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UMW Natural Horsemanship Team Wins Collegiate Colt Starting Challenge

April 18, 2024

A team of students from the University of Montana Western’s Natural Horsemanship program recently placed first in the 2024 Road to the Horse - Idaho Horse Expo Collegiate Colt Starting Challenge.

UMW Natural Horsemanship program receiving first place check for Road to the Horse colt starting competition.
The UMW Natural Horsemanship team received the $3,000 first place prize from Road to the Horse – Idaho Horse Expo Collegiate Colt Starting Challenge. Photo provided by

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Road to the Horse has a passion for inspiring the next generation of horsemen and women and was proud to produce in partnership with the Idaho Horse Expo the 2024 Collegiate Colt Starting Challenge held April 5-7 at the Ford Idaho Horse Park. This event created a valuable learning experience in the art of colt starting for three collegiate teams who were able to compete for their share of the $6,000 cash purse. 

The collegiate teams that participated were Feather River College, coached by Suzannah Campbell; Treasure Valley Community College, coached by Wade Black; and the University of Montana Western, coached by Eric Hoffmann. Donating their time to the event were judges Chloe Cuddie Hudson, Benjamin Longwell, Noel McQuigg, Tim Phillips and Leo Van Sistine. 

“There is no better way to create a legacy, than to invest in the future,” states Road to the Horse Director of Operations, Tammy Sronce. “We were honored to work with the Idaho Horse Expo to create an amazing platform to showcase the region’s top collegiate teams. The horsemanship and sportsmanship displayed by all three teams was inspiring to all.”

Over the course of the event, each team partnered with a filly from Bar 71 Ranch. The competition consisted of three round pen sessions, with the challenge accumulating on the final round which included both rail work and an obstacle course. All collegiate teams displayed superb horsemanship in a close competition that came down to the final round to determine the winner. 

The University of Montana Western claimed wins in rounds one, three and four. Treasure Valley took the top score in Round Two. Feather River displayed impressive horsemanship throughout all rounds with a sensitive filly and left fans in awe of their progress during the finals. 

The University of Montana Western claimed the championship with an accumulated score of 1299 points riding Tottie Gun Smart, followed by Treasure Valley Community College with 1210.5 points riding Daiquiri B Gun Smart and Feather River Community College with 1008 points riding Ginger Be Smart. All three fillies were sired by Willy B Gun Smart (Playgun x Cow Smart High Brow).

Head Natural Horsemanship Instructor, Eric Hoffmann, was proud of his team and grateful for the opportunity for the students to gain valuable, hands-on experience.

“It was such a wonderful event for students to learn from as far as reading the subtle tries that colts offer us all the time and the ability to take those and turn them into positive outcomes,” said Hoffmann. “[The event] brought me inspiration about being an educator for our future leaders in the equine industry and how we can take what we learn from the horse and apply it to our daily lives.”

The UMW Equine Studies Department, in partnership with the Montana Center for Horsemanship, offers the nation’s only Bachelor of Science degree in Natural Horsemanship with options in management, psychology, science and instruction, and was ranked among the “Best Equestrian Colleges” by 

The Montana Center for Horsemanship is the first and only equine center in the United States that is devoted expressly to promoting ‘Natural Horsemanship.’ With its stables, arenas, riding areas, and instructors, the center serves as the primary facility and progressive teaching resource for Montana Western’s Natural Horsemanship BS curriculum.

The MCH teaches the ‘La Cense Method,’ which was developed under William Kriegel, owner of Haras de la Cense in France. Mr. Kriegel is also co-founder of MCH, and has been involved in Natural Horsemanship for many years. The La Cense Method is a progressive, step-by-step process that blends the best of traditional horsemanship training with the art of training and riding horses—all in a manner that works with a horse’s behavior, instincts, and personality. Taking a positive and respectful approach, the La Cense Method gradually builds trust, and frees the horses to be confident in all they are asked to perform.

To learn more about the University of Montana Western, please call 877-683-7331 or visit