The Riding Curriculum

Over the past dozen weeks or so I’ve written posts detailing the requirements for our Horsemanship Level 1.  If you read through those posts, look at the relevant chapters of the Manual of Horsemanship, and attend at least three Horsemanship classes in which you have the opportunity to practice handling, grooming and tacking up, you have a pretty good chance of passing the assessment.  To review the material use the ‘horsemanship 1’ tag to search.

Riding is harder to learn cerebrally.  Everyone comes to the saddle with different experiences, body types, fitness and mindsets.  On average, a beginner with no prior riding experience will progress enough in 9 – 12 lessons to pass a Level 1 Riding test.  Some people need fewer lessons to achieve that goal, and some need many more.  As I talked about in this post on equitation from last year, so much of riding is about feel, which must be learned from experience.


An exemplary rider position for the cross-country course

That doesn’t mean, however, there’s nothing to be learned from reading, watching and listening.  So with that in mind, lets take a look at the first requirements for Riding 1.

1. Adjust stirrups and girth from the ground, put reins over horse’s head

Pretty simple, right?  And in truth, most people get 9s or 10s in this section. However, until this is second nature to you, there are a lot of points to remember.

Before you mount, run this checklist in your head:

1. Adjust both stirrups to the same length

2. Run BOTH stirrups down (many people forget the stirrup on the off side).

3. Adjust the girth.  In general it needs to go up a hole or two before getting on, as we don’t tighten it all the way in the crossties.

4. Put the reins over the horse’s head without spooking the horse or leaving a rein hung up on the ear or bit.  Believe it or not, I’ve seen more than one candidate forget to put the reins over entirely, which leaves you in a bit of a one-sided reining situation once mounted.

For visual demonstration here are Ally and Noah again, on adjusting stirrups:

And here’s a video on tightening the girth and putting the reins over using the ‘jump-rope’ and regular methods.

Bonus question: what irritatingly common spelling error has eHow made on this video?

Our riding classes are taught in a 12-session curriculum, with every 4th class being a scheduled opportunity to assess or review personal areas in need of work.  With two classes a month, this means you would be fully ready to assess your Level 1 at the end of six months.  Of course any opportunity you can get to spend time in the saddle between classes will improve your riding that much more.  Private classes or leasing a horse for one or two days a week are great ways to make quantum leaps in your riding.

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