Lesson barn policy about students who are consistently late?

Instructors and lesson barn riders, what is your barn policy re. students who are always running late for their lesson?

Our policy for private lessons is that if the student arrives late, they receive a shortened lesson but are still responsible for the full cost of the lesson.
But it doesn’t really work for group lessons - as the late rider interrupts the lesson when coming in and the instructor needs to take time away from the lesson to check girth/stirrups/assist with mounting, etc.

What’s your policy? What works well in your experience?
(just explaining that they need to be on time so as not to interrupt other riders’ lesson doesn’t seem to be enough).

I admit that it’s been quite a while since I’ve ridden with a very structured group lesson program, but I’m surprised that you have (multiple?) groups that are so beginner that they require supervision to check their girth and mount. Do you have an assistant/groom/working student back in the barn that’s helping them tack up when they arrive late, and if so, can they handle it this?

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If you teach beginner kids then this is not surprising at all! In many cases the “up down” trainer is the assistant trainer and there isn’t always someone else to help. The best policy to get the message across is if you are not waiting at the arena gate ready to walk in at your lesson time then you will not be able to ride, but will be charged for the lesson as it wasn’t cancelled 24hrs in advance. We ask our kiddos to be at the barn 30 minutes before their lesson to tack up and have time for trainer to double check tack prior to the lesson.


Think of group lessons like an Amtrak train. Once the doors are closed the train pulls away, no exceptions. It’s just unacceptable to detract from the rest of the paying customers’ lesson. The habitual late arrival will never change their ways until there are actual painful consequences. (Unfortunately, when it involves children, they suffer the consequences for their late parents, but there’s nothing you can do about that).

Issue a clear policy in writing to your group lesson clients and post signs that mounting for the group lesson is from 5:00 to 5:10pm and then mounting period ends, no exceptions.
If you’re not on the horse by then, you are welcome to audit the lesson from the rail.

You can soften the blow by doing something like allowing 1 or 2-lesson credits per year, where if they show up but it’s too late to mount, you can give them a card they can redeem for a future group lesson. Might be a PITA to keep good records of this, but it cuts them some slack for the rare times that being late was truly unavoidable.


I find this surprising as well. If they still need their girth checked and help mounting, IMO they should be taking private lessons.

You can have different rules for different lesson types. If a late arrival is disrupting to the group lesson, then you should not permit late arrivals, as it is unfair to the other riders. If a rider in a group lesson arrives (in the ring ready to mount, not pulling in to the property) say more than 5-10 minutes late, they forfeit the lesson and the lesson fee. If they are a repeat offender, they are then only permitted to schedule private lessons and their group slot may be given to someone else.

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Depends on the flavor of the barn, IME. It isn’t uncommon here for beginners, especially kids, to take group lessons. It’s the old school way. The trainers with a capital T would generally teach private lessons. However, many of then don’t even take real beginners. And they want people who are all in; leases, shows, etc. And in my opinion, it takes a long time to develop the necessary feel for not over or under-tightening. Pretty much every kid’s trainer I know does a quick check of novice’s tacking up jobs. What I am wondering is how they know which horse, where the tack is, etc & to even get out there at all…

OP, one of the yoga studios I taught at pre-Covid had a policy that the door was locked 3 minutes past the start of class. No one ever complained. 3rd


Exactly! True beginners do private lessons here but when the kids are able to tack up with minimal assistance, they can move up to group lessons. They’re still very much novices though and we do “safety checks” at the beginning of each ride (girth, safety bar, etc) - it’s as much to make sure that they’ve tacked up properly as to reinforce “safe practices” for them.
Additionally, our insurance provider does require the instructor to check each riding student’s girth at the start of each lesson (I believe they follow the NAHA risk reduction program?):
you must check the cinch / girth tightness of saddles on horses you provide for customers at least at these three times, and tighten saddles for rider security as needed:
a. Before mounting;
b. Just after mounting and prior to leaving the mounting area; and
*c. At least once every hour thereafter for rides longer than one hour."

My question really wasn’t if the up down kids should be in group lessons or not, but about which kind of policies lesson barns with group lessons use in order to minimize the disruption to other paying students when someone comes in late and interrupts the group lesson (whether because the instructor does a tack check or they’re trying to warm up their horse while other riders are trying to do the first exercise of the lesson).

I like the yoga studio idea and the clearly stated mounting period! Thanks!


I think you have gotten some good advice here. The mounting period and the rule that if you arrive after a certain time you will not be riding should fix the group lesson being interrupted thing.

I admit that I do not remember any barn I have ridden at having these rules. I am one of those silly early people.

If you do have kids whose parents are always getting them there late, for the kids sake it might be best to see if a different lesson slot might work better for them. This will do no good for those people who are late no matter what, but it will help the kid whose parent is late sometimes because of the evening commute or work running over or such.

On the other topic that the OP did not ask about - I do not find it weird at all that beginners that it is still best to have their tacking job checked are in a group lesson. This is kind of the best of both worlds. The students are given the freedom and horsemanship skills of preparing their own horse for lessons, with the added safety of a good once over before they get on so everyone is safe.


I wonder how many instructors actually do this even if required by insurance especially for more advanced students? As somebody who has owned horses for 36 years and ridden 44 years I would find it very odd to have an instructor checking my girth.

It is required at pony club, no matter the level of the rider. Safety check before mounting.

I agree with you on it being weird at first. I am old. I have been tacking my own horse for a very long time. But, a little more safety is never a bad thing.


I like the mounting period. I, too, am an early bird. I am on my horse 10 mins before the start of my lesson so that I can do my 10 mins of loose rein walking before the lesson even starts.

I should know by now that my trainer is always 10-15 minutes late so I should wait until the last minute, but that’s another story lol. I have never been able to fix my getting on 10 mins early…


Totally how it works for me too! Glad I am not the only one.


reschedule these clients to a lesson that is one hour before the real class, then they might be on time for the “second” real class that they could be worked into.


Most teaching barns Ive boarded at that had Beginner groups did not accommodate late arrivals, especially riding School horses/Ponies. Often they run several beginner lessons back to back so it not only disrupts that lesson but the next one as well. Not fair to the other riders. Not that unusual to put another rider on that horse/pony if the scheduled rider is not there at the start time either, maybe an upgrade for the prompt rider, maybe to give another busy Pony a break.

Far as I know they were charged and did see some late riders just rolled to the next lesson if at the same level and there was something available to ride.

Far as checking the girth? I didn’t check mine once and I was no beginner. Seen others do it that were way past me. Human frailty. In my case it was a Western saddle. With breast collar buckled on. And a back cinch properly adjusted to mount. Nobody else there, thank the Lord that horse was a broke to death QH who wanted to help me, not kill me and kick the saddle to bits. Should have seen the look on his kind face as he turned his head to see me balancing that saddle on his side trying to shove it back up. Must have thought what an idiot, swear he heaved a big sigh of disgust and rolled his eyes.

Never, ever, not no way failed to check girth before mounting since that day. But I dont wish being reminded to check it that way on anybody else as a learning tool. Though many will do it at some point in their riding career. Even Pros when somebody brought them the horse tacked up and groom assumes rider will check and rider assumes its ready to go. Usually the only harm is to rider ego and the first thing they do is look around to see if anybody saw.

Have seen most, if not all, Clinicians at least eyeball each riders girth and a few actually check with a finger…although they are as likely to chide rider for too tight or where saddle is positioned.

So, no, I am not the least offended by girth checks for any rider because trainer cares not just because its a requirement.


I’m in ponyclub and I’ve never seen them check anyone’s girth before mounting. Maybe they do for the littles but not for the teens and adults.


Interesting. Our leader has said it is a pony club requirement. Like at rallies, everyone gets checked. Old people down to the littles. (Our club is all adults.)

Pony club stuff is like so many things run by volunteers and various people, various levels of stuff being done.


:rofl: :rofl: Sneaky! I like it!

And former pony-clubber here as well - always had safety checks growing up and still do for all the D-level kids.

Thanks everyone for the helpful ideas!

A typical girth tightness check, to me, takes a whole three seconds and I don’t see how this significantly disrupts a lesson.
A full on tack check for a beginner rider, checking bridle fit and buckled with excess in all keepers, girth tightness and saddle placement, etc., and assistance mounting, sure, that would require significant attention from the trainer which is disruptive after a lesson with others has already started. I personally would not expect riders requiring this much supervision to be in a group lesson, which is where my confusion or surprise came from.

Maybe they do at rallies, but for the mounted meetings, have not seen it. We have a mix of all ages, from 5 or 6 and up.

Professional instructor here. I have pretty strict policies when it comes to tardiness, same day cancels, and no shows. It is extremely disruptive behavior. This is also my income, so those people who are late, same day cancel or no show’s have a big effect on my bottom line.

You no call/no show and don’t respond to my calls? You’re out.

No call/no show with a response to my call? We can work it out. No second strike. You do it again, you’re out.

You same day cancel? $10 fee applies. No lesson scheduled in the future until this fee is paid. Forgot to add here that this is a 3 strikes rule as well. If I see a pattern of you scheduling and cancelling same day, I will take you out of the program.

3 strikes system for lateness. 3 strikes you’re out. Over 10 minutes late? No lesson and a $10 fee is due like the same day cancellation policy. It takes at least 15 minutes to properly groom and tack up, which leaves us with half an hour, or less, to ride. I do not want to encourage students to rush through this process and say we can still ride if you tack up quick.

These may seem strict, but my clientele has proven to require them. Frankly I was tired of my students walking all over me, pushing me to waive fees for missed lessons and making me bend over backwards to keep them in my program. I had to set some crystal clear policies and boundaries. I lost a few students over these, but gained others. It balanced out and I have a much nicer structure to my program as well.