Learning Levels Curriculum

Help your students learn with these achievable goals

Scroll down to learn more about the curriculum - or just tap a ribbon to see all the objectives for that Level:

Use these quick links or scroll down to learn more about Levels objectives:

What are "objectives"?

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

Goals are good!

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.

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.

And remember that teaching students to THINK and to CONSIDER THE CONSEQUENCES of different equine practices will help them become better students and horsemen.

Teach It Back

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 using appropriate keywords and phrases when he answers questions, explains concepts, or describes 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.

NOTE: All of that detailed information can be found in the study guides for each Level.

If we have to coax the information from him, or he forgets to mention key details, then he doesn't pass that objective and must try again later.

Track and Reward Achievement

We use the curriculum checklists to track our students' progress.

When our students can demonstrate all of the knowledge and skills required for a level we give them colorful ribbons to celebrate their progress.

There are other achievement tools you can use - like progress booklets and certificates - in our Resource Center.

You can also purchase Learning Levels ribbons in our Shop.

A note about the upper levels of Horsemanship:

Most students who pursue riding for a few years are able to achieve an Orange Level ribbon. They should emerge from this level with confidence and competence in basic riding skills, including a reasonably secure base of support on the flat and over fences, working towards the ability to ride with a steady contact achieved through an independent seat.

This allows them to ride happily on a trained horse, and participate in lower-level events such as schooling shows.

The Purple and Teal Levels are designed for dedicated equestrians eager to move past the basics and develop intermediate skills.

These riders may be your eager competitors or future horse trainers; they may learn to effectively ride and bring along green horses; they should acquire a strong foundation that will allow them to pursue any equestrian discipline they choose.

Not all recreational students will achieve Purple and Teal ribbons. These levels (particularly Teal) require hours of practice and, for the average rider, an increased commitment to fitness.

To pass each requirement, students should be able to demonstrate these skills consistently, not just one time on a push button horse!

It is as important for students to be honest about their goals as it is for instructors to clearly outline the requirements of the work.

upper level HorseSense student giving IM injection

A note about the upper HorseSense levels:

Most well-rounded equestrians should be able, in the course of regular lessons and time spent in the barn, to acquire a minimum of Blue or Orange Level knowledge.

This allows them to work comfortably in most barns and as a novice horse owner or lessee with experienced mentors. They will also be able to relate the horsemanship principles they practice in lessons to their understanding of equine behavior and physiology.

The Purple and Teal Levels are designed for dedicated equestrians eager to move past the basics and broaden their knowledge. These students may be interested in keeping horses independently, developing advanced riding or training skills, or pursuing a career in the equine industry. Above all, they should possess a genuine desire to become informed in all aspects of horse management, putting the horse’s welfare first and foremost.

Not all recreational students will achieve Purple and Teal ribbons. These levels (particularly Teal) require hours of study, critical thinking, and hands on practice.

To pass each requirement, students should be able to discuss and or demonstrate their knowledge confidently, showing a depth of understanding that would allow them to teach a subject or put it into practice.

Students interested in pursuing these Levels should be prepared to actively learn through repeated practice, discussion, and outside study from books, videos and credible online sources.

Want to see our students demonstrate some
Levels objectives?

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RAINBOW LEVEL HORSEMANSHIP OBJECTIVES

INTRODUCTORY MOUNTED AND unMOUNTED CURRICULUM

Overview of Rainbow Horsemanship: The optional Rainbow Level is a special introductory level just for very young riders, aged 4 through 7, who are not yet able to ride and care for a pony independently. Rainbow Level riders should always practice their skills with the supervision and assistance of an instructor!

Rainbow Level introduces a simplified version of both HorseSense and Horsemanship concepts. Rainbow Level riders ride on the leadline, or with a “Ground Buddy” walking close by, to ensure their safety and control. They may require help with tasks such as leading and grooming, as well as the simple reading and writing required to complete the Level.

RED LEVEL HORSEMANSHIP OBJECTIVES

THE MOUNTED CURRICULUM

(scroll down to see the unmounted curriculum)

Overview of Red Horsemanship: The Red Horsemanship Level is an introductory level, designed to give students a safe overview of basic mounted and unmounted skills. It introduces safety concepts for handling horses on the ground and in the saddle. Takes rider through grooming, tacking up, mounting and dismounting, riding at the walk and learning the posting trot.

RED LEVEL HORSESENSE OBJECTIVES

THE UNMOUNTED CURRICULUM

(scroll up to see the mounted curriculum)

Overview of Red HorseSense: Student will learn basic safety practices for working around horses; simple identification of tack and grooming equipment; elementary equine anatomy; and basic needs of the horse.

YELLOW LEVEL HORSEMANSHIP OBJECTIVES

THE MOUNTED CURRICULUM

(scroll down to see the unmounted curriculum)

Overview of Yellow Horsemanship: The Yellow Horsemanship Level is a beginner level, designed to build upon skills introduced in Red Level and give students the ability to ride confidently and securely at the trot. Students will practice emergency skills; work towards balanced walk-trot transitions and a steady trot through ring figures; learn posting diagonals and sitting trot; put flatwork skills to use in the Intro A dressage test; strengthen jumping position over ground poles in a grid and over a simple course.

YELLOW LEVEL HORSESENSE OBJECTIVES

THE UNMOUNTED CURRICULUM

(scroll up to see the mounted curriculum)

Overview of Yellow HorseSense: Student will refine leading and grooming skills; will learn to care for tack; to describe and measure horses; to apply protective boots and blankets; to identify elementary feeding principles and situations requiring veterinary care.

GREEN LEVEL HORSEMANSHIP OBJECTIVES

THE MOUNTED CURRICULUM

(scroll down to see the unmounted curriculum)

Overview of Green Horsemanship: The Green Horsemanship Level is a beginner level, designed to further develop students’ basic skills on the flat while preparing them to jump. Green Level introduces the canter and an awareness of leads; provides equitation exercises on the flat and the development of smooth turns and good approaches over ground pole courses; introduces jumping over an 18” crossrail; and emphasizes the need to develop a strong, balanced position before jumping courses.

GREEN LEVEL HORSESENSE OBJECTIVES

THE UNMOUNTED CURRICULUM

(scroll up to see the mounted curriculum)

Overview of Green HorseSense: Student will be able to assess fit of tack; to identify basic first aid equipment; to understand concepts of conditioning for horse and rider; to apply simple bandages; to understand elementary stable management principles and routine horse care; to identify common breeds and riding disciplines.

BLUE LEVEL HORSEMANSHIP OBJECTIVES

THE MOUNTED CURRICULUM

(scroll down to see the unmounted curriculum)

Overview of Blue Horsemanship: The Blue Horsemanship Level is a beginner level, designed to encourage students to ride on the flat with attention to detail and an awareness of the horse’s balance, while giving them the skills necessary to safely trail ride, jump, and ride over introductory cross-country fences. 

Blue Level requires students to demonstrate accuracy on the flat at the walk, trot, and canter, with correct diagonals, leads, and transitions, with and without stirrups. It introduces exercises for improving the seat; riding the Intro C dressage test; aids for achieving correct bend; simple gymnastic grids up to 2’; related distances; strategic riding over elementary jump courses; riding in the open over hills and natural obstacles, and effective emergency stops at the canter.

BLUE LEVEL HORSESENSE OBJECTIVES

THE UNMOUNTED CURRICULUM

(scroll up to see the mounted curriculum)

Overview of Blue HorseSense: Student will be able to perform thorough grooming; to understand action of bits and specialty tack; to identify farrier tools; to understand principles of horse gaits and movement, basic first aid and parasite control, and safe longeing and trailering practices.

ORANGE LEVEL HORSEMANSHIP OBJECTIVES

THE MOUNTED CURRICULUM

(scroll down to see the unmounted curriculum)

Overview of Orange Horsemanship:  The Orange Horsemanship Level is an intermediate level, designed to give students the ability to ride with balance and accuracy on the flat and over fences.

This Level asks students to perform simple flatwork and gymnastic exercises with and without stirrups, while developing a rhythmic canter over fences. Our goal for Orange Level students is for them to achieve enough competency to safely participate in mounted activities outside of lessons, while encouraging their appreciation for flatwork and equitation  as well as consideration for their horse.

ORANGE LEVEL HORSESENSE OBJECTIVES

THE UNMOUNTED CURRICULUM

(scroll up to see the mounted curriculum)

Overview of Orange HorseSense: Student will be able to demonstrate safe longeing and an understanding of gaits and distances; to evaluate basic conformation points; to plan conditioning schedules and relate horse’s work and condition to feed rations; to continue expanding knowledge of stable management and veterinary care; to begin relating equine behavior to human management practices.

PURPLE LEVEL HORSEMANSHIP OBJECTIVES

THE MOUNTED CURRICULUM

(scroll down to see the unmounted curriculum)

Overview of Purple Horsemanship: The Purple Horsemanship Level is an intermediate level. It rewards patient practice by introducing more challenging flatwork exercises, and prioritizes fitness of the rider in both dressage and jumping positions. Our goal for Purple Level students is for them to acquire the secure seat and coordinated use of aids necessary for more advanced riding, while gaining confidence and experience in a variety of English riding disciplines.

PURPLE LEVEL HORSESENSE OBJECTIVES

THE UNMOUNTED CURRICULUM

(scroll up to see the mounted curriculum)

Overview of Purple HorseSense:  Student will be able to understand and demonstrate show-quality grooming; to apply more advanced bandaging techniques; to evaluate longeing performance; to understand more advanced concepts of equine farrier and veterinary care; to identify daily horse management practices and safety issues related to trailering; to understand the economic realities of horse ownership.

TEAL LEVEL HORSEMANSHIP OBJECTIVES

THE MOUNTED CURRICULUM

(scroll down to see the unmounted curriculum)

Overview of Teal Horsemanship: The Teal Horsemanship Level is an advanced intermediate level, designed to help students become empathetic riders and horse trainers. It introduces more sophisticated dressage techniques and training philosophy, while asking students to demonstrate strong jumping skills in a variety of settings. Our goal for Teal Level students is for them to “think like trainers,” to ride with awareness and appreciation of different horses, and to understand that this Level is not as much about completion as it is beginning a new journey.

TEAL LEVEL HORSESENSE OBJECTIVES

THE UNMOUNTED CURRICULUM

(scroll up to see the mounted curriculum)

Overview of Teal HorseSense: Student will be able to teach basic HorseSense skills; to demonstrate understanding of jump course design; to evaluate a horse’s dressage performance; to demonstrate advanced health care skills; to evaluate more complex concepts of conformation and movement; to understand functional equine anatomy and relate equine systems to feeding, diseases and their control; to incorporate stable management principles in facility design.

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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