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What 'natural horsemanship' means to me

This is a discussion on What 'natural horsemanship' means to me within the Natural Horsemanship forums, part of the Training Horses category

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        02-01-2013, 11:56 PM
      #11
    Banned
    Good post, Cherie. Thank you :)
         
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        02-02-2013, 12:14 AM
      #12
    Weanling
    Great post Cherie! I found your comment about how horses' intelligence levels pertain to the training process very interesting.
         
        02-02-2013, 07:59 AM
      #13
    Showing
    I have often gone into the pasture and just stood beside the horse facing the same direction as he. I will stand by his shoulder which now places him in the leadership role. He will remain like that for a couple of minutes then will back up and make me the dominant one.He is consistent with this role. He doesn't want to dominate.
         
        02-02-2013, 08:58 AM
      #14
    Super Moderator
    But, if you actually stood touching your horse, it would either lay its ears back or shake it head to 'push' you away (dominant horse) or it wold step away from your touch. Most of them will not just stand there even if they are touched by another horse. It was these quiet observations that shaped most of my opinions.

    I don't think most horses want to dominate either. I think most of them are a lot happier with a strong herd leader I think what most horses want is the security of a strong capable leader and to know they will have the 'sameness' they crave.

    I also think that trainability has little to do with intelligence. I think it has much more to do with how easily a horse is intimidated and how much they are sensitive to and do not like 'touch'.

    I think these things are what make horses sensitive to training techniques. In reality, 'rough' trainers and 'light' trainers are doing the same thing and utilizing the same equine qualities. The light trainer is just a lot better at it by realizing that only a very light touch is needed. So the light trainer has a lot more sensitive horse that requires much less pressure. The better a person is at this, the lighter and the happier their horses are and the better they are at training in my book.

    The person that is inconsistent really confuses a horse. The horse thinks that they have figured out how to get relief or release of pressure and and the person confuses them by doing something different at different times. The trainers or owners that have very obedient and very consistent horses have them that way because THEY are consistent and the horse can expect release of pressure when it does the right thing. This is one of the reasons I KNOW that people that think an obedient horse is a mindless bullied zombie are far from good handlers and know little about horse's natural way of thinking. THEY are the ones that do not understand what 'natural horsemanship' actually is.

    I can tell how good a trainer is by how much resistance their horses have (how obedient they are) and how happy their horses are. Their horses tell me much more than they do.

    When people time after time after time have trouble with their horses, I know that the horse has a 'people problem' and person does not really have a 'horse problem'.

    The occasional naturally dominant horse that is not intimidated by a person can be a really tough nut to crack early on as spoiled horses can also be. The quicker you establish respect and your proper place in their 'pecking order', the quicker they look to you for release of pressure and the less pressure it takes.
         
        02-02-2013, 10:01 AM
      #15
    Yearling
    Yep. I think one of the best things I ever got through my skull when dealing with horses is to just leave them alone.
         
        02-02-2013, 01:04 PM
      #16
    Started
    Wonderful thread!
    Good common "horse sense"
         
        02-04-2013, 06:33 PM
      #17
    Weanling
    While I agree with most of what has been posted, I think the matter of a horse enjoying or not enjoying touch is personal preference on the horse's behalf. I have met horses that totally shun human contact and others that seem to crave it, right now I own two that seem to be extreme cases of both ends of the spectrum, and I do think it effects the training methods that are suited for each horse.

    My Fargo loves to rest his head in my hands and let me stroke his cheeks or forehead. He will stand with his head in my arms for as long as I want to keep up the contact. He presents areas of his body he wants rubbed and "asks" for scratching at times. He also enjoys just hanging out without touching, and on rare occasions will refuse my affections, but for the most part he seeks contact with me. He also really likes to have contact with the reins and behaves almost insecurely when I ride bridleless. He loves rubbing and petting as a reward.

    Whereas Indiana, my retired pony never wants to be touched, he tolerates grooming and only seems to enjoy contact when he needs something scratched while bug season is at it's worst. With him I respect his desire to be left alone, even though for years I wished he would let me display my affections. In his case he HATES bit contact(he was given to me because he had developed the habit of bucking whenever a rider touched a rein.) The biggest turning point in being able to ride him safely was when the bridle came off, he responded far better to body cue and taps from a stick than to the reins. I was able to reintroduce the reins to him after we established body cues well enough that the reins were rarely needed in communication. I learned to leave Indi alone as a reward for him.

    To me natural horsemanship also has to do with identifying the natural tendencies of each individual horse, as well as understanding them as a species.
         
        02-10-2013, 03:50 AM
      #18
    Weanling
    Hi There Cherie.


    I don't do much posting on this forum, and I am pretty new anyway, but I have a question.

    I would like to comment on one of your points. You said your horses don't like contact and so you don't do much petting or whatever. (Atleast that was the impression I got. It could be wrong)

    So in that case am I right to infer that you refrain from touching your horse as little as possible, making contact only when you need to, say to give an aid, put on a saddle or adjust a halter?

    In that case, could it be possible that the reason your horses dislike touch is because the only touch they get they associate with work, or pressure, and a horse that is touched regualarly in a positive sort of way may not be so tensed againest it, and even come to enjoy petting or scrating?

    I don't want to offend you in anyway, I am new (only a few months) experience to the world of NH and my question is being asked in the politest way possible.
         
        02-10-2013, 08:18 AM
      #19
    Foal
    Totally agree with the OP
         
        02-10-2013, 09:41 AM
      #20
    Super Moderator
    You're not offending me in any way. It is a reasonable question. Let me explain it further.

    Horses do not NATURALLY like to be touched. A touch from another horse makes most of them move. In observing herd behavior, I see about all of them move away accept when they decide to engage in mutual grooming. Initially, a touch from a person makes them move if you can even touch them at all even if you are the one that feeds them.

    Horses must be CONDITIONED to accept touch. Obviously, a part of training is to TEACH or CONDITION horses to accept touch or we would be unable to put on a halter or groom them or do much of anything with them. Each person has to decide how much of this CONDITIONING they want a horse to accept. Obviously, no conditioning results in a wild, scared, untouchable horse that is really difficult to get to do anything you want or need. But, this SHOULD be a conscious decision. The less you CONDITION them to this, the more NATURAL they stay and your program can stay.

    Now comes the hard part: How much TOUCH or CONTACT do you want a horse to be CONDITIONED to? For me, this is a very conscious decision. I decide early on how SENSITIVE I want a horse to be. When I was training reining, reined cowhorse and cutting horses, I got them gentle and easy to handle, CONDITIONED them to accept everything they NEEDED to accept, but did little scratching and petting. The more SENSITIVE they were, the less pressure was needed to be applied to get them to move away from it. So, it was a lot easier and more pleasant for both horse and rider if they were not 'leaning into petting' and were left more NATURAL and more SENSITIVE TO TOUCH. There is a fine balance between having a horse that has learned to love being petted on and a horse that is very light and responsive, listens and has good manners. If this was not so, we would not see all of the posts on tis forum asking about horses that knock people down, rub on people, step on feet and refuse to move over or back up when asked. These are NOT pleasant horses to train and seldom become top show horses or really impressive cowhorses or reiners.

    Is this making any sense. How many of you have heard experienced horsemen and trainers say "I would rather train an untouched horse than a 'pocket pony' or pet?" This is because a PET has been so conditioned to be petted (made worse by hand feeding and letting them rub on you) that you or a trainer have to apply SO MUCH pressure to make them move that you frequently have to be very rough with them or they just stay DULL and INSENSITIVE. A good trainer can be much kinder and NATURALLY LIGHTER with an untouched horse than a PET. A happy medium for me is a horse that accepts touch but has not been conditioned to like it so much that they have become insensitive.

    When I am halter breaking a baby, I scratch it on its 'itchy spot'. This is the spot that runs from its shoulder to its withers. This is the 'mutual grooming' spot that horses love. So, while making the foal have good manners, I can get them to accept touch (and me as a 'herd member') and turn that into accepting me putting on a halter and being touched and rubbed. I can soon walk up to them. Once I can do that, I handle them very little until they go into training. I want them sensitive to touch and pressure. I just want them GENTLE enough to handle.

    [This is why you never see me answering a post about "What can I do with my yearling?" My answer would be to just leave them alone and let them grow up. Put them in the biggest pasture you can with the roughest, most varied terrain to help them develop good feet and legs and strong muscles and leave them the heck alone. Not a very popular answer, I'm afraid, so I just stay away from such threads.]

    When I train horses to be trail horses and general saddle horses, I want them to be gentle enough to touch, but do not want them to be pets. I will go through all of their schooling while they are very sensitive. Some horses are pretty 'aloof' and are always very sensitive and really never learn to like to be touched. That does not bother me at all. I like them and respect their very nature. BUT, in selling trail horses and saddle horses I have found that most recreational riders want a 'pocket pony'. So, I CONDITION these horses AFTER THEY ARE PRETTY WELL TRAINED (and my trail horses I use myself) to not only ACCEPT but to LIKE contact. I can simply do this by scratching their 'itchy spot' when they come up to me IN THE PASTURE and the more wary ones will get a cattle cube right after I put their halter on. I work on training first just because it is easier (and I can stay much lighter) if they learn to move from pressure when they are more 'wary' or even a little 'goosy'. I can always teach them to "like' contact.

    People often confuse a horse being a PET with a 'BOND'. I consider a BOND to be when a horse is really TUNED IN to what I am thinking and want and they do it before I even ask. They trust my judgement even when I ask them to do something they would not naturally do. They go where I want them to go even though they really do not want to go there. They ACCEPT what I want without pushing back or having to be convinced. I can use 'LIGHT' imperceptible 'aids'. They TRUST me totally and are happy about it -- ears up and working, alert but not fearful, tail relaxed and 'quiet', not nervous or tense. And when I ask for something, an ear briefly points back toward me and the response is instant without any resistance or tensing up and absolutely no fear. This is definitely not a 'mindless zombie', is it?

    But, behind it all, a horse NATURALLY does not want to be touched. So the more you respect that NATURAL quality of a horse and learn to work WITH it, the more NATURAL you can keep your training techniques and the less pressure you have to apply to get the desired response.
         

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