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About HorseSense Learning Levels


The HorseSense Learning Levels are our unique method of tracking students’ progress as they develop into versatile, well-rounded riders and horsemen. Students work to master specific skills in each of the levels, and receive recognition for completion when they are able to consistently demonstrate each of the skills to their instructor. In many cases, achievement of one level is a prerequisite for learning more advanced skills.

The Levels are divided into three branches to reflect the main areas of study within our equine curriculum:

  • The Horsemanship Levels concentrate on the student’s ability in the saddle, culminating in a well-rounded rider who is balanced, educated and confident.

  •  The HorseSense Levels focus on the extensive body of knowledge needed to care for and work with horses successfully, testing students on horse handling, veterinary and stable management skills.

  •  The HorseCentered Levels provide a groundwork-based curriculum encouraging students to study equine behavior and become skilled and compassionate trainers.

The Horsemanship and HorseSense curriculums are designed for students of English and Western riding. The groundwork-based HorseCentered Levels are not discipline specific.

An additional Level, Rainbow Level, is designed for very young children, helping them bridge the gap between occasional pony rides and regular riding lessons.


Here's WHY the Levels system works: it provides goals for students that keep them invested in learning along with time-saving teaching tools to help us teach those goals!

  • It gives students clear, achievable milestones.

  • It gives instructors, students and parents a way to measure achievement outside of the show ring.

  • Students who aren't able to ride can still have unmounted learning goals and rewards.

  • It encourages students to devote time to fundamentals, flatwork, and their unmounted education, all of which can be lost in the excitement of jumping and competing.

  • Students in group lessons easily form bonds with other students and encourage each other to learn.

  • It helps both students and parents understand requirements for advancement. 

Common Questions

How do you determine when a student has earned a checkmark for an objective?

Our policy has always been that the student must demonstrate hands-on skills and knowledge of an objective by answering questions, explaining key concepts, or describing procedures.

We tell them that they must be able to “teach it back to us” — to imagine that we know nothing about the subject — and it’s their job to give us all of the important information.

We help students learn and remember these details by using lesson plansand challenge materials, and by giving students “textbooks” called study guides for each Level. 

What do you use to track students' progress and reward their achievements?

We have several options for curriculum checklists that record students’ progress as they work through the Levels.

When students have demonstrated all of the knowledge and skills required for a Level, it’s important to commemorate that accomplishment with some kind of keepsake or reward. We provide them with a keepsake Learning Level Ribbon and certificate.

How is the mounted progressions structured?

Each Level introduces new skills and concepts that build on previous Levels. To earn a Horsemanship ribbon, we expect students to be able to demonstrate these skills while maintaining a secure balanced position and prioritizing the well-being of the horse. All riding requirements must be met with the student demonstrating a safe, basic balanced position: heels down, eyes up, quiet hands, and a line running from the head through the shoulder and hip to the heel.

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