The Practice, Progression, and Activity

After you teach the skill in your lesson, it’s time to practice and progress! This is a handout I just made for our Instructors in Training about the difference between Practice & Progression, and Activities & Games.

I highlight the difference between practicing a skill and doing an activity for several reasons. 1) Certification evaluators want to see you focused on skills, rather than games. And for good reason, because 2) If you get caught up in playing a game too soon, you tend to lose focus on the skill, or forget to teach is completely. Lastly, 3) You need to give the rider the right tools so they CAN participate correctly in the game. Say part of the activity is picking up a bean bag off a barrel. If I don’t focus on how to halt your horse in general, usually the rider will forget to halt their horse as they ride by the barrel and just keep reaching for that bean bag! Tell your leader not to stop for them, but wait for them to halt their horse 🙂

The Practice & Progression

Practice = Practice the Skill (the “Where”)

  • The practice is where the rider focuses only on the skill without distraction by games or activities, so they can really “get it” before moving on to using the skill in more complicated situations and multi-tasking.
  • It is usually best to start at the halt and practice applying the aids without the horse’s added movement.
  • Then practice the skill somewhere in the arena, such as at the walk on the rail, between cones, or over poles.
  • Not all riders need much practice. A more experience rider may go straight to using the skill in an activity.
  • Not all riders have the best attention span, so you may need to use props, or the goal of the activity to motivate them.
  • Ex) 2 point at the halt; steering circles on the rail, etc.
  • Ex) for steering it can be as short as bringing your hand to your pocket 3x on each side, or longer such as steering in a circle on the rail 2x each direction
  • Ex) steer by bringing rein back to hip pocket at the halt – put red bracelet on right wrist and right hip, green bracelet on left wrist and left hip

Progression = Progress the Skill

  • The progression is when we change something to help our riders be more independent and reach their goals.
  • This involves either removing support or adding difficulty
  • Remove physical aids
    • Ex) first remove sidewalkers, then remove leaders
  • Remove verbal aids
    • Ex) “This time I’m going to say less, to see if you remember how to do it on your own.”
  • Remove visual aids
    • Ex) “I’m taking away the cones so you need to remember to do 2 point between H and K.”
  • Add distance
    • Ex) half wall, whole wall, across diagonal, half lap, whole lap, multiple laps, lunge line
  • Add speed
    • Ex) Practice the skill at the walk, then progress to the trot
  • Add obstacles
    • Ex) 2 point between cones, then progress to over poles

 Activities & Games

 Activity = Use the Skill in an Activity

  • The activity lets the rider practice their skill in an engaging and motivating environment that often requires multiple riding skills to be used and includes other social interactions and problem solving skills.
  • Common activities include:
    • Practicing between props
    • Arena Figures
    • Trail Patterns
    • Games
  • How to decide the activity:
    • The activity must reinforce the objective & skill of the lesson.
    • The activity should be meaningful. Use what will most motivate the rider and keep their attention.
    • Use what incorporates other life skills they are working on (memory, social interactions, competitive skills, etc.)
    • The activity must be age appropriate.
    • Young kids will probably like games more than advanced/older riders.
  • How to explain an activity
    • Keep it simple, short and sweet!
    • First introduce the activity
    • Then give a quick explanation appropriate to the rider
    • Lastly review to make sure they understand
    • You will need to direct them how to begin – Who goes first? All at once or one at a time? How much assistance?
    • Ex) “Today we’re going to practice steering by riding through an obstacle course. First you will weave the cones, Second you’ll halt by the barrel and get a bean bag, Third you’ll walk to the other barrel, halt, and drop the bean bag on it. John, what is step number one?”
  • Remember
    • Plan for what obstacles/props you need and set up the arena before the lesson.
    • If during the lesson you realize you forgot something, DON’T leave the arena to get it, but ask a volunteer to get it.
    • Incorporate praise, correction, and progression into the activity as well!

 Note: At the certification you will probably only have time to do the Practice and maybe Progression. Don’t get preoccupied with an Activity.


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!


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