The Lesson Plan – Detailed

This is an extended version of The Lesson Plan – Basic. Long time followers may recognize this, as they all used to be lumped together, but I’ve split them up! Now the Basic version is just the template, and the Detailed version has the explanation. Enjoy!

In the beginning I was really confused about lesson planning. I needed a straight and orderly list, so I put the following together based on various articles in the “PATH Intl. Instructor Educational Guide” and what we were taught in the registered level workshop.


Before the lesson:

  • Assess, research participants, review paperwork
  • Discuss rider with parents, teachers, therapists, team
  • Determine different learning styles
  • Determine prerequisite skills (what is needed to learn the new skill)
  • Select horses
  • Select tack, equipment, helmets
  • Horse preparation (desensitize to new objects)
  • Determine order and type of mount/dismount
  • Determine numbers and expertise of volunteers needed
  • Ring set up
  • Type of lesson: one on one, group, heterogeneous, homogeneous
  • Ride inside or outdoors
  • Plan timing for each lesson component, time management
  • ID safety concerns
  • Write long terms goals and measurable daily objectives 

Lesson Plan



Short Term Goals:

  • 2-3 goals to achieve in 2-4 weeks, or however long your session block is

Long Term Goals:

  • 2-3 goals to achieve in 1-2 years from now


  • What you will focus on teaching this lesson, that is consistent with the student’s goals.
  • The objective is a sentence that includes:
    • 1) riding skill,
    • 2) verb/action (perform, demonstrate, attempt, etc.),
    • 3) measurement (3 repetitions, 4/5 attempts, 2x each directions, from H to E, 3 steps, 30 seconds, etc.),
    • 4) conditions (gait, assistance level of leader and sidewalkers, prompts).

Ring Setup

(draw arena setup)


  • Horse/Tack/Leader/Volunteers/Sidewalkers for each Rider
  • Materials/Supplies/Equipment needed for Lesson
  • Arena Set-Up
  • Note cards to help remember your lesson plan and teaching strategies

Prep volunteers

  • briefly tell leaders and sidewalkers anything important to know about the student and how much assistance to give
  1. Greet Student
  • Check In with how they’re doing today
  • Introduce to horse, leader, sidewalker
  • Orient to or remind of facility & rules
  1. Pre-lesson activities
  • To introduce new skills
  • To practice new skills before on the horse
  • Ground work, leading skills
  • Grooming, tacking, horsemanship skills, etc.
  1. Safety Check
  • environment, arena, horse, equipment, rider’s posture, clothing, volunteers
  • in particular before mounting:
  • tack is on correctly
  • tighten girth
  • student’s helmet fits and is on correctly
  • student is wearing appropriate clothing, zippers zipped so no flapping jackets
  • gates are closed
  • arena is free of hazards, other horses are out of the way
  1. Mount
  • Who mounts first and why? (ex: higher tone students mount first to give time to relax)
  • What type of mount? (crest or croup)
  • How much assistance?
  • Give the first rider a warm up task to do while the others get mounted, in a part of the arena that is out of the mounting area’s way.
  1. Safety Check & Stirrups
  • environment, arena, horse, equipment, rider’s posture, clothing, volunteers
  • in particular after mounting:
  • check girth
  • adjust stirrups
  • adjust student’s posture
  • Helpful Hint: After all riders are mounted and stirrups adjusted, have everyone walk down the center line single file while from the front you check that stirrups are even, from the side check their girth and posture, and from the back check their posture.
  1.  Warm up & Review
  • Leader/Sidewalker assistance? Type of hold? Amount of prompts?
  • reviews what student already knows, in particular what did last lesson
  • prepares student for new skill will learn today
  • warms up both upper and lower body – directly relate to goals and objectives
  • use activity or game
  • keep the riders moving
  1. Safety Check
  • environment, arena, horse, equipment, rider’s posture, clothing, volunteers
  • in particular after warm up:
    • check girth in case the warm up loosened it, tighten
    • check posture, adjust high tone legs as they relax
  1. Teach New Riding Skill
  • Teach while standing in front of you or while walking, depending on kids’ focus needs
  • Explain for all types of learning:  auditory, visual, etc.
  • 1. What – the riding skill and description in as few words as possible
  • 2. Why – the main incentive reason
  • 3. How – the aids, use task analysis
  • 4. Where – in the arena, use visual aids and points of reference
  1.  Practice/Activity:
  • Leader/Sidewalker assistance? Type of hold? Amount of prompts?
  • Practice & Repetition
    • Demonstrate it yourself, or by an experience student, or by a demo rider
    • Demonstrate it yourself and have them follow you
    • Talk them through it, then send them off
    • Let them try it straight off
    • Switch directions – do everything on both sides
    • Can incorporate visual aids, patterns, obstacles, games
  • Feedback
    • Corrections with the Why
    • Praise Specifics
    • The skill
    • Posture
    • Behavior
    • Relate it back to lesson objectives and goals
    • to the group as a whole
    • to individuals – use their names
    • Feedback is
    • Feedback on
    • Feedback to
  • Teaching Techniques
    • Task Analysis – break it down into small steps
    • Teach to Learning Styles – Auditory, Visual, Kinesthetic
    • Lots of Hows and Whys
    • Don’t start teaching individual lessons or become a traffic cop
    • Have fun!
  • Constantly check:
    • Riders
      • always be able to see all the riders at once
      • helmet is on correctly – 2 fingers above eyebrows, not tilted back
      • foot in stirrup correctly (rubber band facing out)
    • Horse
      • Spacing between horses
      • Horse’s behavior/indicators
      • Sound
      • Tack is on correctly
      • Girth is tight
      • Safety Stirrup rubber band is to the outside
    • Volunteers
      • Leader
        • Correct position
        • Holding lead rope correctly
      • Sidewalkers
        • Correct position – always right be rider’s leg
        • Even support, not throwing rider off balance
        • Hands out of pockets
      • Environment
        • No new extra/unsafe objects in the arena
        • Be aware of changes
        • Where other instructors/horses are in the arena and what they are doing
  1. Progress (if time)
  • Leader/Sidewalker assistance? Type of hold? Amount of prompts?
  • Progress toward rider independence by systematically building on their skills.
  • End goal: complete independence with no support.
  • Types of progression:
    • activity
      • ex) posting at walk > posting at trot; steer at walk > steer at trot
    • physical prompt
      • hand over hand > tap > none (combine with verbal prompt for max effect)
      • maximum > moderate > minimal > none
    • gestural prompt
      • point, model > none
    • verbal prompt
      • maximum > moderate > minimum > none
    • volunteer assistance
      • leader and 2 sidewalkers > leader and 1 sidewalker > leader 3 ft away, no sidewalker > unclipped “floating” leader > none
    • sidewalker
      • vest/gait belt hold > thigh hold > ankle hold > spot > none
    • self-support
      • both hands on pommel > let go with one hand > both hands off briefly > both hands always off
    • horse
      • easy > more difficult > hard
    • equipment
      • western > dressage > close contact
    • environment
      • inside arena > outside arena > trail
    • riding surface
      • even ground > uneven ground, hills
    • arena size
      • small > medium > large
    • figures
      • straight lines > curves > circles; large figures > small figures
    • movement
      • min > max
      • ex) slow walk > fast walk; walk > trot
  1. Cool Down and Wrap Up
  • Leader/Sidewalker assistance? Type of hold? Amount of prompts?
  • Cool down exercises for both upper and lower body
  • Recap – Summarize what we did, the key points
    • while doing cool down exercises if students need movement to focus
    • at halt if movement distracts students
  • Allow time for transition
  1. Dismount
  • Who dismounts first and why?
  • How (croup or crest)?
  • How much assistance?
  • Where?
  • How much do the kids help after dismounting (run up stirrups, take off rein, lead horse, etc.)?
  1. Have students thank volunteers and give their horses hugs!
  • Optional: let student give treat
  1. Rest  if needed
  • Riders prone to fatigue need 10-20 min rest in chair after lesson


Reflect on your teaching, what went well, what you would change.


  • Record observable data (ex: %, #/10 times correct)
  • Objectives fully/partially met, or not? Need new objectives?
  • Was there progress?
  • Strong and Weak points of lesson? Appropriately challenging? Safe?
  • Rider’s strengths
  • Rider’s work-on-next-times and how to do so
  • Write in the positive, not the negative (ex: use “needs to” instead of “doesn’t”)
  • Note rider’s attitude (ex: hard worker, confident, assertive, excited, cooperative, social, energetic, frustrated, distractable, withdrawn, fragile, anxious, bored, fatigued)
  • Horse/volunteer concerns
  • Volunteer input/comments

Whew! For the short version that you can fill out, click here!


Note: This is not professional advice, this is a blog. I am not liable for what you do with or how you use this information. The activities explained in this blog may not be fit for every rider, riding instructor, or riding center depending on their current condition and resources. Use your best personal judgement!

One thought on “The Lesson Plan – Detailed

  1. Thank-you so much for the time you put into this blog! What a great resource for those of us who are learning and for experienced instructors also.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *