The Horsemanship Challenge: Meeting Goals in 60 Rides

During this past January I stumbled across a facebook group for The Horsemanship Challenge with Michael Lyons. This encouraged equestrians of all disciplines to commit to completing 60 rides or sessions with their horse from January 15th to May 15th. This past week I reached my goal of 60 sessions! While I did not achieve all of my set goals, I learned a lot and furthered my relationship with my horse. 

Before this challenge started, I had hoped to start getting Cash ready to compete in the Versatile Horse and Rider Competition at Equine Affaire in 2021. My original goals were to back up without reins, pivot, and sidestep. Overall, I wanted to focus on strengthening our communication and ride completely off of seat and leg cues. It is still a goal of mine to be able to do all of those things, as well as riding bridleless. 

Cash and I had a couple setbacks along the way, and honestly, we didn’t accomplish any of those specific goals! But, we did improve rider to horse communication. Before this challenge, I was not able to ride Cash in anything less than a Tom Thumb bit. Now, in an enclosed area, I can actually ride Cash in a rope or simple halter! This is a huge success for us! I’ll never forget the first time I attempted to ride in a halter shortly after bringing Cash home…I thought I would never get him stopped! 

Cash has greatly improved on listening to seat and leg cues. He was all bit and reins when I first bought him. Now, he will slow and eventually stop with a simple position change. It’s not 100%, but it is ten times better than when we started. 

During the course of these last four months, I discovered Cash had developed EPM. I had to haul him across state lines (twice) to Michigan in the midst of a pandemic for treatment. Fortunately, the treatment my vet used was quick and did not require months of recovery. We only took about a month off from riding, but even during EPM treatment we were able to get a few groundwork sessions in. 

Prior to our first haul in appointment, I knew Cash would need work with loading. Over the eight months I’ve owned him, his trailering skills have progressively worsened. Come to find out, that was also related to his EPM! We completed a few sessions if just working on loading. Although it was only maybe two or three 20 minute sessions, I could see a difference. Loading went smoother than expected for our first appointment! 

After treatment, our goals had changed drastically. Instead of working on fancy footwork, we took a step back and worked on the basics. Currently, Cash is doing lots of trot work to strengthen his hind end after the EPM. 

Not only did we battle cold weather, vet appointments, and EPM treatment, Cash also moved to a new barn (my parent’s place). We had around five more sessions to complete after moving. This past week we finished our 60 sessions, but I decided to complete an extra session before celebrating. Our 60th ride was less than ideal. It feels a bit like we’re starting over since Cash hasn’t been himself. He’s spooky on the trails, and even more barn sour than before. 

Our 61st ride was a much better ending. Cash still isn’t himself, and there’s a lot to work through yet. But, I truly believe that this challenge strengthened our partnership and that we will get back to our normal soon! 

On our 61st ride we accomplished a few things, making the entire challenge feel like a success! It was rough getting Cash to cross the creek under saddle rather than walking beside him, but with patience and communication, he eventually crossed! I’m pushing him a little farther on the trails each day and staying calm when he begins to throw his fits. He’s learning to trust me more and taking time to think, rather than react. 

Like I said, our overall goals changed a bit, but I still believe we accomplished a lot during this Horsemanship Challenge. It may be over, but I’ve set new goals for Cash and I to continue working on. I hope to spend some time getting Cash reacquainted with the trails so that we can enjoy a summer full of adventures! 

“No matter how many mistakes you make or how slow you progress, you’re still ahead of everyone who isn’t trying.”

-Tony Robins

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