Evaluating Your Horse Riding Ability

Everyone’s definition of riding experience is different. For riders joining MRC riding events, understanding your experience allows us to better understand what will keep you safe and allow you to have the best time on your ride. 

This evaluation worksheet is to help YOU define what your experience is. We consider the following areas of the sport to be important when reflecting on your abilities to include in your Rider Profile. Self evaluations are a humbling exercise that really help you understand your capabilities and potential areas for development. 

Basic Riding Abilities:

Does the Rider...

  • Mount and dismount a horse without assistance?
  • Hold reins between their ring and pinky fingers? 
  • Post at the trot?
  • Take lessons?
  • Have miles in the saddle?
  • Own a helmet, riding boots and attire?


Does the Rider know how to...

  • Steer and stop at each of the horse’s gaits (walk, trot, canter, gallop)?
  • Ask the horse to change it’s gait on their command?
  • Bring their horse back to a walk if the horse is out of control?
  • Hold and use a crop, dressage whip and/or spurs?


Does the Rider know how to...

  • Groom their horse (including picking out hooves and hosing off in the wash stall)?
  • Tack their horse without assistance (includes boots and wraps)?
  • Exercise barn etiquette with cross ties, manure clean up, keeping items off the ground etc?


Does the Rider know how to...

  • Determine what sort of horse are they comfortable on (a horse they need to push forward or slow down)?

Consider these things when reflecting on your confidence level.

Despite years of experience and knowledge, riders’ confidence level can be independent of skill set. 

For example:

In a controlled situation, on a well-trained horse that has a temperament to put up with a lot of mistakes by its rider, a beginner with the right mental and physical will can be comfortable at the trot and canter. This does not mean that such rider should call themselves an intermediate unless they have taken a considerable amount of lessons and trained regularly in the English style on how to properly ride at these gaits. 


Does the Rider know how to...

  • Ride in an indoor arena with other lessons taking place and ensuring they are at a safe distance from other horses at all times and know how to properly and safely pass another horse?
  • Ride outside, in a ring or with no fencing?
  • Ride in open space/fields? (Riding in an indoor arena is very different from riding in open space as horses become much more excited and can be more difficult to control.
  • Ride through water crossings, uphill (forward half seat, give reins) and downhill (lean back, give reins)?


If you are determining your skill level for your MRC Rider Profile, we hope you find this chart helpful in your self- assessment. These levels based on the english style of riding. 

LEVEL 1 (New Rider) 
Minimal to no riding or horsemanship experience.
LEVEL 2 (Novice)
A novice rider has cantered but not regularly and is confident to learn more. They can post on the correct diagonal at rising trot. They are able to mount safely and to control a horse at a walk and trot. Primarily only riding in controlled settings (ie Indoor arena) or on walking trail rides with a leader.
LEVEL 3 (Intermediate)
Intermediate riders are at ease at 3 paces (walk, rising trot and controlled canter). The intermediate rider is able to mount and dismount their horse unassisted, use standard english riding aids, ride at a rising trot for at least 10 minutes, to change and control the pace from a walk to a trot and comfortably canter over short distances. Has experienced some riding outdoors in open space. Intermediate riders have ridden in lessons and trained in the past 6 months to meet all the above requirements.
LEVEL 4 (Experienced)
Experienced riders have mastered all 3 paces (walk, rising trot and canter in a forward/ half seat). Rider is comfortable in open spaces, over uneven terrain and has experienced the gallop. The experienced rider rides regularly, has a strong seat and is confident of their own ability. They are able to control the horse at speed and change direction of their horse at any pace and in any circumstance as needed. They are also confident over small jumps and on a variety of horses.
LEVEL 5 (Advanced)
Advanced riders have mastered all 4 paces (walk, rising trot, canter and gallop in a forward seat) over uneven terrain on all types of horses including those that are very spirited or difficult to handle at times. The advanced rider rides regularly, has good physical fitness, has good soft hands and has the ability to gallop for long stretches without getting tired. This rider understands how to read their horse and adjust their riding accordingly. Advanced riders are comfortable leading other riders, assisting other riders, going after loose horses in the event of a fall and are hyper vigilant to their surroundings. 

Please don't hesitate to let us know if you’d like to explore advancing in level, trying new rides or different disciplines. MRC is here to safely support equestrians on their riding journey and encourages riders to try a variety of riding styles and training to become well rounded, multi-disciplinary riders. 

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