Challenge 1: Observation

This Challenge is all about learning from your horse
and your horse learning from you.

Key ML Horsemanship Principle:


Your First Challenge:

To be mindful.

This is not about doing what you normally do but being in the area where your horse lives (ie paddock) and being there calm and strong in your position, “tree-like” (whether that be walking or standing) .

Take the best of you there: Smile on the inside, be happy about life. Leave phones and distractions at home. Clear your mind of work, kids and what is for dinner and be present. Even spend a bit of time in silence, until your senses heighten to all the little things around you.

Part 1: Observe

Observe your horse, at first from a distance – even before you enter their paddock.

Then, enter their paddock – remember you are there to observe and nothing else. Leave treats behind. (If you have a jacket that you normally wear that has your treats in the pockets, wear a different jacket so the smell and expectation are not there.)

When you are in their paddock, be there with purpose – your horse can be aware of you and you don’t need to feel that you must go secretly as if bird watching.

If you have a sensitive horse and your energy affects your horse as you enter its paddock, then stop and retreat a little. Wait. Observe.

If your horse has strong energy and they affect your energy ie perhaps they come up to you and are pushy, strengthen your position and in your mind say “I will not be shifted”.  Do not move your feet. Do not let horses with strong energies affect your decisions or shift you.

Things to watch for:

How does your horse react with other horses? Where does your horse sit in the herd – is it dominant or partly dominant? How does it feel when you come into the paddock – is it nervous or distracted? What does it like doing? What interests it? Is it interested in you or pushy on your space?

Time to allocate:

This is up to you. We recommend at least 2 sessions of just watching for about 30 mins.

Part 2: Moving closer, still observing

Move on to walking around your horse in different positions. Stop when you notice any positive or negative responses.
Try to establish where your horses bubble is with you out in the paddock.

When you move, you need to believe in where you are going. Your secondary focus is aware of your horse but your decisions must be believable for your horse. You are walking in this direction or that direction and you know where you are going. When you are standing you are not going to move. If you decide to retreat from your horse, believe that you are walking away because that is your intention (not just walking backwards).

Being out with your horse is not a dance of pressure and release but a chance for your horse to look at you and see leadership qualities in the belief of your decisions.

This is chance for them to learn your strength.

Tips for Connection:

Let your horse start the conversation – if you put your hand out for them to smell, let them reach and sniff softly in their own time rather than you put your hand on them. Sometimes having your hand just off their whiskers is a good spot for them to find you. Take your hand away fairly quickly and before they loose interest.

Watch for changes in their thoughts or emotions. Acknowledge any changes in their emotions – for example if they show even a slight rise in tension, you move back.

If it looks like they may leave you, make the decision first to walk away from them, with purpose. Check a fence post or pat another horse, then come back to them.

Things to watch for:

Does your horses breathing become tight and shallow when you approach it?
If your horse thinks away, what made it? What makes your horse think towards you?
What makes your horse harden it’s expression?
Does your horse release tension when you walk away? (Signs of releasing tension are licking, chewing, rolling of the eyes, yawning, a sigh)
Does your horse sniff and connect with you then release tension or does it release tension when you move away from it?

Time to allocate:

Try to be with your horse 2-3 times breaking down their bubble each time.

Further work (optional): explore your horses bubble both with and without a saddle.


Complete the course questions