The First 4 Weeks of the Northwood’s Horsemanship Challenge

The first 4 weeks has flown by and as of today I am 13/30 rides and 22/40 hours down.  I knew when I started this challenge and how much I’ve grown as a horseman, my horse Red who has had the summer off, was going to teach me many new ideas and tools. I did have goals set for this challenge and I will touch base on what I’ve accomplished and learned.

What We have Accomplished: 

Traveling in all three gaits on a loose rein is coming a long. The ground conditions have not been ideal for much faster then a walk its either frozen slippery ground or a muddy mush. With all the ground and lateral work we have done his gaits are becoming relaxed. He hasn’t used the increase in speed as a way to try to check out. I can now travel at each gait with a loose rein and not have to hold on for dear life. It is a really good feeling!

With his new found aspect on life with me I am able to work on guiding with legs only. I was able to trailer to an arena the other weekend and work on this because being enclosed I was able to drop the reins and used my coiled rope to help block him if he tried to move opposite of what my legs opening for him. He did very well in the arena but as for the wide open spaces he is showing progress but needs help.

His gaits have always been very rough to ride and feeling for vertical flexion was hard. I have started practicing it again and at first I released I taught him to drop his head more then crinkle his chin. Just another undesirable movement I have to learn to block.

Ground work needs refinement. I feel like we have the “big picture” down but the little details are missing. We have been fixing them up before every ride.

He is really understanding what I want from him when I ask him to pick me up off the fence. He is to the point where he is preparing himself to do so as I climb up the fence.

Getting to his hind has been difficult I actually had to add spurs. It was a good time to learn to use them correctly and they have about accomplished what I needed them for. We have pretty good life in using the rein and leg. Doing fairly well with leg only and haven’t really touched base on the rein only or soft feel with leg.

What I have learned: 


If I want my horse to be perfect I have to have perfect practice. The only way to do that is to be consistent in how and what I’m asking of him. Sometimes you may need to adjust to fit the situation but only to get back to what is right and what he will understand to figure out the answer.


Some days I don’t feel like going out but then I think to myself this is how my dreams are going to come true. It depends on how much drive I have within myself to get out there and learn. Your horse is your best teacher.


Paying attention to the whole horse. The horse will give you many signs through body language to let you know if you are on the right path. First and foremost get to the feet! Get life and respect in those feet. When you get to the feet everything else will fall into place. The horses eye’s are they quiet or frightened? His body, are their muscles tense or relaxed? The ears, who or what are they listening to? Observe, compare, and remember. Get a step ahead and you’ll be able to fix up anything.

Practicing The Weak Spots

I’m no where near perfect and I’m not equal in all quarters so my horse and I are learning to be together. My rein management can be sloppy. I can’t hold the coil in my right hand the right way to ask for some maneuvers. My weight in the seat could use refining and could help with my turnarounds, circles, stops, etc.  I need to be more aware so I can be ahead of him and knowing what he is going to do before he does it.


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