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

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Young Riders (Ages 4 and up)

All children starting riding with us, no matter what level they start, at begin with an initial half hour one-to-one lesson which costs £30 for under 10yrs or £34 for ages 10yrs and upwards.
These sessions are offered weekdays after school from 3.30pm – 5pm.
We have limited availability at weekends for private children’s lessons.

Tiny Tots Cuddly Pony(Ages 2.5-5yrs), midweek only

We offer riding for children from 2.5 yrs on a Cuddly Pony session which is a great starting point and aimed at the under 5s to build confidence. We offer this session for 20 minutes and run on weekdays between 10am and 3pm. These cost £20.
A parent would be expected to walk alongside until the instructor felt they were happy to be independent.

We offer group lessons for all children which run weekdays after 5pm and weekends. Theses groups are split into abilities and are called kids clubs. We offer the following groups:

Weds 6pm – 7pm Elite Young riders club £40 with an Advanced Instructor.

Friday 5.30pm – 7pm Intermediate Kids Club.

Saturday 12pm Mini Kids Club.

Saturday 2pm Advanced Mini’s.

Sunday at 11am Mini Kids Club.

Sunday 1pm Advanced Mini’s.

To book a lesson please call us to find a suitable time or you may email for further information.
We will need weight, height and any previous riding experience in order to book a lesson.
Payment is made at time of booking. Lessons can be purchased as a block of lessons which includes a discount.
Please see our terms and conditions regarding cancellations.


Friday – Pony Club
5:30 - 7:00pm, Leila Khaldi, £32.50

Our Friday Pony Club is a firm favourite with our child riders & Pony Club members.  Sessions include a one hour ridden session including polework, lateral work and confidence building for all ages. the session also includes a half hour stable managment lecture working towards Pony club achievement badges. These sessions are fun and interactive for all ages of riders able to walk, trot and canter.

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Joao Cavaco
ABRS TC, Chief Rider & Instructor

Professional Dressage Rider and Instructor.

Joao was born and raised in Portugal and has always had a keen interest in horses. He joined the Portuguese Cavalry in 1998 and there he realised that he wanted to become a professional Dressage Rider. He started his journey as a working student at Contessa where he stayed for two years building a firm foundation in classical dressage. He is fondly remembered as a talented, enthusiastic and dedicated student. During this time he also achieved his ABRS Teaching Certificate and the ABRS scholarship. Since then he has worked as a rider for several International top trainers including: Tina Layton, Emile Faurrie, Leslie Morse USA and Vicky Thompson. During his time with these trainers he also had the opportunity to compete their horses at Novice and Advanced level in dressage. He has been in charge of training Katie Price’s dressage horses.

Contessa is pleased to have Joao back after over a decade and he is keen to be here helping our horses, students and riders to achieve their goals. As an instructor he helps his students get the most from their horses so they can experience the “correct way of going.” He brings a vast amount of experience to his lessons helping him to work through training problems and to take riders to the next level.

Joao is available for lessons on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. You can book private lessons with him as well as intermediate/advanced groups on the weekends. He also here on Wednesday evenings and runs our Young Elite Riders Club (Wednesdays at 6pm) and our Advanced Dressage adult group (Wednesdays at 7pm). He is also happy to teach clients on their own horses in dressage or flat-work for show jumping.

Besides teaching our students and clients, Joao is also here to school our horses. He keeps our schoolmasters fine-tuned and continues the development and education of our school horses. You will be able to catch him in Contessa’s various demonstrations or if you’re lucky during the weekdays in our training sessions! He regularly goes for open training sessions with Arthur Kottas in Guildford where you are more than welcome to come and watch.

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Nicola Swain
BHSAI

Nicola developed a love of horses at a very young age, and has been riding virtually her whole life. She has worked in various yards, including dressage, jumping and stud yards. She has worked in dealer’s yards, hunting yards and even polo.

Nicola loved eventing when she was younger, however she is no stranger to Contessa having trained with us 18 years ago. It was then that her passion to train classically and in particular dressage was born, which surprised her as she originally had plans to event. But the intricacy of dressage fascinated her, and she has carried on ever since.

Nicola has owned her own horses, mainly training them from the start, and has competed to elementary level. Nicola only left to have her daughter and then embarked on a career as a police officer. However her passion for horses proved too strong and 2 years ago she returned to coaching and training. Nicola has, and still does, compete for the Hertfordshire Police Saddle Club, including showjumping at the Royal Windsor Horse Show, parading with colleagues in front of the Queen and leading a procession of over one hundred horses and riders from all services including the Army, Navy and Air Force.

She has also competed in showjumping at Hickstead. For the future Nicola plans on completing her BHSII, and ABRS exams, continuing to compete with the Herts Police Saddle Club, and taking her young horse out to compete.

She has a keen interest in in-hand work especially for rehabilitation of horses. This developed from her experience with her own horse having spinal issues. Nicola teaches passionately building a great rapport with her clients encouraging riders to build their confidence.

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Emma Slater, BHS AI
BHS AI

Emma enjoys helping our younger riders develop, she assists our Pony Club events and runs the popular weekly Friday Evening Class group. Emma started her equestrian career at Contessa gaining her BHS exams up to Stage  II. She then furthered her experience at other UK Equestrian centres and riding schools. After gaining her BHS III and PTT, Emma took on another adventure and bought her own horse, Schmitt, a 3 year old warmblood. She brought him on slowly and now participates in competitions, clinics and camps around the country. She especially loves working with tricky horses and ponies, helping people with their confidence and finding a connection with the more sensitive horse. She also supports the Contessa Vaulting team utilizing her gymnastic skill and her teaching experience.

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Saffron Bradshaw

Saffron is currently one of two lucky apprentices at Contessa. She has been wanting to work in the Equestrian industry since a very young age. Having worked in different livery yards and stables in Hertfordshire in the past she is now working towards her BHS exams. Saffron was originally taught how to ride at Contessa when she was only 7 years old and ever since her passion for horses has only grown.  Saffron is particular good with our younger riders as she is very empathetic and patient and the kids love her.

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Lilly

Lilly is a happy, popular and friendly mare. She is a great confidence giver especially when it comes to jumping. She loves the fuss and attention that she gets around the yard and especially being given lots of carrots and apples from young people.

Lilly is not only a talented jumper, she excels at teaching riders the basics of dressage.

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Maisie
Cob

Young at heart and very versatile.

Maisie is a beautiful dun and white tri-coloured mare who is a firm favourite. She i’s a versatile mare, who is great on the flat, over fences and has even turned her hoof to Western.

Maisie loves jumping and taking part in fun Pony Club games and group Lessons.

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Fergus
Cob

Fun, calm and a vaulting star.

Fergus is a fun chestnut cob, who has a lovely character. Over the years he has given many riders confidence as they learn to master their initial riding techniques. As he is very calm we are able to teach those of all ages on him. Fergus also enjoys western, showjumping and is the UK and England Vaulting Champion horse.

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Suzy
Cob

Is a very pretty and sensitive mare.

Suzy is a sweet natured bay cob, who is a firm favourite with both adults and children. She has a very smooth canter and loves taking part in Pony Club activities. Suzy is also talented at lunge lessons with her 3 smooth gaits enabling people to work on their positions.

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Solo
Welsh

A well schooled advanced pony.

Solo is one of the more advanced ponies who is very well schooled enabling us to teach children more about lateral work. He is a strawberry roan though we often call him ‘pink’. Solo has been at Contessa for many years.

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Tally
Welsh

A great pony to learn on.

Tally is a 12.1 hh Welsh Section A pony, who is a very good pony to learn on. She is an elder resident who has been with us for many years, giving many their first chance to ride a more educated horse, this helps the children gain knowledge about equestrianism.

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Millie

Gentle, forward going and best friends with Toby.

Millie is a gentle forward going pony. She shows a talent in teaching both children and adults a correct contact and the beginnings of lateral movements. Millie is also a keen jumping pony.

Millie joined the Contessa team with her friend Toby a few years ago, they are both very valuable within the school.

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Moonie
Arab X Welsh

Popular amongst both children and adults, he loves all types of work.

Moonie is a 13.2hh Arab X Welsh and is a long standing member of Contessa. He has taught many to ride. He loves all types of work, but is particularly talented at jumping. He is the perfect size to be ridden by both children and adults; this enables us to use him for more advanced work, whilst  keeping a steady approach of teaching.

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Toby

Sweet natured gelding who loves jumping and Dressage.

Toby is a sweet natured 13.3hh caremello gelding. Since joining Contessa he has showed a great ability towards all aspects of the sport. He loves nothing more than going over jumps and going out in the field. Toby is also very willing to participate in Dressage, being able to do basic lateral movements. He has also competed as part of the Contessa Dressage Team.

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Toffee
Welsh

Toffee enjoys jumping and hacking.

Toffee is a younger pony who is training at Contessa, he is a wonderful horse for those smaller talented riders.

He joined Contessa in late 2014 and enjoys jumping, hacking and going in the field. Toffee is also finding pole-work and jumping lots of fun!

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Brontë
Welsh

A lovely little pony who likes to canter, jump and be groomed.

Brontë a 11hh Welsh Section A, is a relatively new edition to the Contessa Pony Team. She is a fun little pony who enjoys cantering and jumping. She loves being groomed which is fortunate as she also loves rolling in the field and getting extremely mucky!

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Advanced Instructor
Buy 5 vouchers and get the 6th at half price, buy 10 and get the 11th free
Lesson type Single lesson 6 vouchers 11 vouchers
Private three quarter hour: £56.00 £308.00 £560.00
Semi-Private one hour: £50.00 £275.00 £500.00
Group one hour: £40.00 £220.00 £400.00
BHSAI/ABRS ITA/Senior Staff
Buy 5 vouchers and get the 6th at half price, buy 10 and get the 11th free
Lesson type Single lesson 6 vouchers 11 vouchers
Private three quarter hour: £47.00 £258.50 £470.00
Semi-Private one hour: £41.00 £225.50 £410.00
Group one hour: £37.00 £203.50 £370.00
Friday Kids club (1 ½ hrs)

Ride and lecture

£36.00 for 1.5hrs, course of 6 for £178.75

Adv Mini/Mini Kids Club
£25.50 for 1hr
Junior instructor
Buy 5 vouchers and get the 6th at half price, buy 10 and get the 11th free
Lesson type Single lesson 6 vouchers 11 vouchers
Private half hour: £34.00 £187.00 £340.00
Private three quarter hour: £39.00 £214.50 £390.00
Semi-Private one hour: £36.00 £198.00 £360.00
Group one hour: £30.00 £165.00 £300.00
Junior instructor (Rider under 10 – weekdays only)
Buy 5 vouchers and get the 6th at half price, buy 10 and get the 11th free
Lesson type Single lesson 6 vouchers 11 vouchers
Private half hour: £30.00 £165.00 £300.00
Private three quarter hour (O/H): £35.00 £192.50 £350.00
Semi-Private three quarter hour: £32.00 £176.00 £320.00
Junior instructor (under 5 – Cuddly Pony – weekdays only)
Buy 5 vouchers and get the 6th at half price, buy 10 and get the 11th free
Lesson type Single lesson 6 vouchers 11 vouchers
Private half hour: £20.00 £110.00 £200.00
Pony Days

Half day £28 Ride x1 and lectures / games 10am-1pm or 1pm-4pm

Whole day £50 Ride x2 and lectures / games 10am-4pm

Week (3 days) £125 Ride x2 and lectures / games 10am-4pm

Pony Day (1/2 day)

£28 Ride x1 and
lectures / games 10am-1pm or 1pm-4pm

Pony Week (3 days)

£125 Ride x2 and
lectures / games 10am-4pm

Weekday exam training sessions (11-1 daily)

£165 for 4 week block or £55 per session

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*If you are inquiring about riding lessons please mention your riding level/experience.