After teaching public clinics for many years, Mike’s students became interested in a program that encompassed more than what the single topic clinics offer. What they really wanted was to learn the process and skills required to make a horse, “straight up in the bridle”. Mike responded by developing an outline and a teaching plan. When he finished the first draft, he decided to call it “THE PROJECT”.
The original goals of The Project were two-fold; first, to learn Mike’s methods for making a California-style vaquero bridle horse, and second, to make a nicely finished riding horse. The original teaching and learning plan has been modified and revised a few times, and “The Project” has evolved from a five year course, meeting twice each year, into a six year program. Each Project group is exclusive and once established, unlike his clinics, is not open to the public. The first year is spent developing skills with ground work and “in-hand” work. This is followed by five years of riding schooling, for a total of 12 sessions. Students must commit to participation for a six year period.
The learning experiences are tremendous, and the camaraderie shared with Mike and his students has created many wonderful bridle horses, and true friendships. In Oregon, where the first Projects took place, Project 8 will begin in the fall of 2017. Five Projects have graduated and Project 6 graduates in the spring of 2017. Project 7 has a few years remaining. Additionally, numerous Projects have graduated in Arizona and California, with two ongoing Projects currently running in Santa Maria and Novato, California. For those graduating from the Projects, their horsemanship and their horses have been altered, almost magically, but with long hours and great effort by both students and teacher.