This was written by Aaron Ralston
I predict most "Natural" horse people are fast approaching a "Natural Disaster"! I support the original methods made known by the Dorrance brothers, however, through the mass marketing networks, most new horse participants view "Natural" as a "Mythical" bond free of struggle and hardship. It feels good to say "I practice Natural Horsemanship". It makes you feel safe, noble and kind, but, nature isn't always safe, noble and kind.
"There is nothing Natural about horsemanship". From the first moment I heard the term "Natural Horsemanship" I have struggled to accept the term. We all interpret and filter the world to suit our ideals, therefore, I am not here to argue for one persons perception. Ultimately, I just want to think out loud to create the opportunity for myself to test the many ideas my mind creates.
I have heard it argued that the term Natural should be traced back to its root, Nature. Working with the nature of a horse is much easier for me to accept as a definition. Understanding the Nature of a horse is seeing the world from the horses perspective. Which is opposite of our primary attempt to personify our interactions with our horses. So, wouldn't Natural be the polar opposite of our Nature and therefore be considered artificial?
Again, I don't want to argue terminology as much as I want to spark a thought in a mind. As I was contemplating this idea one day, I thought about nature. Almost immediately I thought of harmony of energy, our internal empathy for safety, kindness and love, but then I thought about other sides of Nature. What about the cheetah killing the baby water buffalo? Or, What about Natural disasters? Nature can be cruel! Tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, fires, tsunami's....! In nature, we do not experience 365 days of perfect weather. Working with our horses is very similar to different weather climates, some days are sunny and others are a storm! Perhaps the hardest thing to accept about a cloudy day is the disappointment from our expectation of sunshine. But in Nature a horse lives through the struggles of the storms and learns to appreciate the sunshine. With out exposure to the storms we create a Natural horsemanship disaster. This protection from natures hardship disables a horses ability to exist in Natures Natural existence.
I am very fortunate to live in Colorado. We experience more sunny days than most climates and I believe it creates a strong positive mind. Other parts of the world have daily fog or frequent rain. I have read that these areas have a higher report of depression and negative thought. The natural climate we choose to live in or attempt to create has a direct effect on our mental outlook.
Now I have to ask the question, why create a storm for our horse? The best answer that comes to mind is a thought from author Dan Milman,"If your never sad, how do you know your happy?" The next answer I think of is from the mindset of stewardship. I owe it to my horse to teach them how to survive in a storm. If a Zoo animal is raised in a Zoo it will never be allowed to enter a natural environment. It is almost guaranteed to die when released into the wild.
Natural disasters have the greatest devastation when they occur in an area that is not prepared properly. Perhaps the results of Hurricane Katrina or the earthquakes of the feeble structured buildings of Iran can provide the importance of building a stronger resistance for the unexpected.
When exposing your horse to an artificial storm, be sure to use external stimulants to create challenges. It is very important for your horse not to associate you with the cause. Instead, you should be the answer they look for when the storm hits.
We don't have enough space here to go through my entire progression of preparing a horse for the storm, but in a very simple explanation I say, "If they take their feet away from you, take their feet away from them". If you contradict their self imposed movements consistently, then you will develop a horse that checks in with you instead of checking out.
Having control of a horses actions gives you control of their mind, therefore, entering a storm will give you and your horse confidence. Living through the storm will develop you and your horse in a way we can not duplicate through avoidance.
Don't let an unexpected storm turn into a natural disaster and be sure to enjoy the warm sunny days, but remember, a few storms make the sunny days feel even better!