You probably have your fill of tests at school, but riding tests are a great way to challenge yourself, and to measure your growing knowledge and abilities. Equine Canada’s Learn to Ride program will take you progressively from basic to advanced skills in riding and horse care. The program is available whether you’re a Western or English rider.

How it works

To be eligible for an EC rider test, you must be a member of your provincial equestrian federation/horse council. You will need to buy the handbooks recommended for your level and type of riding, and you will need to take some lessons from a certified instructor or coach.

When you register for a test you must pay a low fee. Western rider tests levels 1–3 cost $15–$30; level 4 up to $115, depending on the province where you live. English rider tests levels 1–6 cost $15–$30; levels 7 and 8 up to $175, again depending on where you live. (English rider levels 9 and 10 are planned, but not yet available.)

With each test you pass, you will receive a certificate and badge to commemorate your success. Each test has three sections: theory (written test), stable management, and riding. You need a minimum grade of 70% in each section to pass the test. If the worst happens and you fail a section of the test, you must retake it successfully to be awarded your certificate.

As in any test, good preparation is the key to success. Be sure you and your horse are clean and properly presented and your tack is clean and in good repair. Bring all the accessories you may need (grooming tools, halter, lead rope, lunge line, polo bandages, splint boots, shipping or stable bandages, etc. – and don’t forget a pen for your written test). Lastly, study up on all the subjects included in your rider level and practice, practice, practice.

Western Riding Program

Here is a brief list of the requirements for each of the four basic levels in the Learn to Ride Western program. They must be taken and passed in order.


Theory: Parts of the horse’s body; colours and markings; three basic gaits; basic health and grooming; parts of the saddle and bridle.

Stable Management: Groom your horse and pick out his feet; put on and remove a halter; do a quick release knot; saddle and bridle your horse; take care of your tack; correctly handle your horse on the ground.

Riding: Correctly mount and dismount; maintain a good basic position at the walk, jog and lope (reins in one or two hands); halt and back up; explain and demonstrate opening rein and direct rein; recognize the correct lead at the lope; execute basic school figures.

Other: Dress comfortably in boot-cut denims, tucked-in shirt, and western boots. Riders under 18 must wear a helmet. Safety is of the utmost importance at this and all subsequent levels.


Theory: The horse’s teeth; basic conformation; blemishes and unsoundness; stable vices; internal and external parasites; what to look for when buying a horse; movement faults; how to load and transport a horse.

Stable Management: Estimate a horse’s age by his teeth; identify conformation and movement faults; identify blemishes or signs of unsoundness; identify signs of internal parasite infestation; load and unload a quiet horse.

Riding: Maintain a proper position of body, legs and hands at walk, jog and lope. Correct use of one hand and two hands on the reins; post the trot on the correct diagonal and change diagonals; variations of speed at the lope on a circle; execute transitions of gaits; explain and demonstrate indirect (neck) rein; identify correct lead at the lope within 6 strides; execute legyield.

Other: At this level you should know the importance of rider fitness and flexibility as well as the importance of the relationship between horse and rider.


Theory: Preventive and emergency care; causes and symptoms of colic; causes and symptoms of founder (laminitis); vital signs; common diseases (tetanus, equine influenza, rhinopneumonitis rabies, strangles, equine encephalitis); bandages; snaffle and curb bits; hackamores and bosals.

Stable Management: Correctly apply stable, shipping and tail bandages; name three bits and explain their uses; know how to use a noseband and a running martingale; take vital signs (temperature, respiration, pulse, capillary refill time, dehydration); know the causes, symptoms, treatment and prevention of common diseases.

Riding: Explain and demonstrate the effect of leg aids; explain and demonstrate rein of opposition; execute turn on the forehand 360°; execute turn on the haunches 360°; ride a simple pattern.

Other: At this level you should understand basic psychology of the rider as well as the code of ethics. Dress correctly in boot cut denims, western boots, a long-sleeved western shirt and western hat (helmet for riders under 18). You will be marked on your turnout and attitude.


Theory: Construction of a stable and a shelter; equine nutrition; equine fitness and conditioning; lungeing; collection; two-track movements.

Stable Management: Discuss important points to consider in the construction of a stable (drainage, ventilation, measurements); demonstrate proper lungeing procedures.

Riding: Correct use of one hand on the reins; execute a simple change of lead (through the jog) from both directions; explain basic collection; explain and demonstrate two track movements (half-pass and side-pass); ride a level 4 pattern. Patterns are available in the Western Intermediate Rider manual, or on your provincial equestrian federation / horse council website.

Other: At this level you may be asked to discuss or execute material from any of the 3 previous levels. Level 4 tests are organized by each province. You may need to transport your horse to the test location, or to borrow a horse. In this case, visit the location ahead of time, ride the borrowed horse or ship your horse in early (the day before the test if possible) so that he’s had a chance to settle into his surroundings. Pack your own equipment and accessories. Level 4 is a pre-requisite to the Western Intermediate Rider, Instructor and Coaching programs.