What 'natural horsemanship' means to me - Page 3 - The Horse Forum
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post #21 of 37 Old 02-10-2013, 10:03 AM
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Cherie, when looking back, any idea how long it took you to recognise and walk that thin line?
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post #22 of 37 Old 02-10-2013, 04:14 PM
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I agree with Cherie's definition of Natural Horsemanship in the original post. But... honestly when I hear the phrase I picture non-sensical activities performed over a hideously extensive time period and clinicians who talk so, so, so very much.

I cannot bear them.
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post #23 of 37 Old 02-10-2013, 04:17 PM
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What does "natural horsemanship" mean to me? Well nothing really....because there is nothing natural about what we do with horses. The term "natural" is only used to make us feel better about what we ask our horses to do.
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post #24 of 37 Old 02-10-2013, 06:26 PM
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Originally Posted by GotaDunQH View Post
What does "natural horsemanship" mean to me? Well nothing really....because there is nothing natural about what we do with horses. The term "natural" is only used to make us feel better about what we ask our horses to do.

I disagree with that. If horse were wild animals and people were capturing them and riding them, assuming humans are not natural and part of the environment anyway, then this may be the case. It would be akin to getting giraffe and strapping a saddle to its back, or perhaps a zebra. What people do with horse is entirely natural as humans and horses, just like humans and dogs, have evolved for thousands of years together. Horses are not some bunch of animals that have developed in their own little world in the wilderness; they have thousands of years of domestication that has made humans a natural part of their world. In this day and age we don’t see it so much because most of us don’t rely on our animals for survival, or the animals on us for survival. I have however been lucky enough to live with people who do depend on their animals for survival and vice a versa. Where I lived, you go into the desert without your camels (and more often than not horses and goats), or they go out without you, the possibility of death awaits. When you see that kind of symbiosis all this “nothing we do with horses is natural” stuff is exposed as the urban bourgeois misunderstanding of humans and animals that it is.
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post #25 of 37 Old 02-10-2013, 06:34 PM
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Originally Posted by Cherie View Post
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.

Interesting perspective, I do think I understand where you are coming from. In my own herd though things are just the opposite.

My retired pony came from a very abusive past, he is not a pet, he hates touching of any kind. He has learned that human interaction is usually negative and shuns petting, but at the same time the purposeless rough handling made him extremely insensitive to cues.

Whereas Fargo, I have conditioned to be a pet, he was mostly wild when I adopted him. I took the time to teach him to love contact, and yet he is a million times more sensitive than my old pony ever was. Partly, Fargo is innately a very sensitive horse, but he also hasn't had the sensitivity knocked out of him. I understand your formula of training first, and I would say that is somewhat how I treat my horses; obedience and safety ALWAYS supersedes affection.

I worked for a trainer, who would not allow her students to pet or scratch their own horses, except as a reward during lessons. While those horses performed wonderfully in shows, they did not like people at all, and had what I consider, bad ground manners. The key really is balance, between affection and discipline.

Horses are masters of sensing energy. Would you agree that a horse can determine the intention of your touch?

I find my horses have no trouble differentiating between friendly rubs, and a cue asking for action. I think of it like when I was a kid, my mom would often rest her hand on my shoulder or hold my hand when we were in public, if I said or did anything out of line that friendly approving touch would change instantly. The touch wouldn't be harsher, or have more pressure, but somehow it was cold and stiff, only the energy changed, and I knew I was in trouble.

Obviously there is more to the subject of touch than just contact.

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post #26 of 37 Old 02-10-2013, 07:12 PM
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Great discussion. I see what Cherie and Fargo is saying in the last couple of posts. I personally believe that some sensitivity is natural- some horses are naturally more sensitive than others but a good majority is conditioned.

If anyone has handled a portion of untouched horses you can "feel" the ones that are naturally sensitive right from the beginning without even touching them. Because they have never been touched by human hands you get a true sense of how they are.
I found this theory to really ring true with ranch horses that are untouched and rarely seen a human until they are brought in as 3yr olds(and older) to be halter broke and started. Right from the get go you see the horse and not a conditioned response from previous contact.
Those horses do not enjoy affection. They were not conditioned to it. They are all about getting the job done and getting turned and left alone. We own two horses like that. They do not seek attention or interaction wheareas the other two we own had a different "up-bringing" before we bought them. They can very much in the middle of what your doing and the first ones to the gate if I walk in with a halter. One of them would live in the house if it was allowed..LOL. But they were raised with kids almost in a backyard setting and can really see the difference.
But having an un-affectionate or an aloof horse should not being mistaken for unbroke, wild or abused. Almost of those horses that didn't like to be touched made great horses that were plenty well broke and could hop out of a trailer to get something caught with just a halter on their head if need be, or given 5 months off for the winter, caught in the spring and hop on just like you left them in the fall.

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post #27 of 37 Old 02-10-2013, 08:00 PM
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Subbing i really like this thread. Very insightful. :)

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post #28 of 37 Old 02-10-2013, 10:34 PM
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Thank You Cherie, your explanation makes alot of sense and I do agree with much of what you have said.

However I think I personly prefer a pet horse to a working horse (Having no huge ambitions in the sport equestrian world) so shall continue with my practise of icthing scrating and loving on my horse evey chance I get. xD.
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post #29 of 37 Old 02-11-2013, 09:34 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Saddlebag View Post
Cherie, when looking back, any idea how long it took you to recognise and walk that thin line?
I figured this out pretty quickly. I was still in my teens when I started breaking a lot of horses for other people. It did not take very long to find out that untouched or barely handled horses trained a lot more quickly and with a lot less pressure. I found out that pets and spoiled horses took a LOT longer and a lot more pressure to train.

This fact was confirmed by other horsemen I visited with. They all said it was no accident that I observed that pets and very gentle horses took a lot longer to train and that it was a lot more difficult to get them really sharp and light.

This observation is what set me on my quest to figure out horse behavior and the whys and hows of the way they think and learn. A few years later I had the chance to observe large herds, with and without stallions. That was more enlightening. But, I always had an ability to think like a horse and get done what I wanted to with them. By the time I was 16 or 17 years old I was loading people's horses in little 2 horse trailers that they had tried for hours or longer to load.

I also began to observe how some horses were more trainable from the very beginning and how inheritable this quality was. I could see entire families and groups of related horses that trained much differently than other related groups.
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post #30 of 37 Old 02-12-2013, 08:00 AM
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Well---here is a new definition-at least to me. I agree very much with Cherie-but, yesterday, since I was sick, was laying around, and had RFD TV on. Craig Cameron came on, and said that HIS definition on "Natural Horsemanship" was to take his horse out of the round pen, arena, etc, and out on the trails, woods and do groundwork out there. Have to say-this is the first time I have heard that the SURROUNDINGS had to be natural!
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