MONTANA CENTER FOR HORSEMANSHIP GOES TO ONLINE EDUCATION FORMAT
DURING THE CORONAVIRUS CRISIS
Dillon, Montana, March 26, 2020 --- Natural Horsemanship training and education are supposed to be a hands-on, experiential learning experience --- students, horses and instructors, in the arena, on the trails, indoors and out. It is not supposed to be online. But the coronavirus crisis has sent students and faculty home, away from campus or face to face settings so an alternative method of learning had to be devised.
This is the new reality for the Natural Horsemanship Bachelor of Science degree program at the Montana Center for Horsemanship in partnership with the University of Montana Western, the only one of its kind in the nation. A four-year, accredited university degree program, it is experiential learning at the core, with daily hands-on education between students and horses. Daily interaction with horses usually happens at the Center, less than a mile from the UMWestern campus where academic studies take place.
“It’s a unique program, like no other anywhere in the world” according to Janet Rose, director of development and communications for the Montana Center and the William Kriegel Foundation, which helped to co-found the equine education center. “But today” she adds, “we have to do everything we can to protect students and instructors and online learning is the best way to accomplish that.”
Eric Hoffmann, head Horsemanship Instructor for the La Cense Method Natural Horsemanship Program, says, “we are currently teaching horsemanship courses online --- Natural Horsemanship Building a Relationship, and Natural Horsemanship, Refining the Foundation.” Hoffmann says instructors are making videos for the students on methods and techniques with students’ responses coming in through forums written by text as well as their own videos. Students continue to work on foundation exercises to build control on the ground and in the saddle, with a goal of doing a reining pattern with their horses by the end of the block. The block system is what is taught at UMW in collaboration with the Montana Center for Horsemanship Natural Horsemanship program. In the block system, students focus on one academic course of study intensively for several weeks before moving on to another.
The whole purpose of the Natural Horsemanship Program at MCH, according to Rose, is daily, hands on learning experiences with horses. Students’ horses are housed at the Center and cared for by both the students and Center staff. Many of the students have had to return to their homes in other parts of the country and the Center is taking care of the horses that remain on-site. “It’s not perfect but it’s an innovative solution” says Rose, adding, “it keeps the students engaged, learning, advancing their studies in natural horsemanship – all of which is good for the horse and good for the student.”
The mission of the Montana Center for Horsemanship is education, built on the concept of helping horses and humans make the most of their respective lives by working together through the process of natural horsemanship. Natural Horsemanship, and the La Cense Method, developed more than two decades ago at La Cense France, is a progressive, step by step process of learning, based upon a deep understanding of the horse’s natural instincts, behavior, and temperament. The Natural Horsemanship degree program at UMW & MCH is the first and only one of its kind in the nation.
Rose adds that the Natural Horsemanship Program, which is taught exclusively at the Center, is a program that helps to perpetuate and advance western traditions – promoting good horsemanship and the ranching, farming and agricultural industries. Dillon, Montana, where the Center is headquartered is known as the horse capital of the Northwest and one of the nation’s leading agricultural centers. Before the health crisis happened, Rose says, the Center had begun an exciting and valuable expansion – to build state of the art classrooms, a veterinary/research laboratory area and conference and meeting space to welcome more students and to develop more natural horsemanship programs for people from all walks of life and riding disciplines. “We hope in time, with public support, this important education initiative will continue moving forward. In the meantime, we need to focus on the health and welfare of everyone, keeping everyone safe and hoping for the best in the weeks and months ahead.”