Eval Lesson

I’m going to the barn tomorrow to do an evaluation lesson so they know where to place me in their program. What things have you had to do in your riding eval?

Basic stuff, walk, trot in both directions. If you’re still on, maybe canter.

Good luck!


Depending on the program they may watch you get the horse, groom and tack up if you will be doing that for regular lessons.

Basic riding, walk, trot, canter, how you follow directions and where you are strong or weak.

Good luck - hope you find a great fit!

All my first lessons at a place have been private lessons where they test to see if you actually ride to the level you say you do. Placed on a calm, lazy, been-there-done-that schoolie, and then conducted as a normal (if low-key) lesson. Gives both you and the trainer that chance to see how each other communicates, and trainer can then build upon what they ask to see what level your skills actually are. Many of my trainers have said that people come in with all sorts of stories about how they jump 3’, and then can’t even post on the right diagonal, so don’t be surprised if they start with the assumption you know northing.

One trial lesson I was on the laziest pony ever. I was having such a hard time making it go forward I thought trainer would think I was lying about my experience, but she was actually impressed by my ability to make it go anywhere and went and got me a stick. Once pony realized he was going to actually have to work we got along much better and actually had a lot of fun jumping around!


Yes, a good instructor will be looking to see how you handle challenges, like a lazy pony, not just to see if you have a flawless fast ride.

I’m not an instructor but I’ve logged a lot of time watching lessons and clinics and my friends. I can tell a lot from how someone rides the walk, and I can pretty accurately peg their riding level from a brief trot.

The things I notice are seat, lower leg, hands, balance between transitions, and effectiveness of aids. None of these can really be “faked” by a beginner :slight_smile:

I would say in addition canter can be useful to see the level of previous instruction. Some intermediate h/j kids have never been taught to sit the canter, they bounce or two point.

Canter is easier to look good in than trot, if you are brave balanced and self taught. Especially if you ride bareback or Western. Folks who’ve only ridden in lesson programs are often delayed or anxious about canter. For both these reasons it’s not the great diagnostic that the trot is.

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I am a professional instructor, and all of my evaluation lessons start on the ground. Can you halter, lead groom, pick feet and tack up? For the riding portion, I am looking for effective and fair handling. Effective and quiet cues, not balancing on hands, neutral pelvis at the walk and trot. These are things that come from ride time and education. All eval’s start at the walk. If they can steer, stop, go, keep their horse in the corners, and follow simple patterns, we will broach the trot and do similar. I’ve never had a student come to me that says they can canter, actually canter in my eval lessons. Most of the programs near me rush students into the canter quickly when they can’t even ride the trot yet.

My last two evaluation were private lessons, where I started on the lunge line. I had to get/groom/tack the horse with supervision to be sure I knew what I was doing.
First trainer wanted to be sure I could balance well at trot before letting me off the lunge. He had me trot lots of figure 8s and canter on a circle.
Second trainer also wanted to assess my confidence level on top of balance, as her horse is not the easiest to ride. Off the lunge I did walk/trot, some basics figure and leg yield.

Mine have always had me do the basic w/t/c, some lateral exercises, and some course work. They also would go over my experience and my goals and what I was currently comfortable with. The evaluations are to be able to watch you ride and make sure you are at the level you say you are and also to match the group you’d be the best fit for based on your experience and perhaps the skills you need to be working on. If you have never cantered before and only done w/t then expect that you will only be doing w/t. If you’ve jumped 18" before then expect to jump maybe a few jumps at that height. If you are coursing 3’ and they have lesson horses that are capable of that height then you’ll likely do a course to make sure that you’d be able to fit into the other 3’ lessons (or do you maybe need more help learning courses or setting a better rhythm or finding a better track and you’d be better matched in the 2’6 group). If you are only lightly experienced with horses I’d also expect to do some basic horsemanship skills with the trainer either watching you or checking your work.

Thank you for your responses! The eval went great and wasn’t anything out of the norm. I was really excited to get back into riding and was letting me nerves get the best of me. :pray: