It’s the New Year. And for many of us, it’s also winter —> It’s cold. It’s wet. It’s dark. And though we have every intention of riding and working with our horses, what actually makes us brave the elements to go out and do it?
Well, if you signed up by midnight sharp on January 4, 2014 for the Twelve Week Horsemanship Challenge (the brainchild of Emma Daily Kline) then over 600 Facebook followers counting your hours in the saddle and cheering you on to ride more might be incentive enough.
Emma Daily Kline started the Twelve Week Horsemanship Challenge on Facebook* to motivate herself and others to work with their horses during the slow season. Over 350 folks from all around the U.S. and beyond signed up by the deadline to participate, including Pip and I. Though I’ve not met Emma in person, her energy/enthusiasm is contagious, even through the Internet. So are the supportive comments and inspiring stories shared by the people who joined the Challenge’s online community; many of whom have never met, but are coming together through social media to start the “Year of the Horse”–with horses!
Here’s what Emma had to say when I asked her more about the Twelve Week Horsemanship Challenge:
What inspired you to start the Twelve Week Horsemanship Challenge Facebook group?
“My best friend Beth and I have been making little challenges for ourselves for the last 8 years or so. We knew how easy it would be to let the time slip away. While we both study by reading lots of books, watching training videos, etc., we didn’t want to fall into the trap of just talking about doing it. It’s so easy to theorize about horsemanship, but without practical application one can never really understand much of it. Our motto is more action and… well, lots of talk is ok too.”
In a nutshell, what are the rules for participating in the Challenge?
“This particular year, the Challenge is to spend 40 horsemanship hours with your horse and ride 30 times. Five of those rides can be bareback and the rest need to be saddled. (We put that in there because Beth and I can both get a little lazy especially in the winter and tended to just jump on bareback and often bridleless. Nice to have your bum warm in the winter!) Any time you spend riding counts towards your total hours and there is no minimum ride time. There is however a two hour minimum between rides. This really sets us up to be consistent.”
You did this Challenge in 2013. What were the results the first time around?
“It was way harder than we thought! I guess it’s pretty easy to overestimate the amount of time we spend with our horses considering that most of us THINK about horses all the time! I think a lot of folks–equine professionals included–were shocked at how little time they actually spent specifically when we focused on just one horse. Out of 43 people only 11 of us finished and some of us were down to the very last day!”
Why did you choose 12 weeks for the timeframe?
“We chose the 12 weeks because it basically carried us through the winter into spring. By then we all get crazy busy with clinics and other summer activities and putting in the time gets a lot easier. We thought it’d be so sweet if instead of trying to wind up come April we already had some good momentum going.”
What are you hoping will happen as a result of the Twelve Week Horsemanship Challenge?
“I guess firstly I’m looking forward to my own personal growth. I ride a lot of horses every week but focusing on just one horse for the Challenge paid some pretty big dividends last year. Having one special pony keeps the love in there! It keeps the lighthearted romance that makes this whole thing a living childhood dream at the center. I’m pretty sure that’s why we all got into horses anyway no matter if we’re amateur riders with one horse or professionals with 15 in the string. Last year it was amazing how just the simple commitment to one horse and to the Challenge started this magical chain of inspiration that got us all out there in the dark, in the cold, (well, not the Floridians), on the short days, amongst life happening, finding a way no matter what.
I hope this Challenge helps people to take action. Get out there with their horse. That’s why we made the rule that to be in the Challenge you had to post a picture of you and your horse on the Challenge Facebook wall by midnight the day before we started. It was a way to bridge the joys of social media with real-life action. If you couldn’t get out a picture with your horse… Well… We ended up with some amazing last-minute selfie stories too!
I would also add to that last thought… connection. I hope to get connected with other like-minded, action-oriented people. It’s like being a kid on Christmas. You never know who you’re gonna meet! A good trick is to comment on someone you don’t know’s post each day. In a few weeks we’ll all be great friends.”
What horse did you chose for the Challenge and what goal(s) do you have for your partnership during the Challenge?
“I chose my OTTB Lil. She and I have been together for over 11 years. As you can imagine, I’ve made a million mistakes with her. I hadn’t done much with her in the last two years but my husband Kip did the Challenge with her last year. A few months ago my teacher told me that I needed to focus on Lil as my main bridlehorse prospect. I was pretty surprised considering the other horses that I get to ride, but did it because he said and have been shocked at our results together since last summer. I had ridden her pretty out of balance and didn’t give her much confidence before. I’m really looking forward to fixing that up. Maybe we’ll even get to play around in the hackamore (the 2nd stage of developing a bridle horse) by the end of the Challenge. That would be pretty cool.”
What tips do you have for folks who want to improve their riding in the New Year?
“Two things that I do. Firstly, get around horsemen that you want to be like and never stop learning. Secondly, practice. Just log the hours and the results will come. Consistency is the key. I like to say that the minutes add up to hours and the hours add up to experience. One day you’ll look at your horse and realize that things are different.”
Emma lives with her husband Kip at Northwood Farm in Sheridan, OR where she says it’s “All Horses, All the Time.” I first connected with Emma online through a friend in common–the Lusitano gelding Vientos whom Kelsy and I rescued from the Carpe Diem herd in 2011. In addition to scheming up horse activities, Emma is a realtor with Windermere in Oregon. She describes herself as “horse crazy since birth,” having started her first pony at age 12. She now rides and trains several of her own horses, offers lessons and clinics, studies and rides with Buck Brannaman, and produces weekly vlogs (video blogs) about horsemanship with Kip, which you can find on their Youtube channel, here.
If you want to join the Twelve Week Horsemanship Challenge… It’s too late! But there’s nothing stopping you from starting your own Challenge–perhaps with friends or other’s at your barn–to chronicle and celebrate you and your horse’s accomplishments. Also, feel free to share your riding goals for 2014 in the comments section below!
Happy riding to you in the New Year!
* It’s too late to enter this year’s Twelve Week Horsemanship Challenge, but Emma says you can watch the Facebook group to follow along with the 350 participants’ progress and posts. However, only people who registered by the January 4th deadline can post and comment on the group page. The hashtag for the Challenge is #2014HC