How Learning Levels Work

group of learning levels ribbons

We've used a progressive equine education program for over 15 years. Find out how — and why — it could work for you.

Hint: it’s all about safer students and happier horses!

How Learning Levels Work

We've used a progressive equine education program for over 15 years. Find out how — and why — it could work in your lesson program.

Hint: it’s all about safer students and happier horses!

The Learning Levels Overview:

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We have THREE Learning Levels curriculums for learning about horses and horseback riding:

Horsesense Curriculum Triad Web

All tracks teach knowledge and hands-on skills.

What are Learning Levels "objectives"?

student practices one-rein stop survival skills while riding pony

The Levels objectives are simply the equine knowledge, skills and abilities that you want your students to learn — divided into short, achievable goals.

Objectives help a student learn a specific important skill or concept. Each Level has a group of objectives, presented as a checklist.


Grouping objectives under different colored Levels gives students a way to recognize their progress across a broad array of skills and knowledge.

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

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

Objectives are progressive, which means that some concepts and skills may be introduced in a lower Level and then expanded with more detail in a later Level. Horsemanship objectives, in particular, are designed to be taught in a progressive manner to make sure there is a strong, safe foundation for more advanced riding skills.

Each “checkmark” we give students as they work through Red Level creates a little stepping stone to more in-depth knowledge or advanced skills in the next Levels.

Guiding our students through equine topics in these small progressive steps provides students with a sense of achievement – and gives us opportunities to check retention and refresh knowledge where needed.

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

Hs Topics Boots Rev

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 him that he must be able to “teach it back to us” — to imagine that we know nothing about the subject — and it’s his job to give us all of the important information.

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

If we have to coax the information from the student, or he forgets to mention key details, then he doesn't pass that objective - but he can try again later!

Use checklists to track students' progress and reward their achievements

Ribbon Keller

When you have many students at different Levels you need a streamlined tracking process. 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.

There are Learning Levels ribbons available to purchase in our Shop, and printable certificates you can download in the Resource Center — but any creative tool you use to recognize students’ achievements will motivate them to learn more!

Need to rearrange or change the Levels objectives?

Your program is likely to have a different way of teaching some parts of the mounted or unmounted curriculum – and that’s okay!

Use the parts that work for you. Modify other parts to suit your situation and goals. We have tips to help you edit the Levels objectives; you can also contact us for help if you need extensive customizations.

And remember that teaching students to think and to consider the consequences of different equine practices will help them become better students and horsemen.

Learning Levels Teaching Pony Parts

How can Learning Levels make your life easier?


Then download the free curriculum PDF files...

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We’ve been blessed with many talented photographers over the years: students who voluntarily stood in sweltering/ freezing arenas, capturing lifelong memories of lessons, camps and shows. We’re grateful to all of them!

One former student, Delaney Witbrod, is now a professional photographer with a gift for animal portraits – see more of her fine work here. We’re also grateful for photos of Western riding donated by LLPro instructors – particularly Bit of Pleasure Horse School and Joyful Hearts Photography!

You’ll find illustrations throughout our online courses and printed materials graciously donated by our friend Rhonda Hagy. Evan Surrusco contributes additional illustrations and handles most of our photo processing. Contact us for information about their work.

horse looking perplexed


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