What is Your Riding Level: A help tool to figure out where you might land (figuratively and literally)

What is Your Riding Level

A good match starts with a rider understanding that knowledge is ever gathered.

A good match starts with a rider understanding that knowledge is ever gathered. Most issues encountered with horses result from an owner/rider who is not ready for the level of their selected mount.

Heart of Phoenix has his helpful guide to better understand where YOU are as a rider, and we have added numbers in each horse’s posting, so you know whether the horse can work for your level. If you’re working with a trainer, choosing a horse slightly above your level is okay. Heart of Phoenix offers some clinics and classes to help you learn, but we always recommend a path of continued education, regardless of your level. While it is true that what an exact 1 or 2 or 7 or 9 means varies person to person, this is helpful, we hope.


We realize everyone had weaknesses and strengths, and opinions from professionals may vary, so this is intended as a helper for you only if you’re planning to adopt from HOP.

Level 1-2 (Pre-beginner through Beginner)


A Rider that falls in the level 1 or 2 has very limited to no equine 
experience. These individuals lack proficiency in basic groundwork skills 
such as catching a horse, halter, leading, grooming, or tacking a horse. 
Their experience is likely limited to riding on guided trail rides or one 
or two beginner lessons. 

These riders have not yet learned the ability to post or how to correctly 
guide the horse with their aids. 

Horsemanship at a level 1 or 2 would be learning to identify correct 
way of moving in a horse, the different gaits of the horse, and basic 
first aid and care of the horse. Overall these riders would be 
successful learning to walk and trot under the watchful eye of a 
trainer on a beginner level school horse.

Levels 3-4 (Advanced Beginner to Experienced Beginner)


A Rider that falls in the level 3 or 4 category has had moderate exposure
 to the equine industry. This rider is now capable of adequately performing
 the basic groundwork skills haltering, leading, grooming, and tacking a 
horse. This rider is now comfortable riding at the walk, trot (English 
riders would be comfortable posting and identifying the correct diagonal), 
and may be learning the canter. 

A rider at the end of the level 4 is quite
 confident cantering, and would have learned how to identify the leads. 
These riders are still most comfortable on a steady, reliable, trained 
horse. Horsemanship at a level 3 or 4 would have more experience and 
ability to recognize simple body language of the horse, obvious lameness, 
and beginning to develop an eye for correct conformation in a horse. They 
will have some experience in loading horses, but not experience with green 
or unpredictable horses.

Levels 5-6 (Intermediate to Strong Intermediate)

A Rider in the level 5-6 categories has graduated from the basics and 
is delving deeper into the skill set necessary to enhance their horse and 
partnership. They are comfortable and confident at the gaits, and are 
working on developing an independent seat, quiet hands, and subtle aids. 
An intermediate rider would also start to branch into the more specialized
 disciplines – jumping, dressage, etc. These riders are now able to 
effectively influence a horse, and can identify issues in their riding 
and horses way of go, and either correct them or continue with lessons 
to address them. 

These riders typically have many years of experience, 
lessons, and would be able to handle a horse that is considered 
inexperienced. Level 5 and 6 riders have ridden multiple different 
types of horses and are comfortable adapting to the horses needs. 
Horsemanship at level 5 or 6 would build on the level 3 and 4 knowledge, 
fine tuning their skills to understand more subtle body language, identify 
lameness/illnesses before they got to be a big problem, and an 
understanding of conformation and its relation to performance. 

They are confident in loading horses, and they are capable of 
utilizing groundwork to train horses.

Levels 7-8 (Experienced)


An experienced rider almost certainly is currently riding regularly, 
possibly for quite a few hours daily. Advanced riders have ridden most
 of their lives, have ridden horses of many backgrounds. They have often
 had years of intense riding instruction. Generally, these riders have 
competed successfully in the show world. They are able to ride most 
equines. They can work with horses of any age and background. 
This rider can usually offer lessons, train horses and teach on 
equine issues of various types. This level of rider will typically 
be very aware of unsoundness and horse conformation.

Levels 9-10 (Professional)


All of the mentioned abilities, plus an independent seat, soft hands, 
and an ability to handle the green, untrained horse in open country. 

Usually, level 9 will indicate a rider who is making their living in 
a professional equine setting, possibility as a clinician. These are trainers, colt starting professionals, clinicians and 
people competing at high levels in the equine show  community. They are 
able to teach both horse and rider and have themselves competed in high 
level equine sport. We admit, level ten means you're a unicorn.

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