No, you do not tip a horseback riding instructor. Horseback riding instructors are often self-employed and set their own rates or discuss their pay structure with the facility they are employed by. Trainers are not an area of the equestrian community that requires or expects tips.
If would be weary of any facility that uses language that suggests tips are expected. This is not normal practice and indicates that the instructors may not be paid what they are worth by the facility. Students should not be making up for a pay deficit, facilities should be paying their employees enough or the trainers should be setting higher rates.
What If You Want to Tip?
Seriously, tipping is not normal etiquette for trainers. Riding is expensive enough as it is without having to tip trainers. Just as you don’t pay tax, you aren’t paying a tip on your lessons either. It’s a flat rate that the individual instructor or the facility has set.
Instead of tipping, you can show your appreciation through other means like referring others to your trainer, giving a holiday gift, or picking them up their favorite coffee on the morning of a show.
Alternatives to Tipping a Horseback Riding Instructor
We don’t tip our grade school teachers, our college professors, or other instructors—including riding trainers. However, if you’re feeling generous and festive then giving a holiday or birthday gift is always appreciated.
A Sweet or Meaningful Gift
If your child is in lessons this gift could be as simple as a painting your child made of their favorite horse (I still have some from my students when I was an assistant trainer) or a cute figurine your child picked out. These are meaningful gifts and they aren’t expected by they are cherished.
Baked goods are also another sweet (literally) and yummy ways to thank your riding instructor.
A Holiday Present
Giving your horseback riding instructor a holiday gift is a sweet way to say thank you for their time and for going above and beyond throughout the year. What you pick will depend on your individual trainer. You’ll want to learn what they like and dislike and cater the gift to their preferences.
A Holiday Cash Bonus
If you want to give a gift that has more monetary value, these are always appreciated but never expected. This could be a bonsu of additional cash. This could be equal or slightly more than the cost of a single lesson. Alternatively, you could add a 20% bonus tip during a holiday.
A Coffee or Lunch
Grabbing a coffee or lunch for your trainer, especially leading into a show or other event can be a nice way to say thank you if you’re looking for ways to show your appreciation.
Situations Where Tipping a Riding Instructor Makes Sense
Okay, so we know we’re not supposed to tip our horseback riding instructor. However, there are some horseback riding leaders that you may feel inclined to tip and etiquette does lean in favor of tipping if you would like.
If you are going for a guided trail ride then tipping your trial riding leader is more normalized. In many industries, guides of all types are tipped. Often these tips aren’t expected but they are given by some and always appreciated.
Use your best judgment and remember, it’s best for everyone if employees are paid what they are worth from the start and companies are allowed to rely on the consumer to make up for their refusal to pay a good wage.