Madison has spent a long time working up to this day. It’s been several months of weekly sessions spent learning how to trot without stirrups and ride in two-point position. At times, Yellow Level felt like an endless project!
But now, at last, Madison’s instructor has spoken the “C” word.
As soon as Madison feels Heaven’s shoulders lift into the rocking motion of the canter, her smile stretches from ear to ear. Not only is it exciting to be learning this long-anticipated skill, she finds riding the canter to be easy and FUN!
Like Yellow Level, Green Horsemanship can take some time – but if you’ve done your job in the previous Levels, it’s going to be nonstop enjoyment.
Students are cantering, they’re jumping, they are leaping out of their comfort zones and realizing all they can do.
We like to think of Green Level as the last true beginner level
Soon, we’ll be sending these students into the show ring and out into wide open spaces. Soon, they’ll be jumping all kinds of things and learning how to influence the horse.
For this reason, we think that Green Level is a pretty important stage in a new rider’s journey.
There are a few key concepts we hope students realize along the way
goal #1 - They won’t need you there ALL the time
By now, your beginner students have logged a lot of practice hours in the barn. They’ve been leading, grooming, picking hooves and tacking up. They’ve started to learn the value of efficient work and patient problem-solving.
They are closing in on a rite of passage: being allowed to come early and prepare a horse entirely on their own.
This means that students need to be able to effortlessly recite barn safety rules and understand the reasons for the rules, making informed decisions about their tying and handling practices.
They need to be able to saddle and bridle without spending twenty minutes figuring out why their girth won’t reach.
They need to feel 100% confident in their ability to halter a horse and maneuver him through a gate.
You need to feel equally confident in your decision to allow them to work independently – and trust that they will still seek out help if necessary!
goal #2 - They’ll accept the responsibility that comes with independence
The more your students do on their own, the more important it is that they consider their role in the horse’s welfare.
Green Horsemanship students are ready to understand that a commitment to unmounted HorseSense Levels will help them become better riders.
As they start to canter and jump, they’ll have to think about physical fitness and the impact these activities have on the horse’s body.
They’ll need to learn how to recognize lameness or injury, cool down a hot horse, and warm up for a ride effectively.
At some point, they’ll have to see how much their actions affect the horse’s well-being — a lesson you don’t want them to learn the hard way!
In mounted lessons, we’ll let students practice self-directed riding during supervised “free” periods. Then we’ll talk through safety scenarios using Stuff Happens cards.
goal #3 - Their fitness will come first
Of course, it isn’t just the horse’s fitness we want our students thinking about.
If they are ready to try their hand at more high-risk activities like cantering and jumping, they are definitely ready to start thinking about riding as a sport and themselves as athletes.
We’re going to start talking more about flexibility, strength, diet and hydration, especially with students for whom horseback riding is their only real physical activity.
It’s important to emphasize that physical fitness involves daily lifestyle choices, and it isn’t something that happens overnight.
If you aren’t able to get that point across on your own, the five-minute trot without stirrups should do the trick!
Goal #4 - The canter will be at their command
If your beginners have been in walk/trot land for a long time, they may start cantering with a mixture of thrill, nerves and/or dread.
We hope they realize that: a) their hard work at Yellow Level is allowing them quickly master their seat at the canter, and b) the canter is just another gait, and one they have the skillset to ride.
By the time they transition into Blue Level, where they’ll do all the things at the canter, we hope they are cantering around with a secure position AND complete confidence in their own ability.
It’s amazing how much they can do when those two qualities combine!
TIP: Make sure your students are ready to canter using the checklist in this Boss Mares post.
Goal #5 - Horses gonna jump… so they’d better learn to do it safely
Some students beg to jump from their very first riding lesson. Others prefer their horses to keep all four feet firmly planted on the ground, thanks.
No matter where your students fall on this scale, we think it is crucial for riders of all disciplines to learn to hop over fences with a safe, secure position.
We’ve seen Western riders hit the dirt when their horses jumped unexpectedly, and we’ve seen quiet beginner horses leap over puddles and shadows.
We want our students to be prepared – and practiced enough that jumping, like cantering, becomes No Big Deal.
At the same time, we want our Green Level students to understand that jumping can be dangerous for the careless or unprepared.
We want them to appreciate the fun challenge of crossrails, and patiently work to acquire the skills they’ll need to jump high and fast.
By now, after all, they should see clearly that practice pays off
We hope that all of our beginners build a strong foundation and continue to have fun with it, into Blue Level and beyond!