Introducing Rookie Riders

By Jocelyn Adams

HCBC would like to introduce the latest national program from Equestrian Canada (EC) called Rookie Riders. 

Rookie Riders is a safe and fun introduction to riding, horses, and horsemanship with riding and gymnastic activities focusing on the skills used in equestrian sport. This program reinforces Fundamental Movement Skills (FMS) that fall under the FUNdamental stage of the Long Term Equestrian Development Model. The program consists of group and individual activities all designed to provide physical, mental, and emotional engagement. Participants who complete the program will have a strong foundation to begin the EC Learn to Ride English or Western Level 1. Rookie Riders is primarily aimed at children from the ages of 5 to 12. 

HCBC held the first Rookie Riders training session in January of 2019. The training was facilitated by Ruth Allum and Danielle Yaghdjian, two Ontario Coach Developers who were integral in the development of the program. The coaches and instructors were introduced to, and practiced, all of the components of the program and went through each lesson plan. Along with learning how to teach the skills, they participated in some of the games and gymnastics including leap frog, wheelbarrow racing, and the introductory barrel exercises. We now have 23 EC Certified Coaches and Instructors fully trained to run the Rookie Rider Program in BC.

The program consists of 12 strategically developed lesson plans that are delivered using a specially designed barrel, gym mats, a horse, and a stable. The emphasis is on fun, while teaching the children balance, running, throwing through gymnastics, then applying those skills to the barrel exercises and then to a horse. Basic horse care is introduced as well. 

Most of the coaches attending noted that learning the basic riding and vault movements on the barrel before getting on a horse allowed the children to gain confidence before they actually got on a horse. They also felt that using the barrel before the horse was optimum for the school horses when the riders got on for the first time.

There are options built into the program design allowing Rookie Rider to be run as:

  • Teaching Stable Management and equestrian skills using the gymnastic aspects of the program on the barrel without the use of a horse.
  • Separating the stable management and gymnastic activities from the riding activities by running them as separate lessons programs: one in a gym and one at a riding facility.
  • Running all elements together at a riding facility.

Rookie Riders is a great way to introduce children who may not normally come in contact with horses to the horse and riding. 

The program components can be taught using the barrel at schools, summer camps, fairs, and other events. If you are holding a club event and would like to have a component of Rookie Riders presented, please contact one of the trained Rookie Riders coaches or instructors.

For more information about Rookie Riders or to see a list of trained Coaches and Instructors go to and under Programs and Education you will find the Rookie Riders Page.

Photos: Equestrian Canada

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