The Boss Mares Blog

Use Learning Levels Study Guides to Help Students Boost Their Progress

Study guides help your students prepare for both mounted and unmounted lessons: when students come into lessons with in-depth understanding of the WHY it allows us to progress much more quickly to the HOW.

Most of our students have a few things in common:

Maybe they can only afford one group lesson a week, and their parents aren’t able to prioritize time spent working at the barn. Maybe they’re juggling extra-curricular activities or jobs or dual enrollment at the local college.

Whether we like it or not, horseback riding lessons are shifting toward more of a weekly after-school activity - leaving instructors to figure out how to help students succeed at a challenging sport without the practice time it deserves.

We need creative ways to help students to get the most out of their lesson time

This is no small task!

Our approach involves assigning off-the-horse fitness exercises as homework, and recommending online videos.

We also encourage our new riders to watch other students’ lessons and to attend working student days whenever possible.

But the tool we’ve found to be most reliably helpful is Learning Levels Study Guides

Study guides serve as the textbooks and road maps for each level in the Learning Levels curriculum.

They give our students a concise overview of every skill and topic they’ll cover in their regular lessons.

Study guides help students prepare for both mounted and unmounted lessons

Students can use the guides to:

Having students come into lessons with in-depth understanding of the why allows us to progress much more quickly to the how.

Your horsemanship students can prepare for dressage tests, review terminology, and use diagrams to practice their quick-release knot at home or while unmounted at the barn.

We find study guides particularly helpful for Purple and Teal Level students wrapping their heads around big concepts such as bend, impulsion and collection, and for Red and Yellow Level students practicing their ring figures on foot.

Sometimes they even get Mom or Dad in on the unmounted fun!

Your unmounted HorseSense students might spend the most time with their study guides, using them to test their knowledge and study ahead for Level Up Clinics.

[Blog post on these popular clinics coming soon!]

We encourage unmounted students to think of study guides as a Spark Notes-type overview, and to supplement their reading with specific reference books, videos and websites.

They can find a list of recommended resources on the last page of every study guide.

But you have to make information accessible if you want them to read it!

When we first started producing study guides, we printed them ourselves and had them bound in accordion-style booklets, which we then sold to motivated students.

Later, as both our students and the study guides advanced through the Levels curriculum, we realized that loose-leaf binders were the way to go. Students could keep their printed guides in their binders along with other handouts from camps and clinics.

It’s a little sad, since we’re big readers ourselves, but we’ve found that in today’s generation of mobile-friendly tech, students are way more likely to consult an easy-to-read, visual reference they can save on their phone then they are to check out books or build a horsey library of their own.

Thus our study guides became PDF downloads. Preteen students also tell us they’ve used a Kindle to study their PDF copies.

Stall cleaning lesson in Red HorseSense study guide
Tap to zoom this Red HorseSense page
This Green Horsemanship study guide page teaches canter leads
Tap to zoom this Green Horsemanship page
Orange HS Study Guide sample page teaches related distances
Tap to zoom this Orange HorseSense page

So how can you share study guides with your students?

Make files available online:

Prefer the old-school printed page?

Here are a few ways to work that study guide knowledge into your program:

Use pages for camp or clinic handouts

It only took a few summer day camps for us to figure out that kids lose paper easily — so we got in the habit of buying colorful folders in August during the Back to School sales, and labeling one for every camper.

Folders are handed out pre-stuffed with relevant study guide pages, coloring sheets, dressage tests, and any other handouts the camp or clinic requires.

Camp students learn horse colors from study guide handouts
Campers learn horse colors using handouts from the Yellow HorseSense study guide.

We get the most mileage out of this with Rainbow Level students, who love their coloring book version of a study guide. After each day’s riding and barn session, Rising Riders can hang out in the air conditioning with a snack and color the pages that match the theme of their lessons.

Challenge students to quiz games and scavenger hunts

We usually allow the contest to be open book. Each student can use their own study guide or you can designate one team member to be the Official Fact Checker.

See our tips to keep group games fun and friendly!

Create a Horseshoe Hunt

There is a golden horseshoe hidden within the pages of every study guide.Gold horseshoe hidden in every study guide

Challenge your students to locate the shoe and tell you one thing they learned from that study guide page. Enter all correct answers into a drawing for a prize for a free lesson, or give each student another fun prize such as apparel with your farm logo.

We don’t know about you, but we find this kind of puzzle way more fun than trudging around a ten-acre pasture looking for an actual lost shoe!

Don’t forget to add the horses

Text and photos are in no way a replacement for the hours of hands-on practice that it takes to become a good horseman. You’ll still need to schedule time for demonstrations of skills, and to check students’ knowledge for holes and misinformation.

But for those average riding school students, the ones who just can’t spend every waking minute at the barn but are still hungry to learn, study guides can bridge the gap and help them make the most of their lesson time.

Any time a student is proactive about learning and thinking about horses, we consider it a win— for them, for us, and for their patient horses.

We’re lucky to live in a time when technology makes sharing resources simple and affordable. Let’s use it to make student-led learning as fun and easy as possible!

Learn more about Learning Levels study guides

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We have been blessed with many talented photographers over the years: students who voluntarily stood out in a sweltering/ freezing arena – or slogged up and down our hilly pastures – capturing lifelong memories of camps, clinics, and shows. We’re grateful to all of them!

One such student, Delaney Witbrod, is now a professional photographer with a gift for animal portraits – see more of her fine work here.

You’ll also find illustrations throughout our online courses and printed materials (like study guides) graciously donated by Rhonda Hagy, who is a student and lifelong friend. Contact us for information about her work.

Are we lucky or WHAT?!

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