The best horse riding schools and equestrian centres in Canberra

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Where are the best riding schools and equestrian centres in Canberra? Photo: File.

There is nothing quite like horse riding – the fresh air, the glorious sunlight, the open landscape, and the calming presence of the horse. Not only is it a great way to exercise for those who aren’t interested in joining a gym, a scenic trail ride is also a fantastic experience.

Whether you’re looking to learn how to ride properly or you’re looking to tick horse riding off your bucket list, you may be looking for somewhere near Canberra to saddle up and go horse riding. Lucky for you, the gorgeous landscape of our Bush Capital lends itself perfectly to equestrian sports with rolling hills, pockets of wilderness in the middle of suburbia, and winding trails. You won’t be surprised to learn that we have quite a few riding schools for you to choose from.

It’s important to know exactly what you’re looking for with a riding school, as well as how to tell apart the good from the great. In this article, we’ll give you a quick guide to what makes a great riding school, as well as a handy guide to the best schools and equestrian centres in Canberra.

What makes a great horse riding school and equestrian centre?

Not sure what you are looking for when scouting out the best horse-riding destinations in Canberra? We’ve got you covered. Here are the traits we suggest keeping an eye out for:

  • Great facilities and location. A high-quality riding school and equestrian centre takes pride in its facilities, and takes advantage of its surroundings. Look for a school and centre with properly maintained, hygienic stables and arenas, as well as scenic trails and outdoor spaces.
  • All levels welcome. Riding a horse is one of those experiences that everyone deserves to have at some point, whether they grew up with horses or have never stepped foot in a stable. Great schools and centres have programs available for complete novices, whether you’re looking for full on lessons or a one-off ride.
  • Gentle, well cared-for horses. Horses can be dangerous when not properly trained, but a happy horse is a safe one! Great riding schools and equestrian centres make sure that their horses are receiving the best care available, from food to facilities and veterinary care. They’ll also train the horses properly so that they are used to beginner riders, ensuring the safest and best experience for everyone.
  • Experienced staff and instructors. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned rider, it’s important that you are being guided by someone experienced and confident. The staff at the school should be experienced in helping riders of all levels have the best time possible.
  • Fair and transparent prices. There’s a lot that goes into the running and maintenance of a great school and equestrian centre, and the price of lessons and rides should reflect this. While horse riding can be an expensive venture, schools and centres should be open about their price points. This gives you the option to shop around for a facility that is within your budget.

The best horse riding schools and equestrian centres in Canberra

Riotact’s editorial team has combed through 20 years of on-site comments to compile a list of the most recommended businesses according to you.

To be listed in our Best of Canberra series, each business needs to have consistently received positive feedback on Riotact and maintain a minimum average of 4/5 stars on both Google and Facebook reviews.

Forest Park Riding School

Run by Grant and Heather Hughes, Forest Park Riding and Equitation School is a favourite among Canberra’s equestrian community. Offering a welcoming, nurturing environment, beginners and seasoned riders alike will enjoy the spectacular scenery and expertly cared-for horses. Offering both horse-riding lessons (available for all ages) and scenic trail rides, Forest Park Riding and Equitation School is the perfect place to tick horse riding off your bucket list or learn a skill for life.

As Google reviewer Nahmeet Sing writes, "Best horse riding place. Very friendly and helpful staff. I would like to thank all of them for making my trail one of the best experiences in my life. Highly recommended."

National Equestrian Centre Canberra

Located near Stromlo Leisure Centre, the National Equestrian Centre is an equestrian sporting complex set on 1500 acres of beautiful rural landscape just 15 minutes from the centre of town. The Centre offers individual and group instruction with qualified instructors, as well as recreational activities and competitions in all disciplines. With both indoor and outdoor facilities, the National Equestrian Centre also offers agistment services for your horses.

As Stephanie Irvine writes on Google, "Absolutely love it here! been riding here for 5 years and it’s the beat part of my week. The horses and coaches are extremely friendly and kind, highly recommend!!"

Googong Equestrian

Googong Equestrian is a riding school based in Queanbeyan. With passionate and qualified trainers, students are able to learn either on their own horses, or on one of the school's horses from their small team of reliable mounts to suit for a range of riders. Students can expect high quality education on correct and safe riding skills, as well as a sound understanding of how to handle a horse safely both from the ground and the saddle.

As Facebook user Kristine Batchelor writes in their review, "Ruth has amazing talent for calming anxious children, and getting them to reach their potential. Ruth and her team personally match horses to each child's personality, and encourage a love of horses all round."

Gooromon Park Riding Centre

Situated just 20km from Canberra’s CBD, Gooromon Park Riding Centre is a family owned and operated business that has delivered top quality horse riding activities and lessons since 2000. Gooromon Park Riding Centre is home to a range of healthy, loved, and well-mannered horses, varying from 12hh to 16.2hh – there’s a horse suitable for all body types. The staff at Gooromon Park Riding Centre are experienced and passionate and are more than happy to help riders of all levels make the most of their time in the saddle. As Canberra’s only accredited Australian Horse Riding Centre (AHRC) offering, you know you are riding with some of the best instructors in the industry.

As 'Local Guide' Jeff Stiff writes on Google, "Excellent place to go and try horse riding. The staff are very good with kids and those not too sure of horses."

Stromlo Equestrian Centre

Stromlo Equestrian Centre, also known as Bibaringa, is an agistment centre in Canberra that has been operating since 1999. Not only is Bibaringa a great choice for horse owners looking to board their horses in Canberra, the Centre also offers lessons and holiday programs for riders of all levels. Their lessons and programs for small children and disabled people are particularly popular.

On Google, Holly Russell writes, "Lessons are great and the horses here are so cute and sweet! There are lessons available for people with disabilities and young children. For anyone curious or wanting lessons or a trail ride, I recommend coming here. You won't regret it."

Horse riding can be an excellent way to exercise without visiting a gym – if you’re looking for more options, check out our articles on the best martial arts and best dance schools in Canberra for some helpful guides. Or maybe you’re on the hunt for some fun activities to do with friends and family – check out our guides to the best school holiday programs, the best activities for teens and the best gift experiences in Canberra for some more ideas.

Your experience with horse riding schools and equestrian centres in Canberra

Thanks to our commenters who have provided insightful feedback, if you believe we have got it wrong, please let us know.

Have you visited any of these riding schools? We’d love to know how it went. Share your experience in the comments area below.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the minimum age limit for horse riding?

Horse riding schools and equestrian schools will have their own limits for how young someone can be to start learning to ride, but the general rule is a child should be at least 7 years old.

Can I do a trial class before joining a riding school?

Many schools will offer packages for horse riding lessons, allowing you to sign up for just one lesson, or a whole term. This gives you the opportunity to vet the school, instructors and horses before signing up for ongoing lessons.

Is horse riding dangerous?

Horse riding is definitely one of the more dangerous sports you can do. After all, you are working with a large and very powerful animal. However, horses at riding schools are very well trained to riders of all levels, and are therefore very safe to ride. What's more, you will be riding under the supervision of trained and qualified instructors in completely safe and controlled conditions.

Do riding schools offer school holiday programs?

Yes! Many schools and equestrian centres offer school holiday programs for kids, which can include trail rides, horse care lessons, riding lessons and equestrian games. These programs can be a great way to introduce your child to horse riding before signing up for lessons.

Do I have to bring professional riding clothes to a horse riding lesson?

Many schools will have equipment such as helmets, boots and crops available for you to use for free each time you visit, meaning you don't have to drop lots of money on those items. However, you will need to get your hands on your own jodhpurs and polos.

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crackerpants6:07 pm 10 Dec 15

I baulked at the photo too – bike helmets! And sneakers!

My husband and I went for a trail ride at Forest Park, it was lovely, very professional. It was a good ride on good horses, although the grass was too tempting for mine. My husband had an easier time of it because his had grass reins. My 5 and 7 year olds have weekly lessons there. My 5 year old does little league, which is a 30min lesson where parents lead the ponies while the children learn basic skills, mixed up with games and trail rides. My 7 year old is in the beginners’ class, which is 1.5 hours including saddling and unsaddling and some theory. We love it there, and I’ve got to know most of the ponies my kids ride.

I can’t compare with other riding schools because it’s the only one we’ve been to. It’s in an easy location for us, we’re in Weston Creek so there are lots of horses and facilities around. My colleague jumps competitively and is friends with the manager at Forest Park. He warned me that the facilities are really run down and shabby, but it honestly doesn’t bother me. They have everything they need – including shelves and shelves of helmets and boots if you don’t have your own!

Maya123 said :

Nilrem said :

Riding a horse without a helmet is even dumber than riding a bicycle or motorcycle without a helmet. At least motorised forms of transport are relatively predictable in their behaviour.

But the lead rider probably thinks she looks so ‘cool’! ‘Cool’ before brains!

I guess it depends how much you worry about splashing your brains on the scenery.

Nilrem said :

Riding a horse without a helmet is even dumber than riding a bicycle or motorcycle without a helmet. At least motorised forms of transport are relatively predictable in their behaviour.

But the lead rider probably thinks she looks so ‘cool’! ‘Cool’ before brains!

Riding a horse without a helmet is even dumber than riding a bicycle or motorcycle without a helmet. At least motorised forms of transport are relatively predictable in their behaviour.

Ellen Harvey10:39 am 10 Dec 15

cehendo said :

Can the author please change the picture to one that shows safe riding practices. The fact that the first rider isn’t wearing a helmet and the rest are wearing bicycles helmets (also very unsafe) doesn’t send a very good message to the public.

We have amended the article — the image is a stock photo, so I would assume it is a staged image. Although, the safety concerns hold. Thanks for the comment.

I ride three times a week out at Gooromon Park Horse Riding Centre at Hall. It’s a great, supportive environment, with highly qualified instructors and a really big variety of horses who are all well-cared for.

Riding is generally in an arena lesson environment, as well as lessons and short trail rides out in the paddock, and they do dressage/jumping.

They also have the opportunity to partially lease their horses (with conditions), and I do this and love it. I really feel like since I came back to riding last year after a 6 year break, Gooromon have helped me get right back to a confident level of ability, and have pushed me to increase my knowledge and skills.

I also really just love their horses, who don’t have the bored personalities of so many riding school horses, but are spirited and have big personalities. Highly recommend!

Can the author please change the picture to one that shows safe riding practices. The fact that the first rider isn’t wearing a helmet and the rest are wearing bicycles helmets (also very unsafe) doesn’t send a very good message to the public.

The lead rider is the only one without a helmet. Having gone over the head of a horse during a jump and been knocked out for a short time, how silly does that look to me.

Forest Park in Curtin has trail rides (generally walk and trot) and also group lessons (1 hour long). I had group lessons here for many years and found the overall standard of instructors to be quite high. They have horses to suit pretty much all levels of rider, from absolute beginner to competent rider. If you really want to develop your skills though I’d recommend private lessons. There are very few places that offer private lessons that don’t require you to supply your own horse… One coach who does offer this is Ruth Cotton at Googong Equestrian (google her). Ruth is very patient and motivating. She teaches horse handling and training as well as riding. After having lessons with her for 6 months I felt confident enough to get my own horse (best decision ever).

Before I brought my own beautiful horse, Allie, I used to take lessons at Forest Riding Centre.. They’re VERY good at what they do, although I didn’t get a chance to go trail riding but they do have access to trails and pretty much everything you could want, as the Canberra Equestrian Centre is next door, with an awesome cross country course. Take your time picking a good riding instructor though. However if it’s trail riding you really want I suggest you take some friends and go to Jindabyne Equestrian Resort for two nights!!! Rita & Peter are fantastic and they’ll arrange something to suit everyone. It’s my favourite place to be, besides being with my gorgeous Allie..I look forward to being able to take Allie with me to Jindabyne Equestrian Resort one day to enjoy the trail rides & indoor arena, it really is a paradise for horse lovers.

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