Bullying by Riding Instructors


Well-Known Member
Dec 21, 2003
I arrived on this board terrified of riding teachers and riding lessons. I was rescued by the experts on New Rider simply because I never needed to come face to face with them.
When a friend asked me to write about learning to ride in my sixities, I felt it impossible to give any account to the BHS without mentioning first the bullying and rudeness I endured. Riding can be an enjoyable and positively therapeutic experience but the bullying and humiliation which I describe is a serious obstacle to those who want to learn to ride - and for some livery clients as well perhaps.
I hesitated a lot before plucking up courage to complain to the BHS. Most of us who escape from bullying instructors want to move on and put it behind us. And I am frightened of alienating my present wonderful teachers and riding schools. I guess one could write anonymously and not mention names.
But could I ask anyone else on this list in the UK who has themselves been a victim of bullying or is aware of bullying in a riding school or in the training of students to come forward and write to the BHS, Stoneleigh Deer Park, Kennilworth, Warwickshire, CV8 2XV or e-mail [email protected]
I suspect that I am not the only adult learner to suffer in this way, nor to abandon lessons in riding schools for this reason - though few are willing to talk about it.


& Sharman :)
Jun 28, 2004
I was screamed at my my old riding instructer. I left the riding school but was nagged by NR's to go back and now i have a nice instructer who never shouts or criticises, as long as i try, and just explains everything to me. :) These riding instructers need sorting out!

Ive also heard that the shouty riding instructers are horrible because they cant ride well either. not sure if its true though :p


Active Member
Oct 23, 2001

Its a good point. Personally I would vote with my feet - when maybe I should really complain. Its not happened to me for a very long time.

But just wondering if its worth setting a poll up here to see how big a problem it is, as that might help steel a few of the folk out there to take the next step ?


Well-Known Member
Oct 13, 2004
On an island
Golly, can't believe there are such awful teachers, I am sooo lucky all mine are really really nice, they've never been anything other than encouraging and supportive to me, in fact I'd have given up long ago if I'd not liked them so much. I guess I'm lucky!!! :D I can tell my teacher is proud of me and OH, she's taught us sooomuch over the last few months.


Active Member
Feb 12, 2004
I've only had problems with one, who told me not to ask questions, well specifically "Don't question me, just do what I say". I complained about her to the yard manager and said I never wanted a lesson again with her. I've had shouty ones too but find they only shout at me if I'm worse than normal or if I'm doing something wrong that I can do.


New Member
Feb 17, 2005
I've had a few that yell etc but I wouldn't call it bullying. I always vote with my feet, asking to change your lesson time and then saying "and who teaches that lesson" can get the message across without actually having to complain.

There was one particular stable where I had been taught by a couple of brutish instructors but I went back last year as it is 1 mile up the road. I was taught by a girl new to the yard who was lovely, however after 6 months she was just like the others so I guess she must have picked up their bad habits.


Active Member
Feb 22, 2005
Hi Skib,

I was horrified to read your post, as you have always come across to me as someone who is genuinely interested in learning as much as possible, in the most open minded of ways. Why any instructor would feel the need to bully someone who is paying them for the privilege is beyond me. I would imagine (and hope)that if you've managed to find yourself decent instructors now, they would be equally as dismissive and horrified of this kind of practice as you are.

The sign of a good instructor, in my opinion, is someone with endless patience, an enjoyment of what they do (come rain or shine, day in , day out), and a willingness to deal with a multitude of people with respect and enthusiasm. If they resort to bullying tactics, it is a clear sign to me of inadequacy at the job, and a general disrespect for the people around them. If you watch the great teachers (and I know you've seen Mark Rashid in action, can't think of a better example :D ), then the overriding impression which comes across is that of a desire to do what's best for the rider, horse and all surrounding people, and deal with everyone in a manner of dignity, which facilitates the learning process in the best, and most effective possible manner.

Hopefully people will always do as others on this thread have suggested, and vote with their feet. These people have no place working with either horses or the public.


New Member
May 8, 2002
Nr King's Lynn
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After 10 years of not riding I decided to start again but this time on horses and at a riding school.

Me and my husband started at a school with ploddy horses and ponies and we enjoyed it. After a riding holiday we realised that there was more to this lark, so tried out a couple of more schools with 'proper' horses!

The first place we were both stuck on large cobs and then I was shouted at for half an hour. I was scared as I never really knew what to do properly. At the end, the instructor took us to an open field and told us to trot to the bottom and then canter back. My horse obviously knew what was coming up and just wanted to canter off. The instructor screamed at me and I was made to reattempt this about 5 times. When I eventually did canter back she then asked me to 'gallop'. Phew! was I glad when that was over and I never went back! (My husband never got shouted at once!).

I then tried another school out where the instructors were students and were patient and we never even got further than walk on our first lesson. We stayed here for a couple of years until we moved.

The livery where our horses were kept, the yard owner was an instructor and we had weekly lessons but she was nice to begin with and then the shouting increased until I gave up a couple of years later. I felt sick before each lesson and didn't enjoy it, I was tense and so was the horse.

I can understand that some people need a bit of a push but I am a nervous, quiet rider and all the shouting just knocked my confidence and made me want to cry sometimes. This YO would also yell at me for not doing things right in the stable, usually in front of people.

I am glad that we have our horses living with us now and we can build our confidence up ourselves. The horses weer given far too much hard feed for the work they were doing when they were in livery and seemed too excitable which didn't help my nerves.

I wish that I could pluck up the courage to shout back at these type of people but I am unconfrontational and tend just to let it bother me!


New Member
Sep 15, 2004
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You should try turning up on a Mule--you get ignored!
To be fair I haven't had everyone treat me this way but it is very upsetting when it happens (In fact I still get upset when I think of some of the behavior dealt out to my mules)


...Gone Riding...
Apr 17, 2003
Just had to post here. One of my family members was a awesome rider and was doing very well in shwoing around the circuits. Then she got a new instructor who yelled at her. She was so crushed she ended up quieting and hasn't ridden since. :(


New Member
Apr 24, 2005
I have some stunningly good instructors and the only one I can think of who was vile, was a woman called Gail. She was horrible and I hated her with a passion - she had a knack of making you feel worthless. I was only a child of about 8 at the time but the impression has lasted.


New Member
Apr 26, 2005
Pacific Northwest
Shouting and other negative behavior rarely yields positive results; quite to the contrary, I don't learn well in a negative atmosphere - I get uptight, distracted and highly tense and anxious under those circumstances - one of the reasons I'm so grateful to find my present instructor.
My first instructor started with longeing to teach me to sit the trot. While he never yelled at me, he put me on a long legged thoroughbred who had a brutal trot. No way could I even begin to sit the trot. I now suspect he also had the horse moving at an extended trot - not a good situation for a beginner. I untimately grew so discouraged I quit lessons altogether.
My current instructor put me on a horse capable of a relatively slow, collected trot that was much easier to sit, then later graduated me to a more difficult one when I was ready.


New Member
Feb 20, 2005
I think part of the problem is that until recently, there was no attempt to train instructors in "how to teach". Instructors knew what you should be looking like and what you should be doing, but had no awareness of different learning models and how to effectively transfer their knowledge to the student.
Each generation of riding instructors models itself on what has gone before, because that is what they have experienced as "normal" - it was the only example they had to copy. It's not a problem created by the BHS - it's a problem that naturally developed from the older (and once perfectly acceptable) "military" teaching style not fusing with and adapting from more modern training methods.
The huge growth in popularity of a sports psychology approach and NLP as learning tools, and the increasingly open debate on this kind of dated and ineffective instruction, are already making steps to increase instructors' awareness of how they can be better trainers.
The BHS PTT now includes questions on sports psychology, and reading through the training books, there is a big emphasis on student motivation. There are also some excellent books that emphasise the individual approach needed for individual students, and how to find the right analogies to use to explain what they should be feeling or doing in a way that they understand and that gives them the maximum chance of taking the information on board. Josephine Knowles' Teaching Riding is a particularly good example.
That said, I agree there are still too many instructors around who, through habit or mistaken belief that it is the right way to teach, use rudeness, aggression, bullying and scorn in their lessons. This is unacceptable behaviour anywhere, and needs reporting. If you're not comfortable reporting it, vote with your feet!
BUT it is *equally* important to tell someone (the instructor, YO, BHS, whoever) when we come across a great instructor too. Tell them what you like and why - they need praise and motivation just as much as us students! Without it, they'll fade away just like the instructor Pickles mentioned.


Neighbourhood Witch
Interesting points- never had a bullying instructor myself but got very tired as an adult of the 'do this and dont question' approach and I WILL NOT crop a horse just because someone in a wax jacket tells me too! This is one of the many reasons I went over to the dark side he he (see website)


New Member
Feb 25, 2005
It seems rather obvious to me that if an instructor is rude to you or attempts to bully you, you put him or her politely but firmly in their place immediately. You are paying this person, if only indirectly, and you are entitled to the same courtesy that you would expect from any one else from whom you were purchasing goods or services. Would you buy a washing machine from an assistant who told you you were stupid or remain in a restaurant were the waiter shouted at you?

Having said the above, I did once go on an assertiveness training day where the course leader, very politely, asked me why I was there :)


New Member
Oct 15, 2004
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I am also appalled to hear that there is so much bullying and rudeness from riding instructors. :(

I had a horrible woman test me for my PC B test in the eighties. She picked on me from the start and made me feel so small and useless making me even more nervous! Not helped by the fact that I had had quite a bad fall earlier on that week! Needless to say, she failed me and one other girl out of a group of around ten. She informed me, in front of everyone that I had failed because I could not ride my horse properly, I was hurting her mouth and it was a waste of a good horse! :eek: To say I was devastated was an understatement! It was the beginning of the end for me as far as horses were concerned! I went from being a confident rider happily jumping open courses with much success to selling my horse because I believed what she had said!

Looking back now, I still have a lot of anger towards that woman. It changed my whole life at the age of 16! :mad:


New Member
Jan 9, 2004
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About 14 years ago, as I was just getting into riding, I went for a hack at the local riding stables which took treks out on the beach. As soon as I got on, the woman started on me, saying that my position was appalling and that I'd never make a rider. She continued throughout the whole hack and refused to let me canter despite letting everyone else, most of whom were more novice than me. She embarrassed me infront of everyone and unsurprisingly, I never went back there.

14 years on, I have a beautiful, responsive horse, which I have brought on myself and we are about to start affiliated dressage. She, on the other hand, had her yard closed down by the RSPCA for cruelty and is now a recluse and a woman despised by the whole community where I come from.

Now, who's better off :D ?


New Member
Jul 7, 2002
East Sussex
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I am apalled by all these rude instructors but not surprised. Nowadays (hark at me!), there is so much aggression creeping into all walks of life, including as you illustrate, riding, I dont really know and wouldn't even hazard a guess at what's wrong with people. Rudeness seems the norm. The only time when I've experienced rude/downright nasty instructresses was at my first riding school when I was 9 years old. They were vile. Ever since then. I've been quite lucky. I've experienced sarcastic and ignorant ones. My reaction has been to get off the horse and hand it over to the trainer together with a few choice words and a letter to the owner. Not quite correct but that's my way of dealing with it! :eek:


New Member
Aug 29, 2004
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The point with bad, bullying type of instructors is that after a while they get a reputation in an area, so their livlihood is then at threat - so it should be. I am not suggestion that they should not be critical of ones riding, as that is what you are paying for their expert eye / advice to help / aid you to advance in your riding, but there are ways of carrying this out. I am fortunate to have a riding instructor, although tough is extremely fair, gives her advice in a respectful way. She works me hard each lesson, but I come away feeling inspired, ready to attempt more and motivated to put in more practise what I have managed to acheive during the lesson. She sets both my horse and myself up for success bit by bit during the lesson. I have only been having her for the past 4 months and have had my confidence boosted so much. So I count myself as very lucky, but after reading some of your experiences I feel that should I ever have a bad experience then it would be worth complaining to BHS about them.
As for bullying children when they ride is so wrong - make it fun after all for the vast majority of us it is our hobby, something we do in our spare time and work damn hard to afford. So yes bad instructors do need reporting. Well done for bringing up the subject
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