Western riding is an equestrian discipline that anyone can enjoy. At SLF, the Western Program offers beginner to advanced instruction and also in a variety of western divisions such as; western pleasure, trail, horsemanship, western style dressage as well as pleasure riding. For those just starting out, many beginner riders tell me that they enjoy the security of the western saddle as well as the minimal initial investment needed to get started. And, for those who enjoy horses but prefer to stay on the ground western offers the opportunity to participate in halter and showmanship in which the handler learns to position the horse and to maneuver through technically demanding patterns. However, there are many more similarities than differences between English and western riding so if riders wish to switch to English at any time the skills are quite transferable. This is not surprising since the ultimate goal for all riders regardless of discipline is to develop harmonious and effective connection with their horse.
The SLF program follows the Equine Canada Western Learn to Ride curriculum which is used to educate the rider from beginner to intermediate in 4 Rider Levels. When the rider is ready to take the Rider Level test for a given level they will be assessed on the riding skills and stable management knowledge as described for each level.
Beginners start in Rider Level 1 which introduces correct riding position and balance as well as the basic aids for simple commands (walk, jog and lope) as well as steering and pace control. The mounted part of the lesson uses a variety of strategies to keep lessons interesting and educational. Instructors may use lunging, exercises with cones and poles, simple games on horseback to keep the rider and horse engaged. The theory described for Rider Level 1 includes; horse colours and markings, basic care and grooming, equipment care and use. At SkyLine Farm Rider Level 1 is taught in either a private or group format.
In Rider Level 2, students continue to focus on the consolidation of correct riding position as well as to improve balance during transitions within and between gaits. Rein aids are introduced as well as riding basic arena figures at all three paces. Exercises which incorporate arena dressage letters, cones and poles are used to help the rider improve the accuracy of the ride. The theory which accompanies this level includes health basics for annual health care, conformation terminology, unsoundnesses and blemishes. This level is taught in either a private or group format.
At Rider Level 3, students must be able to demonstrate accurate execution of arena figures at all three paces and also to perform more advanced maneuvers such as turns on the forehand and haunches while maintaining a correct and effective riding position. They may wish to learn about showing; showmanship, pleasure, trail and horsemanship by participating on the SLF show team. Riders who are competing must ride at least twice weekly which must include some private instruction. The theory for this level includes common diseases, emergency care, bandaging and advanced knowledge of equipment.
Rider Level 4 is an intermediate level in which the student learns how to develop collection in their ride using either a snaffle (two handed) or a shank bit (one handed). Students learn this skill through the use of dressage exercises that emphasize the need to ride the horse forward with light aids to the rein contact and subtle body cues. Students who successfully complete this level have the option to work towards their Western Instruction of Beginner Certification and/or the Basic Training Module which is required for Competition Coach candidates. The degree of technical difficulty associated with Rider Level 4 requires riding at least twice a week with some private instruction. Lateral exercises and basic lunging of the horse are also introduced at this level. The theory includes stable construction and nutrition. We recommend that riders who wish to achieve this level consider participating on the SLF show team for at least one season prior to testing for Rider Level 4.