You're asking some interesting questions and I for one would be very interested to read the final product of your research! 1. Do you feel horses have influenced who you are? If so, how?
Many things that I've learned about myself and about life have come through my association with horses. In fact I give the horse credit for helping me to develop most of what I consider my better qualities as a human being - because of the things I've had to learn in order to become better with them. 2. “Horses are a portal into nature.” Do you agree with this statement? Why /why not?
Absolutely. There really is no separation between the two and I believe that in part the role they play in our lives is to afford us this opportunity to bridge the gap between ourselves
and nature. In many ancient cultures they had a way of expressing this by thinking of the horse as a carrier and messenger between the two worlds. In a sense spiritual, but also in a real way. By their nature they can awaken some pretty interesting feelings in us from curiosity and inspiration to primal fear! Or another way of saying it might be, because he's closer to his basic nature he draws us closer to ours. 3. How would you describe your way of working with your horse(s)?
Always fluid, always changing, hopefully always growing. Ride as if nothing your horse does could be wrong and treat him as if it were impossible to fail. There's beauty in any stage of a horse's development whether he's young, green, older, spoiled or not. So long as you're progressing. So long as he's a little better than he was, so long as he FEELS a little better about things than he did, it is a great victory. Work for the perfection of everything all the time, but not too hard. Ride from your center to the horse's center, outwards. My hands and feet are extremities and if I'm riding well that day are the last things to communicate with my horse rather than the first. When you can bring it all in to the center and ride from there, no one will be able to see what you do. It'll become like a well-kept secret just between the two of you. Become a horseman. 4. How would you describe your relationship with your horse(s)?
An aggregate of all the little things we do together which combine to make up the whole picture. Feeding, grooming, trimming their feet, petting, doing groundwork, saddling and riding are all just different aspects of the same thing and are all reflective of one another. My horses are all mirrors, and to see them thrive is an indisputable indicator that I'm doing my job right. And of course, the reverse is also true! At the end of the day though, I hope that we're both friends and partners who work well together. 5. If you come from a ‘traditional’ background and you identify yourself with ‘natural horsemanship’, could you explain why you made the switch and if it has changed your relationship with your horse, how you perceived this change.
The term 'natural horsemanship' has many different meanings depending on who you ask. There is a trademarked "Natural Horsemanship" or "Parelli Natural Horsemanship (PNH) that's specific to Pat Parelli and co., but also 'natural horsemanship' is an umbrella term to describe an extremely loose confederation of horsemen and ideas loosely joined by the common bond of having been influenced by Ray Hunt, Tom and Bill Dorrance and their students. If that's not complicated enough, natural horsemanship is also used to describe all of the various packaged and marketed horse training programs and what the RFD-TV clinicians do. So it's not easy to even define what "NH" really means. But that doesn't answer your question.
For myself, I came from a background working in racing and showing barns which is a very different world. My introduction into 'natural horsemanship' came through an old Clinton Anderson 10-tape VHS set called "Starting Under Saddle" featuring Boomerang (lol) the wild mustang. I was impressed by what Clinton got done with Boomerang and decided that I wanted to be that good myself so I pretty much just started studying and practicing! In the ensuing 10 or so years as my knowledge has grown my interests have broadened to studying other teachers as well as researching my own experiences through different horses and it has certainly changed my relationship with them. I've gone through so many transitions in thinking and perception that today horses aren't even the same animal to me that they were 10 years ago. That's a part that's difficult to put into words, and this answer has gotten long enough anyway.
I will say this though about the packaged-for-sale methods like Clinton's - it reminds me of a quote by the 16th century Japanese master swordsman Miyamoto Musashi which goes: "commercialism does nothing to enhance the reality of truth, though it can lead one to the start of the path".
6. If you identify as being part of the natural horsemanship community; has being part of this larger community influenced you in anyway?
I personally enjoy the company of different kinds of horse people and don't strictly speaking identify myself with any particular style. Though it's also true to say that from everyone I learn something or am influenced in some way, in any number of ways. It's a way of life and there are certainly worse places to be. =)
Hey, thanks for the questions. It's so dang fun talking about this stuff I done got carried away!