What IS Natural Horsemanship? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 5 Old 04-17-2009, 11:42 PM Thread Starter
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What IS Natural Horsemanship?

I don't get it D:

I 'connect' with my horses a lot. Vocal cues and body signals are my preferred way of communication. Sometimes I get rather loud (like when Loki has his nose in Red's grain bucket) but it works. It'd be nice to improve it even more.

Is Natural Horsemanship a way of training your horse through bonding...?

Wait! I'll fix it....
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post #2 of 5 Old 04-18-2009, 12:23 AM
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The way I understand Natural Horsemanship is just using your body language to communicate. Like you're talking to him as another horse in his herd as opposed to a person. Does that make sense? Other than that, I really have no understanding of it, lol.

"Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds."
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post #3 of 5 Old 04-18-2009, 01:18 AM
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Natural Horsemanship is basically common horse sense.

It's been around for centuries, but just recently called NH by Pat Parelli. I believe he coined the phrase and it stuck because it sounds luvy-duvy. But the basic ideas have been around since forever. Just a little background on it:

Cowboy Tom Dorrance brought it the public over thirty years ago with the help of Ray Hunt who was one of many to influence Pat Parelli, John Lyons, Clinton Anderson, Chris Cox, Craig Cameron, Etc....who've taken it farther to invent clinics and symposiums to educate more people about how to work with a horse without pain or force.

It's just basically a set of basic foundation ideas that says: treat the horse more humanely. there's no reason to be cruel to the horse (using painful methods to force the horse to submit for example)

Here's just a simple list of what it means to me:

1)being open to trying to see the world through the horse's point of view not your own. so that means replacing the "my horse is being stubborn" with my communication skills are lacking somewhere and my horse is telling me that I've got to figure out how to make it so he does understand what I'm telling him.

2) stead of force you use communication. so, if your horse doesn't lead well but steps into you, replace yanking/jerking on the halter to punish him for stepping into you with showing him there is always pressure when he steps in toward you (via a rope twirl to tell him to back up or he'll run into the twirling line). but when he doesn't step into your space, he gets no pressure, so he learns to be willing to stay out of your space.

3) not taking things personal and getting angry and lashing out at the horse for "acting up" but instead redirecting negative energy/behavior with what you do want. Focus on what you DO want not on what you DON'T want. So not bothering with telling your horse: "don't do this! stop that! don't do that!" instead, you tell him to take that energy (negative/nervous) and do this or that.

So, if a horse is rearing, stead of fighting or getting upset. wait til all four feet come back down and continue to tell the horse to back up or to go forward or whatever it is you want. giving the horse a release of pressure when he gets the "right" answer.

4) Realizing that your energy, positive or negative will directly result in wanted or unwanted behavior. Your horse is a mirror reflection of you. So, if you are high strung/anxious/nervous/mad, etc... your horse will reflect that.

So, if your horse is scared of everything as you ride down the trail and you tend to ride by gripping with your legs and holding the reins tight, you're part of the problem. Compared to if the horse is anxious, you instead redirect that nervous energy and ask the horse to do this and that and that and this with moments of release = your focus is on what you do want = your horse focuses on that too = nervous energy goes down and is put to better use.

5) You understand that it's not about "showing em who's boss" but about showing the horse through consistent repetition of cues, what you want and giving the horse the chance to think about it and let him respond in his own time.

so, if you've got a horse that's aggitated, you take the time to baby step through the lesson, reward the slightest try with a release of pressure and build on that and you don't bully the horse to do things like if the horse isn't going forward, you don't punch him in the sides with your heels but instead you disengage his hips to get a forward step and build on that to get him to go forward consistently.

6) You accept that the horse is never wrong and he doesn't lie. Horses will tell you what your real skill level is and he doesn't plot against you. He lives in the now and he only knows what is. that means, if your horse is always giving you trouble, he's trying to tell you that what you're doing is wrong and you need to find a different way to ask for him to understand and accept.

for example, if the horse always spooks at stuff and jumps into you as you lead him, if you always just slap him....and he does this every now and then....then slapping him clearly doesn't work and you need to find a better way of curing the issue stead of just living with it.

7) It's about "uniting the horse and rider into one working unit of both mind and body" (Ray Hunt quote). Which means,...you want to work to get to the point where the horse actually works off your thought....using the lightest amount of pressure, you're in sync. Using simple consistent repetitive cues, you get the horse to understand you and what you want from him, by earning his trust and respect in ways that he understands and can accept.

8) Slow is Fast. Taking the time to go at the horse's pace not at your pace = the lessons are long lasting

9) Using the horse's natural instincts:
-herd instinct to be a follower of another
-amazing adaptability to change (you can screw things up and still fix em and the horse is amazingly forgiving)
-extreme sensitivity to change (he can "read" your mood/your body language, every little change in you and process it as either leadership quality or not)
-living in the moment

10) teaching the horse one body part at a time to respond correctly.
so, let's say you're having trouble asking your horse to leave the barn (on the left) and you want to turn to the right. Instead of fighting with his head and pulling on the reins to force him to turn, you pick up the right rein to ask the right hip to turn left (hip is now facing the barn and his head is facing away) = less to no resistance and you are working on softening his body

11) softness through less is more. Less equipment/tools. You don't need anything other than:
-halter (doesn't have to be rope halter!)
-long line
-bridle with a plain full cheek or d ring snaffle bit (you never have to go out of the snaffle regardless of what you want to do. which goes against the traditional view of bits)....of course, if you're showing, the ancient rules still state that you need a shank bit. but that means you can ride in a shank for 2 weeks before the show and in a snaffle the rest of the time to keep the softness that only a snaffle (lateral bit) offers vs the (vertical give) curb.

12) It's basically a more psycological way of viewing the horse as an individual who shouldn't be forced through pain, bullying or gimmicks to respond correctly. Just pressure. Release of pressure. Timing. Feel. Communication. See it through his eyes, not yours.

Last edited by Calamity Jane; 04-18-2009 at 01:25 AM.
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post #4 of 5 Old 04-18-2009, 05:30 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the replies everyone ^^ I defiantly want to apply these techniques to both my younger and older geldings. My nine year old (Loki) will push my three year (Red) off his grain just as soon as he is done with his.

Thankfully Red only has a bite or two left and so it isn't like he's stealing the whole bucket (he used to though, at their old stable, poor Red looks terrible still D:)

It would certainly encourage the relationship with my No Touchy! Red Man and definitely help with communication and respect (he likes to ignore me under saddle -.-) with Loki.

Wait! I'll fix it....
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post #5 of 5 Old 04-21-2009, 06:23 PM
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I think you and your horses will really benefit. not to mention, it really gives you a different, much clearer view of the horse as is.
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