Hi, I'm new to the board but not new to methods of communication from humans to animals and animals to human, this is my big post #2.
A lot of people get tied up mentally while researching and practicing a natural approach to horse training or better yet, simply trying to get an understanding of their horse.
What I have found personally to be the best approach is to step back and start from square one. Forget everything you have ever read or heard about horses and take a mental time out from all of the hype. You need to clear your mind from others directions and first unlock your own understanding. You can read from others for years and not make a connection yourself, so why not make your initial understanding first?
The next time you see your horse, observe first. Watch your horse walk, stand, eat and have no interaction. Marvel at the simple sight of your horse and notice how your horse interacts with its surroundings.
This is one of the first things I did with my horse. I would notice what he likes, what he dislikes and it was more than simply seeing oh he likes to eat grass, or oh he doesn't like doing a certain task. It was way deeper than the "obvious" things. Look deeper and really understand your horses reactions. If your horse is eating and another horse whinnys, does he stop eating? Does he whinny back? Simple but deep signs.
You may ask me, tom, what does this have to do with anything? My answer: Understanding the core of your horses personality and how he/she reacts to its surroundings is the basis for making a connection with your horse. It can be a connection just standing next to you horse, while riding, training, etc. All of what I just mentioned happens WAY AFTER. The important things are understanding your horse and apply your horses likes and dislikes to how you act. All of us take the small things for granted and immediately jump to the end of the road. Dive into the small things, like spending time with your horse, and not just grooming or riding. Take time out to do what they do. Enjoy the land, roam around and work in a herd hierarchy. Become a part of the herd and see where you fit in. This is step #2.
Once you understand your horses personality and you can conform to how he/she reacts you are really on the road to success with practicing natural horsemanship.
I can only explain it as simple as this:
If you were at a party and your friends did not show, you were all alone. You would immediately scope out your surroundings. There would be a lot of crowds or cliques in the room. Where do you fit in? You would naturally be drawn to one area of the party and at that area you would apply your personality. This is the start of a friendship.
If you have a horse that's not listening to you or couldn't even care that you were alive at that moment, you may be incompatible. But if you have a love for this horse and want to work on a friendship it's a two way street. Chances are your energy and the things you're doing around your horse are sending a message. Similar to a jock and a geek. (And no I'm not calling you OR your horse a Jock or Geek!) Well how do you interact properly? That comes from really understanding your horse but it doesn't stop there.
You also need to understand that your horse is a living being just like you. It's not "Me Me Me", It's "My Horse and I".
Give your horse an opportunity to really get to know you. You may spend 12 hours a day with your horse and he/she will still not truly know you for you. It seems silly, but spending "still time", time where you simply relax and let everything be is very important. No grooming, no rushing to tack up, no worrying about hiking out to a pasture. Enjoying your surroundings with nature and enjoying the simple company with your horse will start you out right for any natural horsemanship style/course you'd like to practice. But I guarantee you will find that you yourself have the power right now to teach yourself your own version of natural horsemanship.