Rider Levels

Our Lesson program is based on the Equestrian Canada Learn to Ride/Drive Program which “provides the opportunity for individuals of all ages to learn best practices for safe and enjoyable experiences handling, riding … horses.” (See https://www.equestrian.ca/programs-services/learn-to-ride for more information)

The Rider levels below are in accordance with Equestrian Canada.

Rider Level 1:

  • Approach and halter horse, lead horse out of stall, lead back to stall, remove halter and exit.
  • If cross ties are used, safety an important factor.
  • Applicant to be observed for safety leading the horse out to the riding ring, ability to halt the horse, handling of reins.
  • Riders must enter the stall, approach the horse/pony safely and put the halter on. Riders are to lead the pony or horse out of the stall properly, turn it correctly, take the horse/pony back into the stall and remove the halter. A lead line with or without chain should be attached correctly and the rider must not lead the horse without a lead attached.
  • Tack up the horse (with assistance)
  • Riders should attempt to tack up. Evaluators may assist but must be directed by the student.
  • Describe the color of the candidate’s own horse
  • How and what to feed as a treat
  • Riders must demonstrate how to feed a treat and what types of foods are best to offer as treats. Riders may feed the treat by hand or use the feed tub (Rules may differ as per stable policy).
  • Carry tack to tack room area, put up bridle in figure 8. Discuss cleaning the bit.
  • Riders must put the bridle up in a figure of eight arrangement. Riders need not polish the bit but be aware that the bit should be rinsed to rid it of any dirt that may harden and become uncomfortable for the horse the next time it is used.

Mount and Dismount:

  • Mount in the correct, safe manner
  • Dismount, run up stirrups, reins overhead, lead in hand.
  • Tack Adjustments:
  • Pre-Mounting: Adjust stirrups from ground, tighten girth, and put reins overhead.
  • While mounted, adjust girth, stirrups); while reins are held correctly. Assistance allowed with adjustments at this level


  • At walk and rising trot.
  • Riders at Level 1 should not be balancing on the horse’s mouth. Hands should be independent at walk. The use of a neck strap in the absence of a standing martingale (neck strap) is allowed to be used periodically at the trot.
  • Contact is applied to stop, turn and slow down, reins are then returned to an inactive state.
  • Drop and retake stirrups at walk
  • Upper body should remain still, practicing independent use of legs.
  • Transitions, Diagonals:
  • Change rising diagonal when asked.
  • Riders at Level 1 should be able to change their diagonals when asked but may not necessarily know if they are rising on the correct diagonal.
  • Transitions: halt /walk, walk /halt, walk/trot: trot/walk


  • Turn down centerline at walk.
  • Across the school in walk.
  • Long diagonal in rising trot.
  • Identify direction of travel (i.e. left rein, right rein).
  • Look for awareness and use of arena figures.
  • General Impression:
  • Overall authority, safety and confidence, rider conduct, ability to maintain safe riding distance in ride formation.

Rider Level 2:

  • Identify and describe face and body markings on own horse or a horse selected by evaluator.
  • Demonstrate the technique of using the dandy brush, body brush and safely using the hoof pick.
  • Tie a quick release knot. There are slightly different methods that are all acceptable.
  • Tack up (unassisted).
  • Describe how to position the saddle and saddle pad on the horse and where the girth should lay on the horse.
  • Riders should recognize how to place saddles, pads and girths correctly on the horse.

Mount and Dismount:

  • Mount in the correct, safe manner (from ground or block).
  • Dismount, run up stirrups, reins overhead, lead in hand.
  • Tack and Adjustments:
  • Show knowledge of adjusting girth and stirrups (unassisted).
  • Hold and use of whip correctly.


  • Position (basic seat) at all paces.
  • Walk with and without stirrups.
  • Drop and regain stirrups at trot.
  • Focus is on stability of position and confidence. Without stirrups at walk – make sure the leg position does not change (i.e. knee pinching, leg raised or drop toe); upper body stays on vertical. Whip, if used, should be held with hand centered on handgrip, and whip should rest on thigh. If not used, candidate should be able to demonstrate.
  • Maintain upper body when dropping stirrups


  • Transitions (progressive) at all paces, except canter.
  • Canter brief distance showing basic knowledge of aids.
  • Knowledge of canter lead not required at this level. However riders should be able to recognize leads by observing another horse. The goal is to see that the canter can be achieved if only briefly. Riders
  • Halt, recognize that their horse is in a balanced and immobile
  • should have knowledge of how to prepare for the transition but a prompt accurate transition is unlikely at this stage.


  • Circles in trot (20M minimum.
  • Turn across ring away from ride, rider independence.
  • Circles should be of correct size (i.e. Go to tangent points) not necessarily bent, or rhythmic.
  • At this level riders should be beginning to demonstrate the ability to ride independently.

Jumping Position:

  • Demonstrate jumping position (half seat) at trot.
  • Correct use of rising diagonals.
  • Trot course of poles to demonstrate ability to control direction, approach and ride to the end of the lines and use corners. They should be able to focus on direction, and use of eyes to plan where to turn for next fence.

Jumping Control and Straightness:

  • Trot a simple course of poles, rising trot.
  • Show evidence of control and straightness over course.
  • Course should be “simple” with 2 changes of direction and nothing related. For example a single pole at B, diagonal, diagonal and a single pole at E. The candidate is to execute the course in rising trot with correct use of diagonals.
  • The standards should be left at the ends of the poles to encourage horse and rider to go through the standards and over the middle of the poles.

General Impression:

  • Overall authority, safety and confidence, rider conduct, ability to maintain safe riding distance in ride formation.

Rider Level 3:

  • Take apart and put together snaffle bridle, “put up” figure 8.
  • Put on and remove a stable sheet Identify three types of blankets and one reason to use each.
  • Riders must put on a blanket, with leg straps and belly surcingle’s, and remove the blanket. Candidates should be able to identify three different types of blankets, sheets or coolers in the stable and give examples of when used.
  • Safely tie up a hay net.
  • Riders must safely tie up a hay net with attention to the height and the type of quick release knot used.
  • General Impression: Presentation of candidate, overall confidence and awareness of safety.

Mount and Dismount:

  • Mount correctly (from ground or mounting block) Adjust stirrups and girth correctly, dismount correctly and cool out.
  • Tack:
  • Identify own mount’s equipment.
  • Must identify with proper name their equipment, including boots. Knowledge about how the equipment functions is not required. Martingales (not German) are allowed.


  • Position at all gaits – evidence of an effective position, balance and development of an independent seat.
  • Riders are expected to know and demonstrate knowledge of correct diagonals at this level.
  • Figures and Movements:
  • Correctly identify lead on their horse.
  • Circles 20M in trot.
  • They should know if they are on the correct or incorrect lead but being on the wrong lead is not to be penalized at this level. Candidate should now understand how big a 20m circle is and the circle should be round, starting and ending in the same place. The horse might not maintain bend or straightness throughout the whole circle.


  • Quality of progressive transitions.
  • Riders should ask for the transition at the letter and not before, but the transition may take a few steps to complete. They should “prepare” their horse for the transition by asking for it slightly before the letter as the transition may take a few steps to complete. If successful, the horse should make the transition on or close to the letter.

Flat Test:

  • Accuracy and control, commitment to arena letters.
  • General Impression:
  • Overall authority, safety and confidence, rider conduct.


  • Gymnastics
  • Course
  • Mane release
  • At the trot riders should demonstrate and maintain the jumping position on the approach, over the fence and upon landing over the cross rail.
  • Riders should demonstrate medium mane release.

Control and Straightness:

  • Gymnastics
  • Course
  • Simple gymnastic – trotting poles to an X;
  • Demonstrate control of trot and straightness of approach and departure. Horse should land at canter and be brought back to trot before reaching the end of the ring. Riders should sit in the saddle to do this. Maintain balanced forward seat position. If rising trot is done through turns, rider is to be on the correct rising diagonal.
  • Trot a course of cross rails and regain trot before a turn; focus on the path of the course and the ability of the rider to bring the horse back to trot before the turn to prepare for the next trot approach.

Rider Level 4:

  • Show how to measure a horse.
  • Use measuring stick
  • Apply a Stable Bandage to a front and a back leg.
  • The bandage should go from just below the knee and either wrap to support under the fetlock or a stove pipe wrap maybe used. If bandaging below the fetlock there should be an inverted V centered on the bottom of the front of the fetlock. Masking tape should be used over the Velcro and the tension of the tape should not be greater than the tension of the bandage. Riders must be able to discuss the fit of the materials and the materials should be clean and in good repair. The bandage must end at the top of the leg and the Velcro should be on the outside of the leg.
  • Demonstrate how to take temperature and pulse (heart rate and know the normal value).
  • Demonstrate restraining a horse with the use of lead shank (with chain).
  • Mount and Dismount:
  • Mount correctly (from ground or mounting block) Adjust stirrups and girth correctly, dismount correctly and cool out.
  • Demonstrate jogging a horse in hand as per a veterinarian`s assessment i.e. lameness.
  • Evaluator may assist the horse to trot.


  • Walk, trot and canter in full seat.
  • Drop and regain stirrups at the trot during warm-up, position
  • All trots will be rising unless specified otherwise.
  • Focus on maintaining position; Focus on a balanced seat and riding with the movement of the horse, not grabbing/pinching with knee, tipping body or dropping toe.
  • Trot rising and sitting (no stirrups) done in a group ride/warm-up.
  • At this level riders should demonstrate the ability to sit quietly and use aids independently.


  • Circles: 15M in trot.
  • Circles: 20M in canter.
  • 15m circle at trot; the focus is centered around roughly knowing the size – and demonstrating knowledge of bend 20m circle at canter; maintain the canter and reach the tangents.


  • Correct use and effectiveness of independent aids at all paces.
  • Focus should be independent use of aids. Reflective of the relaxed, balanced seat of the rider.
  • Flat Test:
  • Accuracy and control.
  • Commitment to arena letters.


  • Release: demonstrate short, medium and long mane release.
  • Rider should demonstrate a short, medium and a long mane release. If the rider is doing a more advanced release, then this is acceptable if it is done correctly.
  • Effectiveness (control and straightness):

Jump Elements:

  • Canter a single Fence.
  • Control on approach and landing.
  • Focus on ability to ride straight and maintain steady rhythm to a single fence at canter.
  • Requirement:
  • Gymnastic – trot into line, counting correctly to second element.


  • cross rail, 15-18’ (4.60 m-5.50 m) to a 2’ (61cm) vertical. Trot approach to cross rail, then one canter stride to vertical. Maintain jumping position to the cross rail and upon landing. Gymnastic should be set up progressively i.e. starting with the poles.
  • Trot into the cross rail, canter to the second fence, count strides correctly.

General Impression:

  • Overall confidence, safety, control; rider conduct.