Riding Levels for Heart of Phoenix Adoption

What is Your Riding Level?

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. WE CAN HELP YOU figure out your level if you need assistance.  All adopters will need to be able to safely halter, lead, tack and rider the horse they are selecting, unless working with a trainer. In that case, the trainer may come along and ride the selected horse to help determine whether the horse is suitable.


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. Understanding of ground work will be almost or entirely nonexistent. 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. NOT AN ELIGIBLE LEVEL TO ADOPT FROM THE APPALACHIAN TRAINER FACE OFF COMPETITION HORSES

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. They have accomplished all of the 1-2 skills. 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. Ground work will be basic. You will be able to have a horse: Respect your space Stand and lead quietly Flex and soften to pressure Go on a circle Move the front-end and hind-end A rider at the end of the level 4 is 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. ELIGIBLE LEVEL TO ADOPT FROM ADVANCED BEGINNER WITH TRAINER LEVEL ATFO HORSES

Levels 5-6 (Intermediate to Strong Intermediate) A Rider in the level 5-6 categories can do all of the above, and they have graduated from the basics. This rider 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. Ground work will be strong, containing skills such as: 1. Leading Willingly Without Pressure on the Lead Rope 2. Longing in a Circle Around You. 3. Rolling the Hind End (Turn on the Forehand). 4. Bringing the Front End Around (Turn on the Haunches). 5. Backing with a Soft Feel or Collection. 6. Backing in Circles. 7. Transitions These riders typically have many years of experience, a history formal lessons, and would be able to handle a horse that is considered inexperienced and very green on the ground and possibly undersaddle. 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 more difficult horses into trailer, and they are capable of utilizing groundwork to beginning train horses. 5 ELIGIBLE TO ADOPT FROM INTERMEDIATE LEVEL WITH TRAINER HORSES FROM THE ATFO6 ELIGIBLE TO ADOPT FROM INTERMEDIATE LEVEL HORSES FROM THE ATFO

Levels 7-8 (Experienced) An experienced rider, going all previous levels can do, but with more finesse, is almost certainly 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, green and should be able to bring along an unstarted horse. 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. 7 ELIGIBLE TO ADOPT FROM THE ADVANCED LEVEL WITH TRAINER AT THE ATFO 8 POTENTIALLY ABLE TO ADOPT FROM THE ADVANCED LEVEL AT THE ATFO w/o trainer

Levels 9-10 (Professional) These riders are very rare. All of the mentioned abilities, plus an independent seat, soft hands, and an ability to handle the green, untrained horse in the open.  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. ELIGIBLE TO ADOPT ANY ATFO LEVEL

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