How to Adapt the Learning Levels for All Disciplines
In the years since we developed our Learning Levels, we’ve seen that it isn’t just students who appreciate a system. Instructors need one, too. Especially instructors new to teaching or searching for a way to focus a lesson program.
We love connecting with like-minded instructors and barn owners all over the country, and seeing how different businesses integrate our curriculum into their existing programs.
Sharing the Levels program with a wider audience has given us opportunities to think about how and why this system has worked for us — and how it could be done differently.
Use Learning Levels to teach universal fundamentals
The Learning Levels curriculum was based on our years of eventing experience, along with a desire for our students to receive a well-rounded education in basic flatwork, jumping, and riding cross-country.
We taught English riding and jumping in a rural area where very few people were offering it — and even fewer were teaching it comprehensively and safely! In the midst of gaited horse country, this made our business stand out. It also allowed us to focus on our area of expertise, and reduced our start-up equipment costs.
For this reason, the original Horsemanship Levels – and supporting materials – were written using English riding terminology, and include objectives based on English riding, such as jumping gymnastic grids and courses. The HorseSense Levels occasionally reflect this: our students learn to judge dressage tests and jumping distances, and often apply these skills as working students or arena assistants.
However, we believe that many fundamentals of horsemanship and horse care are universal. A rider with a secure and balanced seat should be able to ride effectively in any saddle — or none at all!
Teach your students to open doors
We also believe that the best way to become an empathetic, educated equestrian is to learn from many different disciplines and philosophies as possible. There is more to one approach to good horsemanship. As long as our students put safety and the horse’s well-being first, and always ask why, we like them to broaden their horsey horizons, and open doors instead of close them.
For this reason, we have a wish for everyone using our educational materials: that you think of them not as a complete, 10-step program to teaching horsemanship, but as a puzzle piece that helps your instructional program achieve the big picture.
Use the parts of the curriculum that work for you and change the parts that don’t
We now have two curriculums for mounted skills: English and Western, along with the new HorseCentered curriculum for ground training. Currently, our lesson plans are written using English terminology and exercises, but we’ve successfully adapted them for several Western students in the past, and hope to produce separate Western lesson plans in the future!
In the meantime, here are some possible ways you could modify the Horsemanship lesson plans for different disciplines:
We want to help you keep those doors open
Our hope is that we can help instructors in all disciplines by providing inspiration and reducing the time you spend on behind-the-scenes work. We know only too well how many hours are needed to run a successful lesson program!
And we hope that together we can empower students to learn about their equine partners even if their riding time is limited.
And of course, we’re in it for the horses, who are the heart of everything
We all know many horses that are victims of well-intentioned but ignorant owners and riders. If we can improve the mental or physical well-being of a horse by facilitating education, then the time we’ve put into these materials is well-spent.
We hope you’ll agree — whether your students canter, rack or lope!