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Our educational programs all have the same goal:  to create happy, safe riders on happy, healthy horses!

We've created two sets of progressive Learning Levels to achieve this goal:  one for Horsemanship (riding) achievement, and one for Horsekeeping competency.  When students can demonstrate the knowledge and skills required for a level they are awarded colorful ribbons to celebrate their progress.

We're in the process of writing illustrated study guides for each level of each program -- click here to see our Study Guides page, or scroll down to see the guides that are available at each level.

Browse through the Horsemanship Levels.

Browse through the Horsekeeping Levels.

Or click on a ribbon to jump to that level:

HORSEMANSHIP rainbow level   red horsemanship ribbon  yellow horsemanship ribbon  green horsemanship ribbon  blue horsemanship ribbon  orange horsemanship ribbon  purple horsemanship ribbon  teal horsemanship ribbon 
HORSEKEEPING   red horsekeeping ribbon  yellow horsekeeping ribbon  green horsekeeping ribbon  blue horsekeeping ribbon  orange horsekeeping ribbon  purple horsekeeping ribbon  teal horsekeeping ribbon 

 

 

riding lessonsHORSEMANSHIP LEVELS

The horsemanship program is the foundation for all of our regular riding lessons.  Nikki designed the riding curriculum to provide a solid base of knowledge and ability, with obtainable goals to help students -- and their parents --  track their progress from level to level.

Download a printable copy of the Horsemanship Levels Program.

 

R A I N B O W   L E V E L

The Rainbow Level is an introductory level for young riders aged 4 through 7, who are not yet able to ride and care for a pony independently.  Rainbow Level riders should always practice their skills with the supervision and assistance of an instructor!

I take regular lessons - at least once a month - with a knowledgeable instructor.Purchase your Rainbow Horsemanship Coloring Book here!

I always wear boots and an ASTM-SEI approved helmet when I am working around horses.  I can put on my helmet myself and show you how it fits correctly.

I can tell you how to dress safely for riding.

I can show you how to correctly approach a pony, and how to move around a pony safely - including walking around behind.

I can tell you why you have to groom a pony and pick out his feet before every ride.

I can help my instructor or an older, more experienced rider prepare for a ride.  I help with the grooming, cleaning hooves, and putting on the saddle and bridle.  When I am a little bit bigger, I will be able to tack up a pony without any help.

I can show you the basic parts of a saddle and bridle, such as the bit, reins, stirrups and girth.

I can lead a pony safely, both with a halter and lead rope and with the bridle reins.

I can help to do a safety check on my tack and pony before I ride.  I can pull down the stirrups, put the reins over my pony’s head, and help check the girth.

I can mount and dismount correctly and safely.  Even if I have to use the mounting block, or have my instructor give me a leg up, I know it is important to get on and off a pony carefully.

I can demonstrate a basic balanced position while my pony is walking and standing still.  I know that a bad position is dangerous for me and uncomfortable for my pony, so I always work hard to keep my eyes up, heels down, and “building blocks” in place!

I can pick up the reins and hold them correctly, at a suitable length.

I can perform basic stretches and warm-up exercises at the walk, on the leadline.  (This means someone is holding onto my pony to help me steer him.)

I can go Around the World.

I can demonstrate how I use my aids (my seat, legs, hands and voice) to ask my pony to walk, halt, and turn.

I can walk once all the way around the arena without a leadline.

I can ride in a balanced two-point position at the halt and the walk.

I can walk my pony over ground poles, showing a good jumping position, keeping my eyes up and riding straight over the middle of each pole.

I can ride the trot on the leadline.  I can ride both a sitting trot and a posting trot, holding on to the saddle if necessary.  I can keep up a steady rhythm at the posting trot, so it is comfortable for both me and my pony.

I can tell you why it is important to cool out my pony after hard work, and help take care of him after a ride.

I can name at least ten parts of the pony, and at least three grooming tools.

I can feed a treat to a quiet pony safely.  I know why it can be dangerous to feed a pony too many treats, and always ask permission.

I have filled out the “My Pony” worksheet with the name, color, markings, height, and breed of the pony I usually ride.  It is okay if my instructor or another experienced horseperson helps me to find this information and write it down.

I have helped an experienced horseperson clean out a stall.  I know why it is important to clean out a pony’s stall and water buckets every day.

Click here to buy a Rainbow Horsemanship Coloring Book!

 

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LEVEL ONE - RED

Brush, pick hooves, saddle and bridle, with assistance only if necessary, demonstratingPurchase your Red Horsemanship Study Guide here! awareness of basic horse safety techniques.

Mount and dismount independently (with mounting block if needed).

Perform warm-up stretches independently.

Perform an emergency dismount at the halt and walk.

Halt by disengaging horse’s hindquarters (“one-rein stop”), once on each rein.

Demonstrate a pulley rein and a safety seat.

Shorten and lengthen reins correctly.

Perform walk-halt transitions, maintaining balanced position.

Demonstrate the following maneuvers at walk:
-- change of direction across diagonal
-- half-circle reverse
-- half-turn
-- large circle.

Drop stirrups and pick up again, without looking down, at the halt.

Ride in 2-point at the walk and over poles.

Ride simple ground pole course (3-5 fences) at walk, demonstrating jumping position and good approaches.

Ride on the rail at a posting trot, once around in each direction. 

Buy a Red Horsemanship Study Guide!

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LEVEL TWO - YELLOW

Tack and untack independently, in less than twenty minutes.Buy a Yellow Horsemanship Study Guide here!

Adjust stirrups and girth while mounted.

Perform an emergency dismount at the trot.

Demonstrate use of disengagement and pulley rein by halting horse from trot.

Ride smooth walk-trot transitions, maintaining balanced position.

Demonstrate knowledge and awareness of posting diagonals.

Demonstrate the following maneuvers at walk and trot:
-- large circle
-- figure-8
-- serpentine
-- half circle, half-turn and diagonal with change of posting diagonal

Ride USDF Intro Test A or B, showing knowledge of elementary dressage terms and figures.

Ride on the longe at walk and trot without stirrups and reins.

Drop stirrups and pick up again, without looking down, at the walk.

Ride in 2-point at the trot on the flat and over ground poles, developing ability to balance independently of hands.

Ride grid of trot poles, demonstrating secure jumping position.

Ride a ground pole course at the trot with opening and closing circles, good approaches.

Click here to buy a Yellow Horsemanship Study Guide!

 

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LEVEL THREE - GREEN

Demonstrate ability to safely catch horse in both stall and field.Green Horsemanship study guide

Prepare for a lesson independently in fifteen minutes or less.

Discuss procedure for warm-up, cooldown, with consideration of weather, footing, fitness level of horse.

Ride bareback confidently at the walk and trot, balancing independently of hands.

Demonstrate the following maneuvers:
-- reinback
-- rating speed at the walk and trot
-- large circle at canter
-- change of direction with simple change at canter

Ride at the canter on the rail in both directions, demonstrating both light and full seat.

Demonstrate awareness of leads.

Ride at the trot for a minimum of five minutes without stirrups, alternating posting and sitting.

Drop stirrups and pick up again, without looking down, at the trot.

Ride in 2-point at the canter, on the flat and over a single ground pole.

Trot over a grid of trot poles with reins knotted and arms outstretched.

Ride ground pole course at the trot with smooth turns, good approaches, correct diagonals.

Jump a single crossrail, not to exceed 18".

Click here to buy a Green Horsemanship Study Guide!

 

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LEVEL FOUR - BLUE

Know and demonstrate a minimum of four exercises that can be used to improve the seat.

Ride ring figures at the walk and trot, with correct diagonals.

Demonstrate knowledge of aids used for asking horse to correctly bend.

Ride accurate trot/canter transitions.

Ride a 20m circle at the walk, trot, and canter, with correct diagonals and leads.

Ride USDF Intro Test C with accurate transitions and ring figures.

Ride at the walk, trot and canter without stirrups.

Ride basic gymnastic grid up to 2', to include one small oxer.

Trot into a related distance and canter out.

Ride a ground pole course at the canter, with simple changes of lead as necessary.

Jump a course of 5-7 fences at 18”, at the trot, with good approaches, developing the ability to plan a course.

Demonstrate an effective use of disengagement and pulley rein by stopping horse from canter.

Ride in the open, up and down hills and over fences and natural obstacles at the walk and trot.

 

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LEVEL FIVE - ORANGE

Demonstrate self-directed, progressive warm-up for flatwork and jumping.

Maintain light contact on the flat, demonstrating long and loose rein when asked.

Demonstrate the following maneuvers:
-- turn on the forehand
-- sitting trot
-- figure-8 at canter
-- serpentine at canter

Demonstrate  ring figures at all three gaits, with awareness of bend and balance.

Ride ring figures at walk, trot, and canter without stirrups.

Be able to drop and pick up stirrups at all gaits without looking down.

Ride small bounce grid, with and without reins and/or stirrups.

Ride simple gymnastic grids up to 2’6”, including low fences without reins.

Jump a course (minimum 6 fences) at 2’, at the canter, with smooth turns, good approaches and correct leads.

Ride in the open in a group, at walk, trot and canter, maintaining control.

Demonstrate a galloping position at the walk, trot, and canter.

Jump simple cross-country obstacles, up to 2’3” at the trot and canter.

Ride the hand gallop.

 

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LEVEL SIX - PURPLE

Ride on the longe at walk, trot and canter, without stirrups and reins, performing balancing and suppling exercises.

Identify diagonals and leads through feel.

Demonstrate the following maneuvers:
-- 20m, 15m, and 10m circles at walk and trot
-- 20m, 15m, and 10m half-circles at walk and trot
-- simple change of lead on a straight line
-- leg yield, from quarter line to rail, at walk and trot

Ride accurate trot/halt/trot transitions.

Demonstrate a walk to canter transition, returning to walk with three or fewer steps of trot.

Ride canter to halt in three or fewer steps.

Ride USEA Novice Test A or B, demonstrating accuracy, forward rhythm, steady contact, correct bend on circles and through corners.

Know distances for trot poles and basic gymnastic exercises.

Ride a variety of gymnastic exercises up to 2’9”, with and without stirrups and/or reins.

Jump a course (minimum 8 fences) at 2’6”, to include spread and vertical fences, related distances, bending lines, and a combination.

Jump a course (minimum of 6 fences) at 2’ without stirrups.

Maintain a galloping position at the walk, trot and canter, for a minimum of five minutes.

Ride at the gallop in the open with control and a strong galloping position.

Jump a variety of Beginner Novice level cross-country fences, to include bank, ditch, trot or canter through water.

 

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LEVEL SEVEN - TEAL

Discuss basic dressage theory, showing knowledge of the training pyramid and use of natural aids.

Discuss appropriate use of artificial aids and training devices.

Demonstrate a self-directed, progressive warm-up for flatwork and jumping, with consideration of mount’s strengths and weaknesses.

Ride various ring figures on the aids, at walk, trot and canter, demonstrating rhythm, relaxation, connection and bend.

Ride accurate, balanced transitions, including halts and transitions between the walk and canter.

Demonstrate the following maneuvers:
-- turn on the haunches
-- leg yield at the walk
-- haunches-in
-- countercanter

Ride a simple change of lead through the walk or a flying change of lead, appropriate to the horse.

Demonstrate lengthening and shortening stride.

Ride and evaluate an unfamiliar horse, to include work at all three gaits and through basic ring figures.

Set up and ride over a variety of gymnastic exercises, up to 3'6", demonstrating a secure position both with and without stirrups and/or reins.

Jump a hunter course, an equitation course, and a show-jumping course at 3’.

Jump a course (8-12 fences) at 2'6" without stirrups.

Ride in a galloping position over varying terrain, demonstrating a knowledge of pace in meters per minute.

Jump a variety of Novice Level cross-country obstacles, to include ditches, up and down banks, water complex, and jumps on a slope.

 

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stall cleaningHORSEKEEPING LEVELS

We want all of our riders to understand that learning how to care for horses is just as important -- maybe more important -- as learning to ride.  We also recognize that it isn't necessary to ride to have a fulfilling relationship with a horse.  That's why we offer a Horsekeeping Levels Program that teaches both children and adults how to keep horses safe and healthy.

Students enrolled in the Horsekeeping Program have access to lots of helpful information as they progress through the levels:  our unique Study Guides (as we write them!); Level Up Camps and Level Up Clinics; a lending library of equine reference books; and our Working Student Program and Internship Program.  We can also provide private horsekeeping classes upon request.

Ribbons are also awarded at the completion of each Horsekeeping Level.

Click here to download a printable copy of the Horsekeeping Levels Program.

LEVEL ONE - RED

Know and discuss safety rules in barn, arena, and pasture.Buy a Red Horsekeeping Study Guide here!

Know safe riding attire; demonstrate how to correctly fit a helmet.

Catch horse in stall and pasture, with safe technique.

Demonstrate safe leading from near side, both in barn and through doorways/gates.

Tie horse safely, using an effective quick-release knot.

Demonstrate basic grooming to prepare a horse for a ride.

Know names and functions of basic grooming tools.

Demonstrate picking out hooves safely, with knowledge of reasons for basic hoof care.

Know basic parts of the horse, to include: withers, poll, croup, hock, fetlock, etc.

Know basic parts and functions of saddle and bridle.

Know how to store tack correctly, and give at least two reasons for cleaning tack and equipment.

Know basic rules for feeding.

Be able to identify good and bad hay, grain, and water.

Demonstrate mucking and re-bedding a stall, cleaning stall thoroughly and efficiently.

Click here to buy a Red Horsekeeping Study Guide!

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LEVEL TWO - YELLOW

Jog horse in hand, with safe technique, as though jogging for soundness.Buy a Yellow Horsekeeping Study Guide here!

Blanket and remove blanket from horse safely.

Correctly apply splint boots, bell boots, and shipping boots. Know what each is used for and which vital areas are protected.

Clean and condition a saddle, bridle, and girth, knowing reasons for each step.

Reassemble saddle and bridle without assistance.

Care for a horse after a workout, to include: cooling out, thorough grooming and inspection, feeding and watering.

Know normal TPR range for a horse, and discuss how to take TPR.

Know basic colors and markings.

Know basic categories and breeds of the horse.

Know how to measure a horse for height.

Know reasons for basic feeding principles, to include discussion of concentrates and roughage.

Know signs of colic and action to take.

Know which injuries can be handled with minor treatment and which need veterinary attention.

Click here to buy a Yellow Horsekeeping Study Guide!

 

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LEVEL THREE - GREEN

Fit a saddle, bridle (including bit), girth and halter to a horse.Green Horsekeeping study guide

Identify items in equine first aid kit, giving reasons for each item’s use.

Take and record TPR.

Measure a horse for weight and height.

Administer a paste or gel dewormer safely.

Apply a stable bandage.

Describe ten riding disciplines (English or Western).

Name five breeds in each of the following categories: sporthorse, draft, gaited, pony, color breeds.

Discuss safe trail riding practices, including appropriate tack and equipment.

Discuss basic conditioning for horse and rider.

Know signs of a hoof needing trimming or shoeing.

Know basic stall and pasture management practices to keep horse safe and happy, to include:
-- provision for water, forage
-- shelter and living arrangements
-- fly and manure management
-- seasonal considerations.

Create a simple calendar showing routine care needed for horse, to include: immunizations, shoeing or trimming, deworming, dental care and Coggins test.

Click here to buy a Green Horsekeeping Study Guide!

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LEVEL FOUR - BLUE

Groom a horse to turnout inspection quality (no braiding necessary).

Perform a safety check on a younger rider under supervision.

Know how to adjust different types of tack, including martingale, breastplate, curb chain, etc. Know how to cinch a Western saddle. 

Identify different types of bits, to include both snaffle and leverage bits.

Apply a polo wrap and discuss its purpose.

Know how to treat the following injuries: stone bruise, laceration, puncture wound, abscess, swollen tendon, injured eye.

Discuss life cycle and prevention of internal and external parasites.

Know names and functions of farrier tools used in trimming and shoeing.

Know basic horse movement, to include number of beats in each gait, footfall pattern, faulty movement, and methods of detecting unsoundness.

Discuss what conformation is and why it is important, to include basic faults of the leg, back, shoulder, neck and head.

Name five unsoundnesses.

Perform a pre-trip safety check on a truck or trailer.

Safely load and unload a quiet horse, with assistance.

Discuss reasons for longeing, safe longeing practices and equipment. Demonstrate how to hold and give aids with a line and whip.

 

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LEVEL FIVE - ORANGE

Know elementary concepts of equine behavior theory and relate them to 1) riding and training practices, and 2) stable management practices.

Longe a quiet horse for exercise, showing safe technique and consideration of the horse.

Set walk, trot, and canter poles for a selection of three different-sized horses.
Build a basic gymnastic grid for an average 15.2 hh horse.

Apply a shipping bandage.

Wrap a hoof.

Discuss different types and reasons for clipping.

Evaluate a horse’s conformation, listing both good and bad points.

Know basic conformation traits specific to the following breeds: Arabian, Thoroughbred, Quarter Horse, Andalusian. Relate to suitability for specific disciplines.

Know stable vices, causes and possible remedies.

Know specific immunizations needed for our local area and at what frequency.

Identify different types of grains, hays, and supplements.

Discuss correct measurement of feed and suitable feed rations for horses in light, moderate, and hard work; including considerations such as conditioning, injury or illness.

Create an eight-week conditioning schedule to prepare a horse and rider for a strenuous activity (e.g., horse trial, show jumping competition, fox hunt, etc.)

 

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LEVEL SIX - PURPLE

Groom a horse to turnout inspection quality, to include appropriate hunt or button braids in the mane.

Longe a quiet horse and evaluate performance and movement.

Fit side reins.

Pull a mane.

Wrap a tail for travel.

Know how to select and maintain a trailer and tow vehicle.

Identify parts of the horse’s digestive system.

Identify different types of shoes and their uses, to include traction devices such as borium and studs.

Identify a minimum of five toxic plants native to this area.

Know location, appearance and treatment of unsoundnesses: navicular, splints, strained or bowed tendon, ringbone, sidebone, curb, bone spavin, capped hock. Discuss blemishes such as windpuffs and bog spavin.

Describe causes, signs, and treatment of laminitis/founder, tying up, choking, thrush, skin conditions.

Name five diseases of the horse and describe symptoms and preventative measures.

Estimate the age of a horse using teeth as a guide; discuss number of teeth, growth, and dental care.

Discuss stable and pasture management, to include:
-- turnout schedules
-- parasite management
-- grass management
-- different options for fencing and bedding
-- routine facility maintenance
-- daily care of horses.

Create a budget for keeping a horse for a year, to include: feed and board, routine health care, emergency care, tack and equipment, and showing and training expenses.

 

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LEVEL SEVEN - TEAL

Teach a new student Red Level horsekeeping skills.

Judge an Intro to Training Level dressage test, demonstrating knowledge of basic dressage principles.

Design a stadium jumping course, demonstrating knowledge of distances and types of fences.

Wrap a knee and a hock.

Give an intramuscular injection.

Thoroughly clean an udder and a sheath.

Know uses and dangers of common equine medications and sedatives.

Evaluate conformation of a selection of horses, discussing relationship to soundness, movement, and athletic ability.

Know basic equine anatomy, to include: musculoskeletal, circulatory, respiratory, and reproductive systems; know what diseases or health conditions affect each system.

Discuss basic disease prevention practices, including management of infectious diseases.

Draw a diagram showing the major bones, ligaments, and tendons in the lower leg.

Discuss methods of conditioning for different activities, such as dressage, eventing, games, endurance riding, etc.

Discuss methods of starting a young horse from the ground up, including ground exercises, longeing, backing, and progressive training.

Using a tag from a commercially prepared feed mixture, analyze nutritional value of feed (to include hay and/or pasture) and balance a ration for a horse.

Discuss equine disaster planning, to include: fire and storm emergency plans, supplies, and evacuation procedures.

Draw a diagram of a stable and pasture setup for 1) private 2-horse farm on 5 acres; and 2) commercial boarding and training facility on 20 acres.



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