The Boss Mares Blog

Ride Where You Can

I had to figure out ... how the Learning Levels system could work without the steady school horses, groomed arena, and spacious indoor workspace that blessed the rest of my students.

How to Adapt the Learning Levels for Your Facility

The first student I ever taught Teal Level was not your typical riding school student. She had her own horse at home, BUT…

But K had dreams, and dedication, and determination to do everything she could to ride well in spite of her circumstances.

I had to figure out how to help her

.. and how the Learning Levels system could work without the steady school horses, groomed arena, and spacious indoor workspace that blessed the rest of my students.

I think of those years a lot now in my new life as a freelance instructor. Taking HorseSense Riding Academy on the road has opened many doors, but it’s required me to adapt how I teach the Learning Levels.

Many of my students now lease project horses in need of training or conditioning. Others have horses at home where they are learning lessons about diet, stable management and soundness the hard way. Some have arenas, while others have boggy fields or muddy round pens. One poor kid spent six months working on a hillside with her spooky new Thoroughbred!

Fewer than half have trailers.

If you are an instructor getting started with Learning Levels, you might face similar challenges.

How can you teach Intro dressage and ground pole courses when all you have is a round pen 60’ in diameter? How will your students learn to ride cross-country when the nearest course is two hours away?

There’s a great quote by John Lyons:

Ride where you can, not where you can’t!

We think that with a little creativity, you can use the Horsemanship Levels anywhere you can ride – and your students may be all the better for it!

Here are a few suggestions for making Levels work with your facility, based on our own experience:

student riding horse through puddles in arena

There’s a happy ending to K’s story, by the way

The mare turned out to be an extraordinarily generous partner, against all odds, and stayed fit enough in her hilly pastures that K was able to carefully bring her up to USEA Novice Level.

K alternated between lessons at home and lessons on more veteran school horses who could show her the ropes. This meant that when the mare devastatingly ended up with COPD, K was able to finish her Teal requirements on a handful of other mounts.

She then rode through college and competed her new OTTB in several recognized events.

student riding through xcountry water complex at Poplar Place

Ride where you can, do what you can, and don’t worry about the rest!

One caveat: do please be mindful of your horse’s safety and long-term soundness. Small riding spaces with uneven terrain and tight turns can make your lesson string cranky and prone to lameness.

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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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