Teaching The Skill

Just made some new handouts for our instructors in training about skills and wanted to pass along the info! Enjoy!

The Skill

What is the skill?

Riding skill = the purposeful intention of using aids (hand, seat, voice, leg, weight) to communicate with the horse directly. We say “intention” because not all riders may actually be able to communicate their intention to the horse effectively, but the rider’s intention is there. For example, the aid for “walk on” could be leg aids (which is effective because the horse feels it) or making the sign for “walk on” (which is not effective because the horse won’t respond unless the leader supports the rider, however the rider’s intention is still there). Note a riding skill is not the aid itself, or riding through figures – it is the intent to communicate with the horse using some type of aid.

The purpose of teaching skills

  • Skills help the rider reach their goals! (both riding goals and life goals)
    • Ex) Learn to ride a horse independently.
    • Ex) Be able to sit on a bench independently.
  • The skill you teach should directly relate to lesson’s objective (which helps the rider meet their goals).
    • Ex) Rider will demonstrate halt to walk transitions 5 times during the lesson with no support. (Transitions help improve core strength, which will help the rider ride and sit on a bench independently).
  • Practicing the skill in the practice and activity helps the rider meet the lesson’s objective.
    • Ex) Plan to have the rider practice halt to walk transitions at 3 letters in each direction. Then do an activity of collecting the beanie babies around the arena which incorporates halt and walk on transitions.

How to teach skills

  • Get their attention
    • Have everyone halt in front of you
      • If they have a hard time focusing or hearing when you are far away
      • If they will practice the skill at the halt first
    • Have everyone walk on the rail and listen
      • If they horse’s motion helps them focus
      • If they are more advanced and do not need to practice at the halt first
  • Teach the skill
    • What – the riding skill and description in as few words as possible
    • Why – the main incentive reason
    • How – the aids, use task analysis
    • Where – in the arena, use visual aids and points of reference
    • See Teaching The Skill 2.0: What, How, Why, Where for more on that!
  • Communicate clearly
    • Use Task Analysis to break down the skill into simple steps
    • Use simple short explanations (more detail can come while practicing)
    • Teach to the different learning styles (auditory, visual, kinesthetic, etc.)
    • Should not take longer than 1-2 minutes

Skill Progression

  • Do you remember your first lesson? What did you do?
  • Europe: Lunge line to work on seat first, then offline aids
  • USA: On or off line to teach aids first, then some lunge lessons as needed
  • Depends on the rider.

Which order would you teach these skills? (There is no right answer, this exercise is to show how it depends on the individual rider).

____ Halt
____ 2 point
____ Sitting trot
____ Walk on
____ Posting trot
____ Bending
____ Rein back
____ Direct rein steering

Equestrian Skills List

Here is a handout for a list of potential skills you can teach your riders. I think it’s the best list I’ve come up with yet.

Equestrian Skills List

Skill Practice Sheet

Have your instructors in training practice how they will teach certain skills using this sheet. Work on it together.

Skill Practice Sheet


The above information was compiled from:



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 judgment!

One thought on “Teaching The Skill

Leave a Reply

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