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?