I have my (recently put under saddle) arab colt with a great trainer who uses about half natural horsemanship and half not, which I think is a great combo. I am wondering what kind of things I should focus on with training my horse so that I can ride him tackless someday. I want to prepare him to not be dependent on artificial aids. How do I do this? I know the basic things to do, like not relying on reins to signal him things, etc. but are there any specific strategies that you guys know of?
I admire your desire to continue using NH.
It is a massive topic and I would have gotten nowhere without the support of a good program and good instruction. I am not going to try and sell a particular system to you, it is partly personal choice and partly matter of access.
In the UK we are lucky to have a fair few Parelli instructors, and we are not a very big island so the concentration is pretty high. I can think of 4 or 5 within 1 hours drive of my house. (I even play with one instructors little pony to learn how to start to harness :) ) As a result my wife and I follow the Parelli program.
Of course there are many other programs but I would suggest you hunt around in your local area and find an instructor you a) like b) trust and c) does a program you can relate to.
It would be possible to combine many different programs of course, but I think for starters it would be easier to stick with one, and then when you have some knowledge and experience explore other clinicians. Most of the ideas are pretty similar with slightly different emphasis and different language to explain the same concept or technique. (e.g Chris Cox refers to "creating softness", but James Roberts referred to "removing brace").
When it comes down to it good horsemanship is good horsemanship and it doesn't matter if it has the NH label or not. Heck, Tom Dorrance didn't do NH as the term wasn't invented back then but I wouldn't hold that against him ! Mark Rashid flatly refuses to call his method Natural Horsemanship and he says riding a horse is not natural. He is still one of the best clinicians and writers out there.
I know this doesn't give specific advice you may be after, but I hope it will help you think about what you need to do to start in NH. Good luck and stick with it. It is tremendous fun and without the ideas I would not have gotten back into horses at all.
Being able to ride your horse tackless one day is an admirable goal. Many people were inspired a few years ago by the video of Stacey Westfahl riding her reining mare without tack. Stacey has said that it took about 1600 hours of training time to reach that point. If she had worked with her mare 1 hour a day 365 days a year, it would have taken her over 4 years. And Stacey is a professional horse trainer with years of training experience.
The most important thing for any horse - whether or not you aspire to ride without tack - is that the horse is given a good, solid foundation in the basics so that he is able to comfortably and willingly work with his human partner.
Be consistent with his training and go at his learning curve rather than your own deadlines. Always use your aids in this order - seat first, then leg, reins last. Never steer from your reins - use them only as boundaries that tell your horse where not to go. Use your seat and leg to steer his hips and shoulders and control his bend. This way, you are teaching your horse to respond to your seat and leg cues - those work with or without a saddle.
As his responses improve AND he is able to maintain a correct frame without the reins, you can ride with less contact on the reins. While keeping the bridle on as back up, ride him with a neck rope. Every stage progresses in baby steps, with your horse's and your own safety the number one priority. Always train in a safe environment and with the help of an experienced coach/trainer.
Good luck. Have fun. And always, enjoy the journey. You'll become a better horseperson through the process.
I would say Parelli is a good place to start, and to continue with. there is lots of conflicting opinions. you can start of having a free 30 day trial with Parelli Connect you could have a good look at what involved then.
another good programme to use on the internet is Quantum Savvy.
I am jealous of people who have easy acces to PP's, in Scotland we have Elle! and I haven't managed to save enough to have her come down to me yet. there are a number of PP's who come up to Scotland to take clinics, so its great to get to watch different people.
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