About Us

Ethical riding and horsemanship

Brought To You By East Devon Riding Academy

East Devon Riding Academy offers high quality riding and horsemanship lessons to children and adults. We offer opportunities for children from walking age, we are well known for giving children their first experience of ponies and riding. We have purpose built facilities and a comprehensive range of learning opportunities are available alongside lessons, including adult training courses, children’s Pony Mornings and Pony Playgroup.  We specialise in individual lessons or very small groups of siblings, family or friends. Lessons are about far more than just following the bum in front! We are experienced in helping to rebuild or improve confidence and welcome all abilities. We also teach people on their own horse or pony.

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    We offer the solution for those people who wish to enjoy their hobby but don't want this to be at the expense of the horse.
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    We offer an ethical choice for people that recognise that the horse is far more than a 4 legged bicycle and has thoughts, feelings and needs of its own.

About The Founder Of The Academy...

The owner and chief instructor of East Devon Riding Academy is Natalie Bucklar, BSc (Hons), MSc (Equine Science). Natalie has studied sports coaching to Masters degree level, specialising in rider performance. This specialism led to Natalie being asked to write and conduct a unique research project to help prepare Team GB riders for the 2004 Athens Olympics.

Natalie has over 23 years experience of teaching children and adults, including lecturing to degree level in Equine Science. Experienced with all abilities and levels of confidence, Natalie’s pupils have competed at the Horse of the Year Show, the Royal International Horse Show, County level showing and National Championships. However not everyone is competitive and Natalie is equally happy teaching riders who may just want to master rising trot or learn how to canter. With a passion for horse welfare and understanding equine behaviour, Natalie and her team of staff constantly strive to look after the horses to the highest possible standards.

We begun offering the opportunity for children to join us for the morning back in 2011. Our many years of experience in the industry helped us to define our Pony Mornings so we could offer children enjoyable, active and educational activities whilst providing parents with value for money and the peace of mind that we would strive to keep their children happy, engaged and most importantly, safe. Our reputation for hosting high quality Pony Mornings rapidly grew, we started with just two for the whole summer holidays and we now run two for every week of every school holiday and half term. Each year we welcome new children but we also have many returning customers, several who are local and some who just visit us once a year when they are on holiday. Some of the children who attend our pony mornings are regular riders and some have never ridden before- all are welcome as we split the group according to experience if necessary.

What Exactly Is Ethical Horsemanship?

East Devon Riding Academy strives to offer and practice ethical riding and horsemanship, it means that we acknowledge the horse is not a machine, an inanimate object or unworthy of being considered. They have not chosen to be in their job and they deserve to have their own life too. We want them to be happy and free from pain and discomfort. We work hard to ensure that providing customers with a service does not impose upon the horse’s innate needs and they still have the freedom to be a horse. Our horses have choice, we listen to their communication and if necessary we act on it to ensure their welfare is optimised.

Learning to ride is a journey, not a destination. We teach people to work in partnership with the horses, communicating with them in a kind and harmonious manner. We do not believe in crude, bullying riding, nor riders holding on and hoping for the best. We want our riders to be safe, enjoying their hobby on happy horses that are free from pain and discomfort.

Firstly, we understand children. We teach 1000’s of them every year! Our teaching methods follow an active learning approach, which keeps children involved by learning through doing, rather than the traditional but less effective way of just telling them what to do. All of our sessions are delivered through age appropriate activities, which enable children to succeed and learn whilst they are having fun. We guide the Pony Morning where appropriate, however we also encourage the children to be part of the decision making and empower them to have the freedom to discover and explore.

Our Daily Management....

Our horses and ponies live outside in small herds. They are bought in to the stables shortly before they are needed to work and turned out again immediately after they have finished. They are groomed before and after every ride, tacked up 10 minutes before a ride and un-tacked immediately after. We DO NOT-

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    Leave horses tacked up for hours or all day. ​​​​
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    Leave horses in stables, in social isolation for long periods.
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    Withhold food or water. 

Horses are not physically or mentally designed for confinement. They need social contact, space to roll, room to play and groom with each other, the freedom for natural posture and movement and a little and often forage based diet. Our management allows our horses to fulfill all these natural requirements. Our horses are not expected to cope with an erratic workload, with riders getting on and off all day and they are treated as individuals. Each horse works for a maximum of an hour and a half a day, in a maximum of 2 sessions but this depends on the individual, as some are limited to 1 lesson a day. We have water available in the arena and allow the horses to drink during lessons.


I always smile when I see your posts in my news-feed, its just so heartening to see you doing so well with such an amazing ethos!

Secondly, we understand horses. We spend 1000’s of hours with them every year! The welfare of our animals is a huge passion of ours and we work very hard to look after our horses to a very high standard. This ensures that their health and well being is optimised and they are happy in their jobs, as after all, a happy horse is a safer horse. Our teaching methods do not involve bullying or forceful communication, such as encouraging children to kick or whip animals to make them do what they want. Instead the children are taught humane, respectful handling and riding techniques which keeps them safer and protects the horses from physical and psychological harm. Children absolutely love our kind methods and the harmony and success that they bring.
Thirdly, we understand what parents want. As parents ourselves, we appreciate that safety is a top priority and we structure our activities to minimise the risks involved with being around animals. We offer close supervision, well planned activities and high quality instruction with well maintained, purpose built facilities. We know that you want your children to enjoy their time with us, so we try our best to make this happen and give them a positive experience with lasting, happy memories. Our high standards, ethical horsemanship, fantastic resources and excellent supervision also give superb value for money.

Why Do People Choose Us?

 As a provider of tuition in riding and horsemanship, we are in an influential position when helping people with their hobby. We do not want to start children or adults on their journey with horses, giving them the impression that riding is all about them and what they want, regardless of the impact they can have on the horse. We do not want to perpetuate the endemic view that it is acceptable, even normal, to pull horses in the mouth to steer, to whip them to move or to bounce on their backs in the quest for a goal. We are heartened by the increasing number of people who choose us to help them start their equine journey positively, further their skill and knowledge or help them return to horses after a break. These people are often seeking a more harmonious partnership with horses, they want to understand equine behaviour and they gain a huge sense of achievement by riding softly and with respect for the horse. Most people don’t want to ride unethically, they don’t want to pull and kick and they are wowed when we show them they don’t need to. Treating horses as machines is widespread but it doesn’t have to be like that and we aim to show people the amazing relationships people can have with horses WITHOUT the need for abuse, bullying, stress and pain for the horse.

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    Force free methods. We don't use techniques or equipment to force our horses to work.
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    Individuality and choice. We listen to our horses and respect them as individuals.
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    Pain free riding. We do not use methods that inflict pain or discomfort on our horses.



Thanks so much for giving my girls such a wonderful experience. They loved it!

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Why We Don't Use Bits Or Whips....

All of our tack and equipment is chosen for maximum comfort of the horses and ponies. They are all ridden in bitless bridles. Horses have very sensitive mouths and even when the utmost care is taken by the rider not to pull on the reins, and even when the ‘mildest’ style of bit is used, there is still potential for the rider to create uncomfortable pressure and pain in the mouth. Removing the bit removes a source of discomfort for the horse. We do not strap their mouths shut with different nosebands. We do not use gadgets that force the horse into holding their body a certain way. We do not ask or tell our riders to whip the horses. Kicking and whipping towards other animals is illegal, it is not accepted in society nor towards other people and we believe horses should not be exempt from these morals. Whipping and constantly kicking a horse in the ribs is cruel and not necessary, there are much kinder methods of riding that don’t inflict pain on the horse and these are the methods we teach.

If you would like to know more about our riding lessons:

Why We Don't Use Stalls....

In the days before cars, stalls were needed to house the large number of working horses. Lining horses up side by side in a stall just bigger than the horse provided a good solution for humans living in towns and cities, where there is limited space. Horses were a main mode of transport and replacing a stable with stalls meant more horses could be kept in the same space. In stalls, horses face a wall and are tied up, often by a rope running through a ring, with a weight on the bottom of it. The horse can then move its head to reach water or food (if provided) but only if they pull against the weight attached to their head. They cannot turn around and often can’t lie down. Things have moved on a bit since the 1800’s though! Stalls mean horses are kept tied up, they can’t move, they can’t see outside and they are often dark, with limited airflow. The list goes on as to why they impact negatively on a horse’s welfare. Sadly stalls are still in use in many riding stables today. For ethical reasons we do not use stalls, even though they are allowed by the licensing authorities and even accepted by the British Horse Society at their approved establishments. There is less room in a horse stall than a human prison cell.

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Copyright 2017, East Devon Riding Academy