Join Date: May 2007
Location: Fairbanks, Alaska
I think people should be a little bit careful about jumping all over people who have a different opinion and different way of training. Just because Spirithorse has made her philosophy on horses and training clear, does not mean that she automatically has to quit sharing them...each thread has a different angle, and she may have something to contribute to those interested in her way of training.
I used to use draw reins, but learned a better way to get my horses headset through serpentines and circling (along with various subtle things)...and so choose to simplify my life to the least tack possible. Now, if I were competing in an actual APHA show rather than just open shows, I may be more inclined to employ some of the training methods used by top showers as well, who knows. Draw reins seem to have their usefulness, but are NOT the only way to achieve a proper headset. To each his own. I try to do as much without aids as possible, but that doesn't mean that I don't use any aids at all. :)
As for the original question about whether or not draw reins are cruel - I think it depends on the user.
What is everyone flipping out about natural horsemanship for anyway? Who the freak cares what it is called! It simply generalizes some training and horse philosophies - not always the same either depending on the trainer :). I have been able to get some awesome training and communication tools from various "natural horsemanship" trainers. I don't hold NH as the bible on horses training, but have found many useful tools from it - as well as other kinds of training. I learn from whereever I can, and integrate what works for me into my philosophy.
Speaking of natural...I would LOVE to be able to communicate with only my body cues and no tack. I saw someone going all around the grounds at one of our competitive trail rides last year with no tack at all - it was so sool. I also have seen people do reining patterns with not saddle or bridle (just a neck string) - that takes a lot of skill!!