How To Choose Equestrian School

Sunny Park stables offers equestrian tuition for all levels and ages of riders, from young tots to adults wishing to discover a lifelong dream, we are able to assist.

Horse riding is a fun and fulfilling hobby with a host of benefits:

  • An excellent way to keep fit and healthy
  • Encourages good co-ordination and balance
  • Builds confidence – riding and taking care of an animal twice your size helps build self-esteem.
  • Teaches responsibility – horses are living and breathing animals, not the cricket bat that can be left on the floor.
  • In our technology driven world it is a great way to spend time outdoors away from the cell phone, computer screen and television!

A few things to keep in mind when choosing your riding school:

Unfortunately, there are no regulations in the horse business and anyone is able to buy a horse, open up a stable yard and call themselves an instructor. We’ve told you the benefits of horse riding, but in the wrong environment, horse riding can become dangerous – especially if bad habits are formed because of incorrect instruction.

Sunny Park’s instructors are all overseen by Nicola Sime, who boasts some of the highest equestrian coaching qualifications in the country. Our instructors undergo continued training. When choosing a riding school we suggest you visit the stable yard and watch the lessons.

IMPORTANT questions you need to ask:

Are the instructors teaching groups no bigger than 4 to 5 riders?

Do all the riders, no matter their experience, kitted out with the correct safety gear (when starting out the riding school should be able to supply hard hats and will suggest a heeled shoe and long pants)?

Are any riders jumping without supervision (this can lead to nasty and dangerous accidents)?

  • Ask the instructor for their qualifications, and then go and check it really exists. Go to CEEPSA to find out their qualifications.
  • Ask the instructor at what level they have competed on their horse. Do they attend graded shows? (it is always suggested that you contact SA Showjumping and SA Dressage to confirm, sadly some people do lie about their accolades)
  • What is the highest level that the instructor’s students are competing on their own horses?
  • Ask to see the safety rules of the yard. Hard hats at all times and supervised jumping at all times should be non-negotiable.

Riding in South Africa

In the last ten years riding in South Africa has improved drastically. More and more international coaches are flying out to our country each year to mentor the top South African instructors. Our top riders compete at international level both on home soil and abroad.

If you wish to succeed at any competitive level in horse riding it is important to ensure that you have the correct instruction to help you.

Even if you have no competitive goals, learning to ride correctly cannot be done without an instructor who has the adequate tools at his or her disposal to teach you.

Like any sport, if your instructor has not competed successfully at the higher levels there is a slim chance they will be able to instruct you to that level. Our sport also changes continuously; show jumping courses are far more technical and poles much lighter than say, 10 years ago. Thus it is imperative to ensure your chosen instructor is still going to shows regularly (whether to compete or coach) and is up to date with the goings on in the sport (is he or she a registered member of the affiliated bodies?).

For show jumping: if your instructor has not jumped higher than 1.20m regularly than the chances are that they are not capable of instructing to that level and it is unlikely that they will get the best results out of their pupils – even in the lower grades.

Do your homework- Be aware

Some instructors will claim to have jumped “A” grade or be at open level. Many a time this is not the case. Jumping one 1.60m fence at home does not make someone an “A” grade rider. They need to compete and earn points at graded shows. It is easy to check the validity of these claims by contacting the SA Showjumping who will provide you with the person’s competitive history.

In any business there are some “bad apples” who will berate their competition or slate other instructors or stable yards. Be careful of this sort of unethical behavior. Do your homework and phone the necessary authorities and counseling bodies to ensure you are making the best decision. While cost and convenience play a large role, safety and well-being are also extremely important.

The SA Showjumping can be contacted on (081) 018 2224 or you can visit their website:

Nicola Sime is an International level 3 coach and an FEI Level 2 coach, as well as a National Equitation Judge.  She is accredited to coach all levels of show jumping, Dressage and equitation riders.

Buying a horse?

For the novice parent/rider

Please be very aware that there are two types of vetting:

1. A Pre Purchase vetting which entails a full vetting with Xrays and scans. consultations can take at least an hour and costs more than R2000;

2. An insurance vetting which is simply to identify the horse and ensure it is healthy. This is not as concise as a Pre Purchase vetting.

Check whether the horse has been micro chipped and check details on the passport against the original details. It is suggested that you, as the potential buyer, are at the vetting.

There are unscrupulous horse dealers just waiting for the novices new to the game.


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