New or Prospective Students

Do I need a horse to take lessons?

No, you don't need your own horse to take lessons at SMSH. We have safe and capable lesson horses for you to learn on! It's best to learn on a calm and well trained horse - then later on you can take your knowledge and apply it to your own horse when you're ready for one!

Do I need boots or a helmet?

You will need your own boots and helmet if you plan on sticking with riding. For your first four riding lessons at SMSH you may wear closed toe shoes (sneakers) as well as borrow a helmet. After that you must invest in your own boots and helmet. Boots are a must for safe riding as they help to prevent your foot from getting stuck in the stirrup in the event of a fall. And helmets should be fit to each individual, there are too many separate pieces to adjust to borrow a helmet at each lesson.

Do I need to have prior experience to ride here?

Nope! SMSH takes adult riders of any level. Many of our students have started here without any prior knowledge.

Do you teach Western or English riding?

South Mountain School of Horsemanship primarily focuses on western riding. We do have English saddles, and all of our students are encouraged to dabble once they have learned the basics of position, steering, and balance! Many of our students enjoy learning about jumping small obstacles (jumping would fall under the umbrella of English riding). No matter which kind of riding you choose, good basics should span both of the major disciplines.

Is there a weight limit?

Yes. For the well-being of our lesson horses our weight limit is 210lbs.

I'm not interested in riding lessons, can I just go for a trail ride?

Unfortunately, trail rides at SMSH are only available to current students, no matter the rider's ability. We cannot make any exceptions, sorry!

Can I bring a friend or spouse with me to my lesson?

Yes! Feel free to bring someone with you to your first lesson (or any lesson). Anyone coming with you however should also be wearing closed toe shoes for their safety around the horses.

How do I sign up for my first lesson?

All first time students sign up through Acuity scheduling. You'll need a debit or credit card to sign up and pay for your Introductory Lesson. No lessons can be scheduled until paid in full. Once signed up, you'll receive a waiver as well as a our current policies - all first time students must print the waiver and policies, fill them out, and bring them to the first lesson.

Should I take private lessons or group lessons?

Private lessons are great for students who: have little to no riding experience, who aren't available to take lessons every week, or for students wanting to work on a specific goal. Group lessons are great for students who can trot and post independently, learn best by watching others, or who want to make new friends while learning. Group lessons only work if a student is able to commit to weekly lessons - otherwise students will find themselves falling behind the rest of the riders in their group.

What can I do to prepare for my first lesson?

While there's nothing you need to do, if you're nervous you can watch videos to prepare for what you'll be learning in your first lesson. Look up videos on YouTube about putting on a rope halter, leading a horse, grooming a horse, and tacking up with a western saddle. You can also watch these videos to start understanding the knots for your cinch and latigo: and

I can't take a lesson every week, can I still ride here?

Yes, absolutely! Private lessons are the best option for anyone that doesn't have time to commit to weekly lessons and can be scheduled whenever your schedule allows. For anyone serious about learning how to ride, please remember that at the end of the day riding is a sport, and a very technical one at that. Progress will be considerably slower without consistent lessons or time in the saddle. One lesson per week is the bare minimum for anyone wanting to make consistent progress. In addition, group lessons are reserved for students that can attend weekly lessons. It wouldn't be fair to other students if Cassandra was having to spend extra time catching someone up from what was learned in previous lessons. ***With all of that being said, each student is on their own path! If you are just wanting to have fun and don't mind slightly slower progress, you are still welcome here! Cassandra doesn't have a certain timeline in mind for any of her students - as long as you're happy with your lessons and progress then so is she!

What information should I provide in order to start taking lessons?

When emailing, please include the following information: 1. Student age (this is an adults only program, but an age range will help in determining what groups you might feel the most comfortable in). 2. Student experience level or skill level. 3. Student availability (weekdays before 7am and after 4pm, weekends before 10am, etc). 4. Student goals.

Current or Existing Students

If I need to take a break from riding, will I be able to rejoin my same group or get my old riding spot back?

Unfortunately, lesson spots cannot be held indefinitely for students that need to take a break. It's understandable that life happens and students might need to hold off on their lessons for a few weeks or months, but in the mean time the lesson horses are still here eating, drinking, and requiring lots of care. Please understand that lesson spots will be filled as soon as possible from our waiting list. When you're ready to come back to lessons you'll be added to the waiting list if your ideal time and day spots are not currently available.

Do I need to give notice if I'm going to stop taking lessons?

The more notice you can give the better! Students that give notice and are upfront about needing to take time off are always welcome back!

Can I sign up for special SMSH events (barn nights, lake trips, clinics, series, etc) if I only take lessons every now and then?

Special events at SMSH are reserved for students that take weekly lessons.

Can I come to lessons early to get my horse ready?

Lessons begin and end on time. Please do not come early to get your horse ready for lessons. The gates might be closed altogether, or Cassandra might be teaching another lesson. It's very hard to focus on the student taking their lesson when other students are showing up and asking questions or pulling horses out of their stalls. If you arrive super early for your lesson, feel free to pet the horses or sit quietly and watch the ongoing lesson! Remember, any student taking a lesson deserves Cassandra's full attention - please don't interupt lessons unless there's a problem of some kind.

Can I ride my favorite lesson horse every week?

The more horses you ride the better! Every horse has something to teach you! Cassandra wants you to enjoy your lessons and have lots of fun, but it's also her job to educate you! She does take into consideration everyone's favorite horses, but please be open to riding new horses - if you are put on a new horse it is always with the hopes that you will learn something new. You will never be put on a horse that Cassandra doesn't think you're capable of handling, safety first!

How can I get better faster?

Ride! Riding is a sport and must be practiced. The more time you can spend at the barn or in the saddle the better! Open Rides are offered for students that want to come practice on their own. Open Rides are somtimes left off the schedule, but if you're interested just let Cassandra know and she will make it happen!

How can I get better without riding more often?

Between lessons it is very helpful to watch videos online, read articles, or borrow books from the libary. Cassandra also has quite a few books that she is happy to lend out to students with a refundable $20 deposit (in case books don't find their way back home).


​​​​South Mountain School of Horsemanship