Finding the Riding Club for You
Riding clubs are a great way to stay connected with your riding buddies and also a terrific way to meet new friends!
What is a “Riding Club"?
A Riding Club is an organization created to allow like minded equestrians to pursue specific equestrian related interests. Riding clubs are popular worldwide and, for centuries, have provided members with fellowship and unique equestrian opportunities. Riding clubs differ from simple riding and boarding facilities in that only club members may participate in club activities. Depending on the individual riding club, membership may be open or closed at the time, formal or informal, selective or anyone welcome, and the requirements for membership may be stringent or flexible. Some clubs simply define themselves as “riding clubs,” but most have some other more specific criteria for membership.
Why join a riding club?
The most common reason for joining a riding club is to connect with others who share your interests. Membership can also help you to improve your skills, share information, and provide the facility and/or atmosphere necessary for the pursuit of your specific equestrian interests.
In general, the larger and more established a riding club is, the more varied are the benefits you can typically enjoy as a result of your membership in it. This is well illustrated by the British Riding Club, a large club that offers a variety of reference materials, admittance into competitions, insurance coverage, and a quarterly magazine to members. Smaller riding clubs also offer great benefits to members. Members of smaller clubs typically enjoy simple benefits such as permission to ride on club grounds or in otherwise restricted areas; participation in events such as clinics, group rides, or competitions; and even the right to stable your horse in a particular stable, or ride with a particular trainer.
What kinds of riding clubs exist?
There are virtually as many types of riding clubs as there are riders and horses! Some common denominators include breed of horse or pony, age of rider, location of riders or riding area, and specific area of riding related interest.
Many clubs exist purely for recreational purposes and seek to unite riders with similar interests for the purposes of socialization and the exchange of information or to provide a venue in which members can gather to ride horses together. Sometimes these clubs can be part of a larger organization or network. A good example of this is the Horsetrailriders.com Virtual Riding Club. Located online, this club serves as an informational hub, allowing members to list their own individual clubs and links and also to post photographs of group activities.
Some clubs have farther-reaching goals than “just” riding. One such is the United States Pony Club, which boasts more than 600 individual member clubs and over 12,000 members, and seeks "to provide a program for youth that teaches riding, mounted sports, and the care of horses and ponies, thereby developing responsibility, moral judgment, leadership, and self-confidence." 1
Another popular type of riding club is the College or University riding club. This type of club provides the opportunity for student members to participate in recreational and/or competitive rides as well as to attend meetings and run for elected office within the club. Typically, club members need not own their own horse, and may compete against riders from other schools at a variety of competitions. Intercollegiate club riding is similar in many ways to equestrian “team” riding, and individual schools maintain clubs that range from recreational novice level to that of the serious competitor.
In addition to riding clubs, the equine enthusiast who does not care to ride can also find a number of clubs to join. These are similar to riding clubs in that members are most generally united by some common bond or interest. The most common of these non-riding clubs are those catering to a particular breed of horse and those relating to an area of the equine industry that does not involve riding, but instead working with horses, such as driving or harness, students in veterinary or agricultural programs, or devotees of a particular style of competitive riding.
Finding the right club for you
If you would like to learn more about riding clubs or to find the perfect club for you, you would do well to start is by asking yourself a few questions. The most important question to ask yourself is: Why do I want to join a riding club?
Riding clubs are family friendly.
- To improve your riding skills?
- To learn a new sport?
- To find new friends?
- To get more involved in your local community?
- To connect with a larger community?
- To find other similar-minded riders?
- To learn more about a particular breed of horse?
- To get involved in club activities?
- To gain access to club grounds or activities?
- To explore new trails?
- To gain certification in a widely recognized system?
Based on your answer to the simple question above, and perhaps to some others
that you may have thought of on your own, you will have a good idea of what
it is you’d like to get out of club membership. This will help you
enormously in deciding what club or what type of club you’d most like
to get involved in. Another great starting point is to investigate existing
clubs to see what they offer, and determine what does and does not appeal
Consider the following:
Pennsylvania Natural Horsemanship Association
(Use the regional map found online to identify your regional contact information)
Helping Horseshoe Therapeutic Riding Club
147 Wintermute Road
Newton, NJ 07860
Old People’s Riding Club
6089 Fisher Station Road
Lothian, MD 20711
United Professional Horsemen’s Association
4059 Iron Works Parkway, Suite 2
Lexington, KY 40511
United States Pony Clubs, Inc.
4041 Iron Works Parkway
Lexington, KY 40511
The Virtual Riding Club
Once you know the basics of what you’re looking for in a riding club, you can start researching them to find the right club for you. The list above provides a good starting point and illustrates the wide variety of clubs in existence. Local horse publications and websites are another great place to start. You can also ask the staff at your local horse supply store if they know of a riding club in your area. Beyond this, you can research national and even international clubs online and in related periodicals. The odds are that no matter what your riding interest, you will find a club devoted to it. It may be the local chapter of a national organization or an independent club that suits your needs perfectly. Either way, once you find it, you can embark on your new adventure as a riding club member.
If you’ve taken the steps above, but still have not found a club that fits your needs, consider starting a club of your own! It’s not as difficult as you might think and it will probably be very rewarding. The process is fairly simple: once you’ve defined the parameters of your perfect club, move on to identifying your desired membership and membership criteria; writing your club’s mission statement; finding a meeting place or places; deciding on dues; identifying membership benefits; and, finally advertising. You might just find there are lots of people out there with the same interest, and you might as well get together!
In researching this article, I did not find nearly as many natural horsemanship clubs as I had hoped. If you are out there - and I know you are - please write in and let us know; we at NHM would love to run an update in a future issue!