I probably do natural horsemanship, the guy who taught me most learned from Parelli back in the 80s, he used to go to his place in the US, I guess it didn’t cost an arm and a leg to do it back then. And though I tended to avoid “horsey people” like the plague for years, and still do to a large degree, I am beginning to get the idea that most people who do NH are a bit odd though other than the guy who taught me I haven’t had much contact with others.
My horse riding came from a background of learning to ride as a little kid and doing so while working cattle and the kind of horse riding was pretty rough. Basically, yank the reins to go left or right and back to stop and spur the horse meant go. Training them was to ride them, ground work was little more than roping them, jerking them around a bit to learn to face you, bagging them out (sacking out), hobble and collar rope them, drive them in driving reins then ride them, and ride the buck out of them if they bucked, that was it; and maybe tie them to a post for a day.
When my friend first showed me how to teach an unbroken horse to walk up to walk up to him (when I was maybe 12 to 14 years old, can’t remember; must have been about 12 now I think of it) I thought it was pretty impressive and started paying attention to what he was saying. And though he learned it all from Parelli and taught me, what I hear and see (on forums and YT at least) of a lot of the Parelli people is pretty different to what I was taught, and to the way I interoperate much of what I have read in Parelli books.
Now that I am doing research at PhD level on things to do with culture and society, social structure and the way these things effect people I have kind of thought critically about why many people deal with horses, and one day hope to find funding to do research on the anthropology and history of horsemanship. But this has lead me to think about the way many people seem to handle horses and it’s my theory that:
Most people these days 1) never have to earn a living on a horse, and never had to, their horse is a toy, or something to enjoy, to get away from work etc. 2) most of the people dealing with horses these days are from middle class urban backgrounds, and often quite affluent. 3) Most people who come from this kind of background have no substantial experience with livestock and tend to see horses in a similar way they would their household pets. Now obviously these are generalisations but from what I have observed, valid ones; the whole horse scene in the city I live in is basically like this, over paid, self important, public servants and their little snott children
What I think all of this means, and how it relates to NH is that many people with this kind of background, and associated attitudes to horses, tend to have what one can call, very un-technically, as a lovey dovey idea about horses, they kind of see them as a giant My Little Pony. And I think all of what could be considered the gentle side of NH, that is to say only half of the picture as I was taught at least, appeals to these types of people. They don’t like the other side, that you have to get a horse’s respect and keep it type of stuff. And additionally, since they don’t have a job to get done with their horses, they have the luxury of being able to keep it as a pet; the roof over their head doesn’t depend on their ability to get the horse to do its job. And this is where I think all of this “groom your horse to bond with it” or “give it treats and it will love you” and “my horse loves me so much” bullsh#$ comes from; and why it seems that many of these people have horses that walk all over them, sometimes literally.
As for what seems to be excessive ground work, you could be right, in fact I think when these people have a horse and try to “gain its trust” or create a “spiritual bond” with it, they are really just teaching their horse that it can do whatever the hell it wants because these people get it in their head that things necessary to gain a horses respect are mean or even abuse, and they haven’t paid attention to everything people like Parelli have to say; they pick the nice friendly fluffy stuff and ignore the stuff that is about getting respect and making a horse toe the line. They think if they just love their horse more and groom it more, or whatever, it will come to love them. So it gets pushy and they think they have to love it more, get a bit scared of it and don’t want to ride it.