Heading into what will become EKF's first full calendar year of operation, it's exciting to see the progress our students have made in just a few months. Last week, I started setting up tiny crossrails for a couple of riders who are prepared to begin moving from trotting over poles to working over actual jumps. Others have cantered for the first time, and still more are getting very, very close! Plus, brand new little folks have joined us, and they're just looking forward to riding without me holding onto that pesky leadline.
To encourage more progress, I'm beginning a Horsemanship Program that will recognize both unmounted and mounted skills. From the basic Super Starters through the Excellent Experts, kids who would like to test themselves can demonstrate their knowledge and abilities on and off the horse. When you can show all the requirements for one level, you'll get a nice blue ribbon and continue working toward the next. This program is completely optional, of course, and there is no time pressure to finish any level. In fact, most riders probably have strengths in certain areas, like posting on the correct diagonal, but might be behind in others - like adjusting their own stirrups while mounted, or naming all the parts of the horse.
Setting out the requirements for each level was a fun challenge for me. I prioritized all the information and techniques that I teach, decided which must come first, then second and so on, and figured out which unmounted skills and knowledge should be mastered as one's riding ability improves. This program will give me, our riders, and (whether they know it or not) our horses some terrific motivation and goals for the new year.