There's a lot to consider when you're choosing a horseback riding instructor Learn from the error of my ways.Years ago when I decided to take horseback-riding lessons, I chose a particular stables because a good friend was taking lessons there. While we had fun together driving to and from the sessions, my experience there was unfulfilling.To get some advice on a more sensible way to choose a place to ride, I drove out last Saturday to Blue Skies of Mapleview. Owner Deborah Pearson-Moyers is in her 10th year of teaching riding at her gorgeous farm. Her land used to be part of Mapleview Farm, and horse trails still extend all the way to the Mapleview ice cream shop, which has erected hitching posts for visiting riders.This is the type of farm I wish I had known about when I began to ride and Pearson-Moyers is the kind of person I wish had been my instructor."Horses live in the moment and are experts at non-verbal cues," she said. "A cock of the ear, a shift in the back leg all mean a lot to the horse. Why do horses stay in pastures they could easily jump out of? Why do they come up to us willingly and take us in with their breath? Why do they allow us to throw a leg over their back and ride in a position similar to a cougar after their throat? There lies the mystery and part of the magic. "The other part of the magic is of course the ride. The rhythmic walk. The possibility to travel through woods and over streams. I return from a ride with my horse feeling like I have had a massage or a meditation session. The world goes away. It is just a pure partnership, love, and physical workout."She revels in the fact that she gets to share her love of horses with students every day.Key advice from this master is to go and observe a lesson. Does the instructor have a good balance between horse and people skills? What are the goals that an instructor has for his or her students, and can they be adapted according to what the students desire? For example, Pearson-Moyers points out, if someone is interested in competing in horse shows, whether they involve dressage or barrel-racing, the person needs to find a barn that will cater to this aspiration. My mistake years ago was taking lessons at a barn that emphasized competitive show jumping. I just wanted to get my form correct, bond with a horse and plop around a pasture or ring a few times a week. Pearson-Moyers specializes in teaching beginning riders, older women, and children with all types of disabilities, physical and mental. She is certified in equine assisted learning and therapy with the Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association. If someone comes to her to see if her barn is right for them and it is not, she is happy to offer suggestions for places she knows of that might be suitable.On that sun-soaked Saturday morning, I spent several hours out at Blue Skies filming Pearson-Moyers as well as Jessica Cochran, a vibrant, lovely young woman who teaches lessons there on the weekend. Cochran was taking a mini-lesson from Pearson-Moyers and graciously allowed me to watch and film it.At one point, Cochran and Romeo, her trusty steed, came to the center of the ring and Pearson-Moyers led her through some yoga exercises on the horse. I could see about a minute after Cochran began her yoga stretches that both she and Romeo relaxed. The horse takes his cue from his rider."Another good question would be what is different about an instructor's teaching or their barn that would make people want to take lessons from them?" Pearson-Moyers said. "What is their specialty? Philosophy? Nowadays there are still some chin-up-heels down barns that come out of the cavalry style of teaching and there are some that specialize in human development through skill development and relationship to the horse."Pearson-Moyers said she believes children learn best in a guided experiential way. "With a brand new student I try to employ all the senses: start bareback, watch the horse, listen to the horses, close your eyes and feel the rhythm, and brush the horse in a way that they enjoy and so on," she explained.She also encourages her adult women students to set their own goals for their equine experience. Her job is simply to help them achieve those goals."I feel more like a facilitator with adults as the horse is the third member of our team," she said. "If you watch the horse, you'll see the lesson of the day."When she was picking barns for her daughters to ride at she said she wanted to know whom the instructor was and how long they had been teaching. "I also wanted to make sure that adults, not teens with talent for riding but not for teaching, were working with them," Pearson-Moyers said.Another very important part of checking out a place to ride is to observe how the horses are kept. Are they in good shape? Are they given time in the pasture and not just kept in a barn 23 hours a day?In the calendar on Page B6, I've listed a few places that offer lessons, but there are many more. Send me listings and I'll include them in the following months.Now I sign off, itching to get out to my own two horses and, using a brush and a good strong hand, take off the remnants of their winter coat. Spring is here.