Rider Medals Program

Full Set of Advanced Rider Medals

Introducing our new horseback riding level system for riders of all ages and abilities! Not only does the rider medals program help you understand where we think you are in terms of riding ability, it also helps us make sure there are no holes in your education and that we teach you everything we want you to know as you grow and progress in our riding lesson program.

There are also some neat prizes to go along with your learning and to track your achievements as you make progress in your riding!

How It Works

Every rider, no matter how long they have been riding, or their prior experience, starts at the first level. We award medals sequentially and riders may not skip levels. In order to get a medal, the rider must consistently show all level skills over four or more lessons. At the end of the month, our instructors will evaluate riders in our lesson program and consider them for a medal. Riders can request a medal evaluation from an instructor as often as once a month.

Interested in using rider medals in your own lesson program? Check out our getting started guide!

Level Philosophy

Our levels are a mix of mounted and unmounted learning. Each level is intending to build on to the previous information learned in the one before it as a progressive learning model. This helps break down the information as much as possible. The levels introduce broad concepts which gain more substance as they progress. We call this our rider training hierarchy.

Horseback riding levels skills and training hierarchy
Horseback Riding – Rider Training Hierarchy
Black ribbon for medal
Bronze Star Medal

Level 1: Horsemanship I

Medal: Bronze Star – Black Ribbon

Resources: Checklist, Lesson Plans, Worksheets

Rider shows unmounted skills. This level focuses on safety, an introduction to horse behavior, anatomy, basic parts of the tack and basic levels of care required to get a horse ready for a lesson.

Safety

  • Standing to the side
  • Identify blind spots
  • Properly walk behind
  • Don’t stand in front
  • Turn toes parallel
  • Give a treat
  • Helmet fit and adjust it appropriately

Grooming and Care

  • Curry comb
  • Hard/medium brush
  • Soft brush
  • Mane and tail brush
  • Pick hooves

Horse Behavior

  • Ears forwards
  • Ears back
  • Ears pinned

Parts of the Horse

  • Head, ears, eyes, nose, cheek, throat, mouth
  • Leg, fetlock, hoof, frog
  • Withers, neck, chest, back, butt
  • Mane, poll, tail, dock

Parts of the Tack

  • Saddle – pommel, cantle, billets, saddle flap, girth
  • Bridle – bit, crown, noseband, throat latch, chin strap, reins

Riding Gear

  • Shirt
  • Riding pants
  • Belt
  • Paddock Boots
  • Tall Boots
  • Half-Chaps
  • Helmet

Lesson Prep

  • With help is okay
  • Put halter on
  • Hook cross ties
  • Get all tack
  • Put saddle pad on
  • Put saddle on
  • Put girth on
  • Get helmet on
  • Hold a lead rope
  • Lead horse to arena by lead rope
  • Lead a horse to the arena by bridle
  • Tighten girth
  • Pull down stirrups
  • Clean tack
  • Put away tack
  • Clean the floor
Gray Ribbon
Bronze Horse Medal

Level 2: Beginner I

Medal: Bronze Horse – Gray

Resources: Checklist, Lesson Plans, Worksheets

Rider shows mounted skills. This level focuses on safety while riding, elementary riding skills, mounting/dismounting, starting/stopping and steering the horse. Rider is walking independently and beginning to develop balance in the saddle. Rider has started trotting on the lunge line.

Lesson Prep

  • With help is okay
  • Get horse ready in 20 minutes or less

Safety

  • Check girth
  • Check helmet
  • Mount
  • Dismount
  • Emergency dismount

Riding

  • Halt
    • Hold reins correctly
    • Around the world (youth only)
    • Balance
      • Drop and pickup stirrups
      • Touch toe
      • Touch poll
      • Touch dock
    • Posting
      • Sits down gently
      • One hand on head
      • Airplane wings
      • Both hands on head
    • Jumping position
      • Crest release
      • Touch toe
      • On hand on head
  • Walk 
    • Riding Position
      • Sit up straight
      • Shoulders back
      • Heel under hip
      • Leg against saddle
      • Lower leg against horse
      • Arms at sides
    • Steering
      • Opening rein
      • Zig zag on the rail
      • Weave through ground poles
      • Circle
      • Reverse direction
    • Balance
      • Drop and pickup stirrups
      • Touch horse’s poll
      • Touch horse’s dock
      • One hand on head
      • Airplane wings
      • Both hands on head
    • Transitions
      • Walk to a halt
      • Halt at a specific spot
      • Halt over ground pole
    • Posting
      • Sits down gently
      • One hand on head
      • Airplane wings
      • Both hands on head
    • Jumping Position
      • Proper form
      • Crest release
  • Trot (on the lunge line)
    • Eyes up
    • Heels down
    • Can use reins to halt

Level 2: Beginner II

Medal: Bronze Rider – Purple

Resources: Checklist, Lesson Plans, Worksheets

Rider shows mounted skills. This level focuses on developing the rider’s trot. Rider improves steering aids, balance, jumping position, posting rhythm and is developing a stable lower leg position at the trot. Riders can consistently keep heels down at a walk and may be trotting on a lunge line.

Lesson Prep

  • Help with the bridle only
  • Get horse ready in 20 minutes

Safety

  • Can appropriately fit their helmet
  • Checks girth without prompting
  • Tightens girth with help
  • Pulls down stirrups
  • Runs up stirrups
  • Mounts and dismounts on the correct side

Ride

  • Halt
    • Without yanking
    • Elbows at side
    • Pulls to belly button
    • Leans back slightly
    • Heels down
  • Walk
    • Riding Position
      • Squeezes both legs to go forward
      • Doesn’t pull reins asking to go forwards
      • Properly hold a crop
      • Proper crop usage
      • Shortens reins properly
    • Steering
      • 20m circle
      • 20m circle posting
      • 20m circle jumping position
      • Zig zag using legs
    • Transitions
      • Halt within 5 steps
    • Jumping Position
      • One hand on head
      • Airplane wings
      • Both hands on head
      • Halt at a specific spot
      • Halt within 5 steps
      • Halt over ground pole
      • Touch toe
      • Touch poll
      • 2 laps without sitting down
    • Emergency dismount
  • Trot
    • Riding Position
      • Doesn’t hold saddle or mane
    • Balance
      • Maintains rhythm
      • Up up down
      • Down down up
      • Sit post jump
      • Sitting trot
    • Steering
      • 20m circle
      • 20m circle posting
      • 20m circle jumping position
    • Transitions
      • Walk to trot
      • Trot to walk
      • Trot at a specific spot
      • Walk within 5 steps
    • Jumping Position
      • One hand on head
      • Airplane wings
      • Both hands on head

Level 4: Beginner III 

Medal: Bronze Jumper – Gold

Resources: Checklist, Lesson Plans, Worksheets

Rider shows mounted skills. This level focuses on improving the rider’s posting trot, understanding diagonals, steering, introducing ground poles and low jumps. Rider is no longer on a lunge line and can consistently keep heels down and a stable leg at a trot.

Lesson Prep

  • No help necessary
  • Get horse ready in 20 minutes or less

Safety

  • Demonstrates proper arena etiquette
  • On the Ground
    • Safely fit helmet
    • Tightens girth
    • Adjust stirrups
    • Mounts on the correct side
  • Mounted
    • Adjust stirrups
    • Tightens girth
    • Dismounts on the correct side
    • Inside vs outside

Ride

  • Walk
    • Stable and correct lower leg
    • Heels always down
    • Steering
      • Deep corners
      • Zig zag using legs
      • 20m circle
      • 20m circle posting one hand on head
      • 20m circle jumping position one hand on head
      • Maintain horse’s speed and rhythm
  • Reins Aids
    • Direct
    • Indirect
    • Pulley
    • Rein back
  • Transitions
    • Halt within 3 steps
  • Posting
    • One stirrup
    • One stirrup one hand on head
    • One stirrup airplane wings
    • No stirrups
    • No stirrups one hand on head
    • No stirrups airplane wings
    • 4 ground poles
  • Jumping Position
    • One stirrup
    • One stirrup one hand on head
    • One stirrup airplane wings
    • No stirrups
    • No stirrups one hand on head
    • No stirrups airplane wings
    • 4 ground poles
  • Trot
    • Rider position
      • Doesn’t fall forwards or backwards
      • Doesn’t balance on reins
      • Doesn’t pinch at knee
      • Heels down
    • Steering
      • 20m circle
      • Figure 8
      • Serpentine
      • Reverse direction
      • Half turn and reverse
      • Horse maintains rhythm
    • Diagonals
      • Can describe the correct one
      • Can change it
    • Transitions
      • Halt at a specific spot
      • Walk within 3 steps
      • Walk to trot within 5 steps
    • Posting
      • One hand on head
      • Airplane wings
      • Both hands on head
      • 20m circle
      • Ground pole
        • One hand on head
        • Airplane wings
        • 6-8 trot poles
      • Cavaletti
    • Sitting
      • One hand on head
      • 20m circle
    • Jumping Position
      • 2 laps around arena without sitting down
      • One hand on head
      • Airplane wings
      • Both hands on head
      • Touch toe
      • Touch poll
      • 20m circle
      • Ground pole
        • One hand on head
        • Airplane wings
        • Line of 6-8 ground poles
      • Cavaletti
        • Crest release
    • Ground Pole Course
      • 4 poles
      • Jumping position over poles
      • Good corners
      • Straightness to poles
      • Going over center of poles

Level 5: Horsemanship II

Medal: Silver Star – Green

Resources: Checklist, Lesson Plans, Worksheets

Rider shows unmounted skills. This level focuses on intermediate level horse care, more parts of the tack and horse, cleanliness, bandages, wound care, nutrition, blanketing and farrier.

Safety

  • Fit a helmet properly
  • Understand when a helmet needs replacing
  • Leading through doorways and gates
  • Safety rules in barn, pasture and arena
  • Quick release knot
  • Assess tack condition and safety
  • Rider injuries from a fall
  • Signs of a concussion
  • Rider signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke
  • How to care for an overheated rider
  • How weather affects the rider
  • How weather affects the horse
  • Heat index
  • Below freezing

Grooming and Care

  • Bathe a horse
  • Blanket a horse
  • Remove blanket on a horse
  • Understand different types of blankets
  • Understand when to use a blanket
  • Put a horse in/out of a stall properly
  • Feed a horse
  • Identify grooming tools
  • Understand use of grooming tools
  • Identify minor wounds, cuts and swelling
  • Apply polo wraps
  • Apply standing wraps
  • Apply splint boots
  • Understand effects of poor bandaging
  • Types of body clipping
  • Understand why to clip a horse
  • Understand which clip a horse should get
  • How to tell if a horse is dehydrated

Nutrition

  • Understand feeding schedules
  • Hay quality
  • Grain quality
  • Water quality
  • How much water a horse drinks a day
  • How much food a horse eats a day
  • How workload and body condition affects horse nutrition

Stable Management

  • Clean a stall
  • Bedding types
  • Bedding condition
  • Clean water buckets
  • Clean feed buckets
  • Sweep aisle
  • Turn off all lights when done
  • Leave gates the way you found them
  • Turn a horse out to pasture
  • Catch a horse from the pasture
  • Name 3 stable vices
  • Understand when and why to quarantine

Horse Behavior

  • Biting
  • Kicking
  • Stomping
  • Neighing
  • Snorting
  • How they see
  • Predator vs prey
  • Flight instincts
  • Dominance
  • Understand what an alpha horse is
  • Differences between a stallion and a gelding
  • Wild horses versus tame horses
  • Average lifespan of a horse
  • Effects of domesticating horses
  • Understand what a green horse means
  • Understand in season/in heat
  • Tail positions – up, down, swishing
  • Leg positions – standing square, leg cocked, leg resting
  • Head positions – up, level, down

Saddle

  • Name all parts
  • Understand saddle fit
  • Understand proper saddle placement
  • Know the basics of bits and how they function
  • Clean and condition
  • Understand a girth sour horse
  • Identify and fix girth not through saddle pad keeper
  • Identify and fix a girth too loose
  • Understand what causes a saddle or saddle pad to slide
  • Understand and fix the girth of a horse puffing its chest out
  • Pull a horse’s front legs

Bridle

  • Name all parts
  • Put together a bridle
  • Clean and condition
  • Bit types and uses
  • Understand head shy
  • Identify and fix a bit too low
  • Identify and fix a bit too high
  • Identify and fix a loose throat latch
  • Identify and fix an incorrectly buckled noseband
  • Tie up the reins of the bridle

Anatomy, Breeds, Colors & Markings

  • Name 20 parts of the body
  • Name 15 breeds of horse
  • Leg markings
  • Face markings
  • Body markings
  • Coat colors
  • Color breeds
  • Leg conformation
  • How leg conformation affects gaits
  • Understand areas for common unsoundness

On the Ground

  • Number of beats in each gait
  • Halt
  • Walk
  • Trot
  • Move the haunch
  • Move the shoulder
  • Back up
  • Step forwards

Veterinary

  • Reasons to call a vet
  • Identify the signs and symptoms of:
    • Colic
    • Choke
    • Laminitis
    • Heaves
    • Hives
    • Ulcers
    • Puncture wounds
    • Deep lacerations
    • Lameness
  • Seasonal vaccinations
  • Worming a horse
  • Fecal egg count
  • Preventing communicable diseases
  • Coggins tests
  • Treat minor wounds, cuts and swelling

Farrier

  • Name all parts of the hoof
  • Identify farrier tools
  • Identify different types of horse shoes
  • Steps to shoeing a horse
  • Angles
  • Common hoof issues
  • How to identify bad shoeing
  • Understand, identify, know prevention for:
    • Thrush
    • White line disease
    • Cracking
    • Abscesses
    • Ring bone

Level 6: Intermediate I

Medal: Silver Horse – Pink

Resources: Checklist, Lesson Plans, Worksheets

Rider shows mounted skills. Riders have solid steering skills, maintain a good balance, demonstrate proper riding position and a steady lower leg at the walk and trot. Riders start cantering work, are introduced to higher level concepts and continue developing jumping skills.

Lesson Prep

  • Get horse ready in 15 minutes or less

Concepts

  • Understanding all 5 aids
    • Hands
    • Legs
    • Seat
    • Voice
    • Weight
  • Rhythm
    • Speed
    • Tempo
    • Beats in each gait
  • Responsiveness
  • Suppleness
  • Riding back to front
  • Natural vs artificial aids
  • Quality of gaits
  • Traveling distances around the arena

Ride

  • Halt
    • Standing square
  • Walk
    • Responsiveness
      • Correction exercise
      • Identify gait quality
      • Change gait quality
    • Suppleness
      • Bending at the poll
        • On the rail
        • 20m circle
      • Shoulder fore
        • On the rail
        • 20m circle
      • Haunches in
        • On the rail
        • 20m circle
    • Steering
      • Track left
      • Track right
    • Rein Aids
      • Inside rein for bending
      • Outside rein for rating
      • Half-halt
    • Leg aids
      • At the girth
      • In front of the girth
      • Behind the girth
    • Seat aids
      • Still seat
      • Driving seat
    • Weight aids
      • Step in outside stirrup
      • Step in inside stirrup
      • Shifting weight in seat
  • Trot
    • Stable and correct lower leg
    • Heels always down
    • Diagonals
      • Identify when on the incorrect diagonal
      • Fix diagonal without looking
    • Reins
      • Half-halt
      • Shortening stride
    • Leg aids
      • Zig zag with legs
      • Lengthening stride
    • Sitting
      • One stirrup
      • No stirrups
      • 4 laps without stirrups
    • Posting
      • 2 laps without stirrups
      • Up up down
        • One hand on head
        • Airplane wings
        • Both hands on head
      • Down down up
        • One hand on head
        • Airplane wings
        • Both hands on head
      • Sit post jump
        • One hand on head
        • Airplane wings
        • Both hands on head
      • Ground pole
        • One hand on head
        • Airplane wings
        • Both hands on head
    • Jumping Position
      • One stirrup
      • No Stirrups
      • One hand on head
      • Airplane wings
      • Both hands on head
      • Ground pole
        • One hand on head
        • Airplane wings
        • Both hands on head
        • Touch toe
      • Cavaletti
        • 6 trot distance poles to cavaletti
        • 4 trot distance poles to cavaletti
        • 1 canter distance pole to cavaletti
        • One hand on head
        • Airplane wings
        • Both hands on head
        • Touch toe
    • Jump 1’3
      • Single jump
      • Outside line
      • Diagonal line
    • Jump 1’6
      • Single jump
      • Outside line
      • Diagonal line
    • Jump 1’9
      • Single jump
      • Outside line
      • Diagonal line
  • Canter
    • Successfully ask for a canter departure
    • 1 lap without stopping
    • Over a ground pole
    • Canter out of a jump

Level 7: Intermediate II

Medal: Silver Rider – White

Resources: Checklist, Lesson Plans, Worksheets

Rider shows mounted skills. Riders start to develop solid cantering skills, put harder jump combinations together, are jumping higher, begin connection work and are introduced to adjusting and counting strides.

Lesson Prep

  • Get horse ready in 15 minutes or less
  • Can fit all tack correctly without need for any instructor adjustments

Concepts

  • How to tell if a horse is sound
  • Counting strides
  • Connection and feel of the mouth
  • Reaching for contact
  • How a horse jumps
  • Length of a stride
  • Judging distance to a jump
  • Chipping in
  • Over jumping

Ride

  • Warm up
    • Create your own (with help is okay)
    • Three exercises that warm up the rider
    • Three exercises that warm up the horse
  • Walk
    • Adjust stirrups
    • Tighten girth
    • Adjusting walk steps between a set of poles
      • Add steps
      • Remove steps
    • Free walk
    • Connection
    • Bareback
  • Trot
    • Diagonals
      • Fixes automatically or always picks up correctly
    • Responsiveness
      • Affecting the leg in motion
      • Maintains consistent gaits
    • Transitions
      • Halt to trot within 3 steps
      • Trot to halt within 3 steps
    • Posting
      • 4 laps with balance and rhythm
        • with one stirrup
        • without stirrups
        • with eyes closed (lunge line is okay)
        • with hands on head
        • with airplane wings
      • 2 ground poles
        • Counting strides
        • Adding strides
        • Removing strides
    • Sitting
      • 4 laps with balance and rhythm
        • with one stirrup
        • without stirrups
        • with eyes closed (lunge line is okay)
        • with hands on head
        • with airplane wings
      • 2 Ground poles
        • Counting strides
        • Adding strides
        • Removing strides
    • Jumping Position
      • 4 laps with balance and rhythm
        • with one stirrup
        • without stirrups
        • with eyes closed (lunge line is okay)
        • with hands on head
        • with airplane wings
      • 2 Ground poles
        • Counting strides
        • Adding strides
        • Removing strides
      • Cavaletti
        • 6 trot distance poles to cavaletti
        • 4 trot distance poles to cavaletti
        • 1 canter distance pole to cavaletti
        • One hand on head
        • Airplane wings
        • Both hands on head
        • Touch toe
    • Jumping
      • Count 1, 2, 1, 2, 1, 2 for takeoff rhythm
      • Countdown strides to jump
        • From 3
        • From 5
        • From 8
      • Count strides between jumps
    • Jumping 1’3
      • 6 stride line
      • 4 stride line
      • 3 stride line
      • 2 stride line
      • In and out
      • Bounce
      • Broken line
    • Jumping 1’6
      • 6 stride line
      • 4 stride line
      • 3 stride line
      • 2 stride line
      • In and out
      • Bounce
      • Broken line
    • Jumping 1’9
      • 6 stride line
      • 4 stride line
      • 3 stride line
      • 2 stride line
      • In and out
      • Bounce
      • Broken line
    • Course
      • 4-6 jumps with at least one 2 jump line
      • Maintains gait
      • Doesn’t cut corners
      • Jumps in the center of the jumps
  • Canter
    • Stable and correct lower leg
    • Heels always down
    • 4 laps without stopping
    • 20 meter circle
    • Transitions
      • Canter within 3 trot steps
      • Return to trot within 3 trot steps
      • Simple change
    • Ground Poles
      • Over 4-5 ground poles
      • Figure eight over a ground pole
    • Canter into a single jump
    • Trot into a line, cantering the second jump

Level 8: Intermediate III

Medal: Silver Jumper – Yellow

Resources: Checklist, Lesson Plans, Worksheets

Rider shows mounted skills. Riders are improving their ability to canter, ride a full course of low fences, developing connection into contact and starting lateral movements.

  • Details coming soon!

Level 9: Horsemanship III

Medal: Gold Star – Red

Resources: Checklist, Lesson Plans, Worksheets

Rider shows unmounted skills. Buying a horse, stable and pasture management, herd dynamics, lunging, show prep, understands ownership costs, breeding and foaling

  • Details coming soon!

Level 10: Advanced I

Medal: Gold Horse – Blue

Resources: Checklist, Lesson Plans, Worksheets

Rider shows mounted skills. Flying changes, impulse, bareback, advanced grid work, canter patterns, and cantering jumps.

  • Details coming soon!

Level 11: Advanced II

Medal: Gold Rider – Blue Stars

Resources: Checklist, Lesson Plans, Worksheets

Rider shows mounted skills. Larger jumps, more complex combinations, courses, collection, oxers, cross country jumps, riding in the open, trail riding, cantering and jumping bareback.

  • Details coming soon!

Level 12: Advanced III

Medal: Gold Jumper – Red, White & Blue

Resources: Checklist, Lesson Plans, Worksheets

Rider shows mounted skills. This level focuses on riders who are intending to become riding instructors or horse trainers and want to further their overall horse education. Counter-canter, travers, renvers, half-pass, tempis, working green horses, jumping courses bareback, cross country courses, teaching riding lessons to beginner riders.

  • Details coming soon!

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