Levels of Schooling and Control

Schooling is the physical and mental education of the horse. The basic aim of schooling is to maintain and restore the natural balance of the “free” horse under the weight and influence of the rider. Schooling develops the horse physically and mentally to the point where the horse performs efficiently and is pleasant to ride. In short, schooling improves the horse’s athletic development, teaches the horse signals, obedience and cooperation, therefore enhancing performance.

Levels of Schooling

Littauer set up three classifications of control to describe stages of training for the horse as well as the rider.

1. Elementary Level
The elementary level means authority over the horse through quick and efficient control. Emphasis is placed on teaching the horse obedience. The rider’s goal is to ride on loose or semi-loose reins, teaching the horse to respond to the elementary control techniques described below. This schooling process will promote the elements of “stabilization” encouraging the horse to be responsive, move forward freely with even speeds of gait, while remaining mentally and physically relaxed.

The elementary level is used by beginning riders while developing their positions and by intermediate and advanced riders when schooling or re-training horses. The elementary control techniques are characterized by:

Hands – loose or semi-loose reins used in a check-release fashion for control and direction of the horse

Legs – tapping or kicking

Voice – used liberally

Gaits – the horse should be working toward stabilization or when teaching beginners, the horse should already be stabilized.

2. Intermediate Level
Having worked through the “stabilization” process, the horse is mentally and physically ready to strengthen performance

The performance is strengthened by the rider’s ability to create impulse and connect the horse’s movement through use of contact. Emphasis is placed on a cooperative effort between horse and rider. At this level, the horse should move forward freely with impulse, accept contact softly, and respond to the rider’s aids without resistance. The intermediate control techniques are characterized by:

Hands – use of rein contact with following hands, give and take; use of reins in cooperation with the horse’s mechanics.

Legs – squeezing leg aids in timing with the horse’s efforts

Voice – used as a schooling aid

Gaits – the horse should be stabilized on contact, move forward with impulse and connection, work with cooperation and efficiency.

3. Advanced Level
The primary emphasis at this level of schooling is to achieve the highest quality performance on the flat and over fences. The advanced rider’s goal is to assess the horse’s mental and physical capabilities and to develop appropriate schooling techniques that will strengthen performance. At this stage of schooling, the rider allows the horse to become confident in his work, athletic, and willing to perform to the best of its ability. This level is characterized by:

Hands – use of the five rein aids with excellent timing and feel; knowledge and use of aids at all schooling levels.

Legs – use of the three leg aids with excellent timing; knowledge and use of aids at all schooling levels

Voice – used as a schooling aid

Gaits – the horse should demonstrate quality of movement, connection, semi-collection, collection; athletic jumping.