before they rode as opposed to afterwords. That was a short lived hope because as soon as I looked at the saddle pads I realized that this stable was just about outward appearances. The saddle pads were filthy, caked with sweat and dirt. And this wasn't dirt from a single ride. It was grime build up. There wasn't a clean saddle pad in sight. I felt sorry for the horses who would have to wear this equipment.

Sometimes you have to dig a little bit deeper than a surface look. What indicators of a good or poor riding establishment have you discovered?

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Replies to This Discussion

That's disgusting. Those poor horses
I agree!
It has been my observation that clean tack is a rarity nowadays in lesson tack rooms. When I thought about it I realized even with the cost of tack nowadays it makes more economic sense just to let it get dirty, wear out, and then replace it when you consider how much you have to pay people to clean it.
MY tack is usually clean. I get some status from this. Occasionally my riding teacher asks me to reclaim some neglected tack. Since she is the best riding teacher I have ever had and she does not charge me that much for the lessons, I am glad to help her out.
My bits are clean, and I at least brush off the saddle pads before and after I use them. I keep my leather soft and usually clean.
Hi Jackie,
That clean tack in lesson tack rooms is a rarity is a pretty sad state. If the instructor is not paying attention to the welfare of the horses or even to his or her own investment in equipment, would make me wonder how much attention they pay to preparing for the lessons they teach. Dirty equipment can cause sores on mouths, girths, backs, head etc. And tack that's not cared for and checked regularly becomes a safety issue for the students.
I have to disagree with you this time. It doesn't make more economic sense to let it get dirty and wear out. A leather bridle can last for 20 years, saddle even longer and bits don't normally wear out. As far as expense of labor goes, if the instructor is a good one there should be no trouble making a trade out with a student who would like an extra lesson in exchange for cleaning tack, particularly if the instructor teaches any semi private or private classes. And it's not hard to teach students (or help, if students don't put horses up) to wipe bits off. As far as cleaning- a quick wipe over at the end of each day followed by a periodic thorough cleaning will keep most tack in nice condition. In my opinion, dirty tack is an indicator of poor horse management skills and slovenly care.
You, on the other hand, should pat yourself on the back for taking good care of your equipment. Not only are you protecting the horses you ride, protecting your investment and protecting yourself, you are obviously seriously committed to being a good horsewoman. Kudos ot you!
I basically agree with you, but there are some exceptions to the clean tack room/best horseperson rule. Often these people are traumatized about cleaning tack by obsessive/compulsive Pony Club or 4-H instructors (or is it mothers?) who seem to prefer tack that looks like new instead of the well-fatted leather slightly matte surface of decently cared for tack.
My riding teacher does keep her bits clean, making the students clean them. She also washes the saddle pads when needed. None of her horses are ill treated or abused and they are cared for and observed daily. During this time period I have also seen tack rooms full of clean tack in stables where I would never board a horse or even take lesson. Just saying that there are SOME exceptions.
I got my Stubben Siegfried 39 years ago, and I had to replace a billet strap 30 years ago, and I still use it. I got my Crosby Wide Front 31 years ago, replaced some stitching 3 years ago, and I used it 2 weeks ago. I picked up an old German made dressage saddle that had a LOT of wear, I had to accept a wrinkle in the flap and the leather being worn on the jockeys, and I had to have a billet strap re-stitched (I got it for $100.00)--I was riding in it today. I also have an old (over 100 years) A-fork Western saddle, bench made . I had to get extensive repairs on it to get it rideable. I'm not riding in it because none of the horses I ride are used to Western tack. Old tack is often better made.
I've noticed that the leather of saddles that are not kept soaped and fatted tends to abrade and get thin. I use lard (avoid all metal!!!!) to keep my tack pliable, and I use lard whenever I have to rescue any old or uncared-for tack (again avoiding all the metal.)
Happy New Year, Jackie
I think, if you look hard enough you can probably find an exception to every situation. I'll always maintain that care and treatment of equipment AND horses says tons about the commitment and values of a horse person, and would be an indicator for me whether or not I'd spend my $ with them.
I'm not well versed with 4 H but I'll take a Pony Club member, instructor or Mom to clean my tack any day and I'll give them my choice of cleaning supplies.:>)


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