University of Montana Western logo.
Apply Visit More Info

Natural Horsemanship Application

About the Program

The University of Montana Western Natural Horsemanship Program is designed to teach students cooperative and non-coercive techniques and methods for working with and training horses.

Because the program’s main purpose is to educate the student, not the horse, the student must have access to a suitable horse to use in the program. This horse should be able to walk, trot, canter and stop while working within a group of other horses or alone, without bucking, misbehaving or causing safety issues and that can be tied without pulling back.

These horses must be a minimum of three years of age, and only geldings and mares are allowed in the program. Horses of any breed or discipline are welcomed. These horses must also be free of any chronic unsoundness that would prevent them from being able to withstand the necessary workload.

All horses will be evaluated for suitability for each level of instruction at the beginning of each academic semester and in the event that a change in the Natural Horsemanship (NH) program horse must be made because of unforeseen circumstances. In addition, each student is expected to have a minimum level of horse handling and riding abilities prior to acceptance in the program.

This ensures that students receive the most benefits from their experiences in the NH classes. We encourage students who feel they may be lacking in their horse handling and riding skills to apply to UMW for any of the Equine Studies degree options and to take riding lessons locally during their freshman year and then apply to the Natural Horsemanship program for entry during their sophomore year (NH program classes can be completed within three years).

Prior natural horsemanship experience is NOT required for either the student or the horse, and students who do have prior natural horsemanship experience should realize they will start at the same level as those without to ensure the necessary foundation is in place and each student knows the same techniques and methods prior to moving onto the upper levels.

Those students with prior natural horsemanship experience will be challenged to refine their skills during the foundation groundwork, and along with all of the NH students, will learn critical skills and methods, which will be built upon and integrated in upper levels of the program.

Students should realize this program requires a time and financial requirement above and beyond the normal collegiate experience. This commitment includes but is not limited to routine and emergency veterinary and farrier care, required tack and equipment, transportation expenses for the horse to Dillon, proof of required annual vaccinations, Certificate of Veterinary Inspection and brand inspections for incoming out-of-state horses.

Natural Horsemanship Program

Application Process

Students must apply to UMW in addition to submitting a NH application. The NH application must be completed after submitting an application for admission.

Application Timeline

Priority Application Deadline: November 1

  • The Natural Horsemanship Department will still review applications submitted after the deadline. However, priority will be given to students who submit their application prior to November 1.
  • Applications will be reviewed as they are received for this one of a kind program. Natural Horsemanship is an impacted program so the earlier that you apply the better.

Application Instructions

As part of the online application form process, you will need to include the following items:


Write a one to three-page personal essay including the following information in paragraph format with thought given to sentence structure, grammar, spelling and punctuation:

  1. Describe your interest, expectations and goals regarding the University of Montana Western Natural Horsemanship degree program, including any personal or professional aspirations.
  2. Include how this Natural Horsemanship degree will integrate with your prior horsemanship experience and your perception of your current horsemanship abilities. While including this information into the essay, try to work in the answers to the following questions:
    1. How many years have you had the personal responsibility for care of a horse or horses?
    2. How many years have you owned horses?
    3. How many years have you ridden or worked with horses and in what capacity?
    4. Have you received professional instruction or training in the care, management, training, or riding of horses and if so, in what capacity and for how long?
    5. Do you have any experience with Natural Horsemanship either on your own, through clinics, seminars, etc. and if so, in what capacity and for how long?
    6. Have you been a member of 4-H, FFA, Pony Club, rodeo or any horseman’s club
      or breed association in any equine-related capacity or competed in any equine discipline?
  1. If yes, please give details as to level and duration of involvement, any achievements obtained, as well as when and where.
  2. The essay must be no longer than 1,500 words and it must be typed in 11 or 12 point font with either single or double spacing. You will upload the the completed essay as part of the online application form below.


  • Each student must include three (3) letters of reference (one from a person knowledgeable about his/her academic performance, one from a person knowledgeable about his/ her skills with horses and one other letter from a person of the student’s choosing) to include with the application.


  • Each applicant must include a short video that includes a personal introductory statement and also shows themselves with their horse. Preferably, the video will show the student with the horse they intend to use in the NH program.
  • The video should include footage of the student saddling their horse and then riding the horse at a walk, trot (or rack, running walk, etc.), canter, and a stop. This does not need to be a professional video, but does need to be of sufficient length and quality to show the student and their horse’s current capabilities.


  • Students interested in the NH program at Montana Western should note that an additional non-refundable $1,850 per semester program tuition is charged to both resident and out-of-state students seeking a B.S. or A.A.S. in Natural Horsemanship.
    • This additional program tuition helps cover instruction, equipment, facilities, boarding, feed, and maintaining the pens at the MCH.

  • Students on the waiting list will be charged a non-refundable reduced program tuition of $400 per semester to hold their spot in the program in the next sequence of classes.
    • Students on the waiting list will not be able to board their horses at the MCH stables, but will have access to the use of the facilities when courses are not in session.
    • This additional program tuition helps cover instruction, equipment, and facilities maintenance at the MCH.


  • Natural Horsemanship students need to pass their skills classes with a C- or higher to continue in the program.
  • Students who don’t meet these requirements will need to reapply to the Natural Horsemanship program.
1Personal Information
2Academic Information