The development of independent riders with strong leadership skills and strong bonds with their horses.
Learning the fundamentals (leading, grooming, and saddling) is always the start of any new students program. Once saddled, the basic skills of walking, trotting, and cantering are our first priority. My new riders typically canter by the end of the third lesson. Achieving the cantering skill at an early stage takes the fear out of the unexpected and promotes self-confidence in the rider. Most riders will start the learning process in a Western Saddle.
Practicing and perfecting the fundamentals: To be able to properly prepare your horse for riding, from getting them from the pasture to proper grooming and tacking, including bridling; to be able to walk, trot, canter and consistantly maintain gait; simple pattern work; introduction to showing is encouraged (typically walk/trot only).
Every rider is encouraged to progress with more concentrated sessions, including posting trot and picking up the proper diagonal, speed control, proper stops, canter departures on the proper lead, and simple lead changes. English riding is promoted at this stage to better develop balance and an independant seat. Pattern work becomes more complex. Students participate in horse shows at the walk/trot/canter level.
Advanced manuvers including flying lead changes, spinning, trail pattern/riding; advanced horsemanship (equitation) patterns; western riding; horse training basics.
Groundwork is a a good tool to aid with the development of the leadership role. With students new to riding and the experience of being around horses, this promotes confidence in both horse and rider. Moving the horse's feet forward, back, left, and right develops respect from the horse and leadership from the rider.
What does leadership mean to a horse? Safety, comfort, and survival.
In the herd, the leadership role is employed by only one horse, the Alpha Mare. All others are followers. When the Alpha Mare says to move, the herd moves without asking why. Horses have a natural "flight" over "fight" instinct. When danger presents itself, their first response is to turn and run. Only in situations where the horse is left no other choice will they choose to fight.
This leadership role of the Alpha Mare is achieved by their ability to move the other horse's feet, first through subtle body language, often escalating to the use of severe force. It is the rider's responsibility to establish that Alpha leadership role. This is accomplished by controling "where they go and how fast they get there". Establishing this level of communication creates the proper framework for a positive outcome to your horse riding experience.