Natural horsemanship Vs. Traditional training? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 16 Old 07-31-2012, 10:32 PM Thread Starter
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Natural horsemanship Vs. Traditional training?

My whole life I have been obsessed with learning about horses and how horses learn. I've recently been reading and learning about a number of Natural Horsemanship trainers, like Clinton Anderson and Pat Parelli (and many others). But most of my life in my riding lessons I rode what I would consider 'traditional' riding style.
My question is: What's the big difference?
In both I find horses are trained to give to pressure, respect their handler/rider and they seem to be ridden mostly the same way.
I know there are a number of different tools used is that the only difference, Which tools you train them with? I guess I really don't see any defining line between what's considered natural and what's considered traditional?
Personally I mix and match every training style I've ever learned and apply different aspects of each depending on the horse and the skill I'm trying to teach.
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post #2 of 16 Old 07-31-2012, 10:51 PM
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mix and match is the way to go.
I don't think there is a hard defining line either. The "Godfathers"of natural horsemanship, Ray Hunt and Tom Dorrance, both started out with traditional methods. But, they started to to cue into easier ways to get a horse to do things, and started working toward making that even easier and easier.

I think if there is a differnce, it;s that in NH you are looking to make it the horse's idea to do something.
For example, I can lead the horse into a stall with my hand so close to the bit that he really has little choice. It works perfectly well. There is not a problem here.
But, if I want my horse involved, I want him looking to me for direction, but yet he as being asked to do something. um m m ... So, I point him toward the stall , let him look at it, I get him to think about that stall and then tell him, go on in and he is already thinking into that stall and he chooses to walk in there.

I think that's why NH folks use that kind of trailer loading . they send the horse into the trailer, rather than walk in with it, holding the line close to the head. Once the horse is thinking into the trailer, you have to do darn near nothin' to get him to coplete that thought. And since the horse made the decision to get himself in, he is more likely to be emotionally ok with being it there than if he was somewhat pulled in by a tight lead (though we all know that a horse that does't want to go in will not go in no matter how tight or strong the lead.
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post #3 of 16 Old 08-01-2012, 03:23 AM
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What's the difference? Depends on which 'NH' or 'traditional' trainers & specifics you're talking about IMO. A good trainer is a good trainer, regardless of lables IMO & there are lots of weird ideas & antics on both sides.

I think *ideally* 'NH' is about working *with* the horse & his natural behaviour & ways of thinking, to create a partnership, rather than just working 'on' them & just making them do stuff. But 'NH' is a bit of a marketing ploy to a large degree, aimed at people with 'fluffier' ideas.
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post #4 of 16 Old 08-01-2012, 04:55 AM
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Like it was said, a good trainer, is a good trainer...period. I think that in order to succeed with horses, you have to think like a horse. Whether you call yourself NH or not, you have to understand why horses do the things they do. I personally have seen some things in NH that seem unnecessary to me, but that's just me :) I think they all have their place and purpose. All horses are different. Some conform to people better then others, who need people to conform more to them for effective communication. What works for you and your horse is all that really matters.
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post #5 of 16 Old 08-01-2012, 06:01 AM
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I became a serious student of Natural Horsemanship over 12 years ago. Since then I have studied everybody you can name, bought every book and video I could get a bit of useful info from ( I've spent between 10-12 thousand on study material alone), I lost count of the number of horses I worked with for free, just for the experience. I have come a ways since then, but I didn't start really advancing until I also started studying world champion trainers and getting more educated in "Form to Function". What I have found is that if it's done right, Natural Horsemanship and "Normal" Horsemanship shouldn't be at odds with each other, but should compliment each other and develop a calm, soft , responsive, respectful horse. I believe that if the "method" isn't working on a horse, it's most likely the way it is being applied rather than the method it'self. I don't believe any one "method" is going to work for anybody. I agree with what Pat Parelli advised in his book " Find yourself a whole corral full of knowledgeable horsemen." NRHAREINER pretty much nailed the essence of what Natural Horsemanship is.That's the most accurate way to describe the principals and concepts.
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"If your horse doesn't respect you then forget about your horse liking you. Further, if your horse doesn't respect you then all you are is a nutrition source . . . just like the grass on the ground." ....Buck Brannaman

Last edited by trampis67; 08-01-2012 at 06:06 AM.
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post #6 of 16 Old 08-01-2012, 06:19 AM
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All horse training methods that work, work for the same reason. As already mentioned they work on pressure release or negative reinforcement. They also work because of a related learning mechanism- classical conditioning which is simply the horse learning an association between an intitially irrelevent cue (such as a voice command or seat cue) and a consequence- usually a pressure cue (like a whip or leg/rein cue).

Looked at logically there is almost nothing that's inherently natural about most NH methods. Horses don't use bits, bridles, halters, saddles etc on each other. The most common way they sort out differences isn't by aggression but by avoidance- avoiding each other. Avoidance is often very subtle and its easy to miss the signs and only see the agression and think that's the main way horses solve their disputes. They certainly don't chase each other round and round and round, unless in play and they rarely voluntarily get in close to, approach or closely follow horses that are higher up the pecking order than them.

While many NH methods represent a massive improvement on the brutality of some of the "old" ways, they are no more inherrently humane or effective than the good conventional methods which don't call themselves natural.

Any training method or technique that uses a minimum of force, fear or fatigue to train the horse to reliably respond to cues will work because of negative reinforcement and classical conditioning, irrespective of the label that's given to it.

Last edited by corymbia; 08-01-2012 at 06:27 AM.
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post #7 of 16 Old 08-01-2012, 09:36 AM Thread Starter
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I have truly, often felt similar - what makes Natural Horsemanship so 'natural'? Considering the number of tools you need to use on a horse to make them do things. But I think I'm beginning to see the difference, NH is about making a horse want to do things, Traditional is about making them do it. But this being said I don't think then that I fully understand Traditional training, what are some methods that differ? Obviously the tools are different but lets say two trainers are training a horse to lunge (I'll use that example because I've just been working on this with my horse). What approaches would each trainer use?

I did, what I guess I would consider NH but I don't know - I stood about 6 feet from her and drove her out like as if I were round penning her - but only on a rope. She figured it out pretty quick. But what would have been some 'traditional' ways to teach something like that? What would be the difference?

If it's easier to explain the difference using a different skill feel free - I just learn better by example.

This is so interesting - thanks for the thoughtful responses :)
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post #8 of 16 Old 08-01-2012, 09:56 AM
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Originally Posted by loosie View Post
But 'NH' is a bit of a marketing ploy to a large degree, aimed at people with 'fluffier' ideas.

IMHO the target audience for some of the methods is those folks who think a horse is simply a large dog.
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post #9 of 16 Old 08-01-2012, 10:05 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by mls View Post

IMHO the target audience for some of the methods is those folks who think a horse is simply a large dog.

I get the 'marketing ploy' as so many of their tools are completely useless, or no different than tools already used. But if you look just at the methods is there a difference between NH and traditional?
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post #10 of 16 Old 08-01-2012, 10:08 AM
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Originally Posted by PunksTank View Post
I get the 'marketing ploy' as so many of their tools are completely useless, or no different than tools already used. But if you look just at the methods is there a difference between NH and traditional?
I don't truly think so. Used to be 'natural' was without mechanical aids. But now with the carrot sticks, 'special' halters, etc - I see more gimmicks than draw reins or a tie down . . .
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