Contessa Riding & Training Centre

Contessa is a leading Dressage Centre in Hertfordshire, providing Advanced Dressage lessons Lusitano stallions and warmbloods as well as riding for all levels


Kind words from our clients and students

Warning: Use of undefined constant menu_order - assumed 'menu_order' (this will throw an Error in a future version of PHP) in /homepages/2/d619210714/htdocs/wp-content/themes/romeo/page-functions.php on line 168
Lesley Pritchard

I started riding when I was 7 – my parents made me choose between riding lessons and a puppy. Ponies won, but I knew we’d end up with a dog anyway – which we did. From my first lesson on a fat strawberry roan pony called Templar and for the next (big number) of years I did lots of hacking and jumping and gymkhanas and falling off and even competed for my university riding club. But it was only when I started riding at Contessa in 2001, after quite a long break when I’d stopped enjoying it, that I discovered that I didn’t really know how to ride properly. Since my first assessment lesson (riding George and taught by Dawn) I’ve been trying to improve my skills on a succession of lovely horses and being taught by committed and professional (and mostly very patient!) instructors at Contessa.

I am lucky to have found this place and to live so close. I’ve made many friends through riding here (not all yards are this friendly) and have even been allowed to go out and compete. I’ve also had the absolute privilege of being allowed to ride some super schoolmasters – something that most people can only dream of. Most special of all was Tina’s wonderful Pik Dame who made me cry the first time I sat on her (in a good way).

So, I shall continue to come here until someone lets slip that last critical piece of information that makes all the other bits fall into place and I finally “get it”!  And even then I probably wouldn’t be able to keep away.

Thank you all my 2-legged and 4-legged friends for many happy times.


Katie Gilmour
I started working at Contessa in return for training on a part-time basis while holding down a demanding full time job. Tina promised to get me through my BHS exams and more than delivered.  I refer to Contessa as a boomerang yard because no matter who they are – staff or clients – they always come back and the reasons are simple. Contessa boasts wonderful horses to please all levels of rider.  The horses are kind, happy and well schooled. The instruction is second to none and incredibly friendly to boot.  The Advanced Schoolmasters take the yard to a whole new level and offer an unsurpassable experience that is very addictive!  So much so I now drive a four hour round trip once a month for Dawn ‘ s brilliant clinic to ride the beautiful Luso Unico and will continue to do so for quite some time!
I highly recommend Contessa. No other yard even comes close.
Joao Cavaco
Student 2000 to 2002

“My name is Joao Cavaco and I’m a Portuguese horse lover. My stage in Contessa was one of the best experiences that I’ve had in life and help me to achieve what I want.: In the moment I’m working in Spain as a trainer and riding at PSG level. Contessa gave me all the knowledge to start a successful career in the horse industry. Tina Layton for me is an inspiration, every time that I’m having a problem I remember her kindness and patience with the horses, a teacher for life. I advise every one interested in studying at Contessa to go forward, it has all the tools to help someone to be a good professional.”

an Italian student that was with us over the Summer of 2006

“It was my first time in England and I couldn’t find a better place to learn equine practice: lovely and friendly people in the staff who made me feel at home, only good horses and a very nice school settled in the countryside but near to towns. I feel that was my best summer I’ve ever had!”

Ex Student, Australia

“One morning I made a request: ‘Tina I need a horse to show you what I can do with my natural horsemanship’. She thought for a moment and said “Okay take Puro’. I thanked her and walked out of the office thinking O my God I’ve just been granted a massive opportunity! Not only an opportunity but a challenge as well. Puro was a challenge in that mentally he was very busy and standing at 17hh he was a lot of horse that had been out of work for some time. I began training him with my natural horsemanship skills and transformed him into a calmer more trainable horse. As a result of this he went on to be a fantastic demonstration horse for Natural Horsemanship Clinics that I was also given the opportunity to design and run. Over the course of 2 years all the training that I received, whilst being a working student at Contessa, allowed me to test my wings in a safe environment. Under the watchful eyes of my trainers Tina, Dawn and Sarah I was given the structure and grounding that I needed to go into the horse world as a professional trainer and instructor.”

Ex Yard Manager, now in USA

“The first time I saw Palamos in the ring he was being ridden by head girl Dawn Elliott. I was so distracted by his majesty and grace I could not concentrate on the horse I was riding, He was truly a sight to be seen… this was what I had come to Contessa for…to see and learn how to ride the advanced horses. One day I thought, that might be me!!! Then, some time later, I could not believe it when I saw my name next to Palamos on the advanced lesson list, there must be some mistake I thought…no mistake!!!…and there I was, half an hour later, floating on air… riding piaffe & passage for the first time. It was amazing…something I have never forgotten. I got more than I could have hoped for from Tina, her horses and her wonderful team at Contessa Riding Centre.”

Tina's Ex Groom, UK

“When I joined the team at Contessa my main aim was to get my BHSAI this happened quite quickly for me as I took advantage of the endless opportunities that were offered. I had lectures, teaching practice and endless riding on a daily basis not to mention regular clinics with respected professionals which I was always given time to watch or take part in. Whilst studying for my exams I found myself in charge of Tina’s three dressage horses, it was wonderful to be able to develop a bond with these beautiful horses and grooming for Tina took me to many of the major dressage competitions, which was a fantastic way to learn. I even groomed at an International CDI Competition, which was amazing!! Right from teaching little kiddies on cute ponies to riding the advanced horses I feel very privileged and lucky that I was a part of the Contessa team, and the experience has made me the Instructor and Rider that I am today”.

Ex Yard Manager, UK

“I had managed to gain my British Horse Society stage 2, before I went to Contessa as a working student, but what did I know! A little Arab mare named Buna taught me the meaning of feel. Now I’m in the closing weeks of an Equine Sports Science degree my training at Contessa has put me a step head of everyone else when looking for a career path. I’m always welcome back by the current students, staff, clients and horses and whenever I state I trained at Contessa people always know or have heard of Tina, I certainly get looked at in a different light when I announce “I was once Yard Manager at Contessa Riding Centre”.

Ex Head Girl now in New Zealand

“Over the years I spent at Contessa (1974-1998), initially as a working pupil and laterly as a BHS Intermediate Teacher in the role of Head Girl, I was very fortunate to enjoy Tina’s inspired teaching. With Tina’s encouragement and constant fresh ideas for lessons she was able to get me through all my exams successfully up to Intermediate Teaching. As a late comer to riding (30 as a beginner!) I never thought that I would achieve the things I did, such as competing at Advanced Medium level and training, not only with Tina, but also with various well known trainers who came to instruct at Contessa. As I progressed I was allowed to ride Tina’s magnificent Grand Prix horse (Borrowdale – Buster to his friends) once he had retired from competition, and many of her other highly trained horses as well. I was taken to numerous events all over the country, either supporting Tina as her groom or competing myself, and gathered a wealth of knowledge along the way. Those years are among the most memorable of my life – and having emigrated to New Zealand recently I am still keeping in touch with Tina and her family. Working and training at Contessa was more than just a job or a vocation – it became a way of life which enriched my world.”

Lyn Newell
Ex student , Ireland

I came to Contessa as a mature student and would have no hesitation in recommending the training at this excellent centre to anyone who is prepared to work hard and take advantage of all the expertise and facilities which are available here. The more you put in the more you will benefit from the whole experience. Tina and her team are an inspiration to the serious student who really wants to make a career with horses.

Patricia Baptista 
ABRS TC , holder of the BHS/BET Equestrian Centre Manager certificate

“I am a Portuguese riding instructor currently working in Ireland in a top class riding school! At the moment, I can safely say that I am one of the best instructors the Equestrian Centre has ever had! I teach an average of a 100 riders/weekly!!! I owe my success to the training Ihad at Contessa under the guidance and supervision of Tina Layton and her head girl Dawn Elliott, with the huge help of their star horses!!!! Contessa Riding School has a very friendly environment and it’s a lovely yard with beautiful surroundings! Being just an hour away from LONDON!!!!!!! I encourage all students to be part of the Contessa Team be it for 1 month or 1 year (I stayed for 1 and half year)! It is worth it!!!! Best of luck in your equestrian career!!!