What 'natural horsemanship' means to me
Let me tell you what 'natural horsemanship' means to me. I just really think of it as common sense horsemanship teaching horses the way they are meant to learn. We can condition them to a lot of things, but the more closely we stay with what is 'natural' to them, I think the less resistance and less confusion we have to work past. I think everything we do that is NOT a natural way for them to learn just makes it more difficult to get to a happy, willing outcome. I think when a horse does something wrong or really 'bad' by out standards, a person has does something wrong first, often-times with good intentions.
I grew up spending every minute I had working with any horse I could get near and watching anyone that had well trained horses. This was in the late 1950s. I watched a dressage and jumping trainer from Germany (came over after 1936 Olympics) that was very harsh. I watched, and years later worked little with, a Polish dressage trainer that also fled Hitler. He was much kinder and got a lot more done in my opinion and he had a LOT happier horses. I watched cowboys that 'broke' horses like it was all a big rodeo. Definitely not what I wanted nor did I ever find it necessary or advantageous.
I was convinced that you could 'teach' a horse to do anything he was capable of doing. So I watched and worked and handled and rode any horse that anyone would let me handle or ride. I soon found out I had a 'knack' to get more done than all of the professionals around where I lived. By 13, people were paying me to ride their horses.
I watched herd behavior and saw how horses responded to each other. They validated everything I had figured out.
When clinicians started doing the kinds of things I had done for a long time, I thought - "Gee. Why do they think they invented this. This is how horses have always learned if someone just tried to teach them."
I also figured out that I needed to train two totally different ways. One way for horses that were not spoiled and a completely different way to stop bad behavior and 'retrain' spoiled horses. I found out that you needed to not only 'interrupt' what you did not want but you had to find a more definitive and effective punishment for behaviors that a horse did not want to give up.
I figured out that a horse craves constant and predictable responses. A horse likes 'sameness'. When I read that a horse is bored, I know that either the rider is bored or is irritating the horse. This is also why a spoiled horse will often times fight tooth and nail to continue the same wrong behavior.
I also figured out that horses really do not naturally like 'contact' -- even with other horses unless they are mutually grooming each other. They can be taught to accept and eventually like people contact, but when they have not been handled a lot, the thing they like best is to not touch them.
I am convinced that many species are smarter. I have trained cows (some to ride) and I think they are smarter. I have raised bison (have 2 now) and they are a lot smarter. Pigs are the smartest of any animal I have been around (also proven by scientific testing).
I think horses are the most useful and 'trainable' of all these animals because they are easily intimidated and naturally do not like to be touched. I think that is why a touch or 'pressure' can easily cause an action or movement and the withdrawing of the pressure or touch 'release' or 'relief' is the only reward a horse needs.
As a prey animal, pressure is always a threat and the withdrawing or release of that pressure is the relief. Food is never a reward. Yes, it can be conditioned into any animal including a prey animal like a horse, but it is not 'natural'. It is a taught response. So, to me, it is not nearly as natural and not nearly as effective as the release of pressure.
I have also found out that when you replace the pressure with a 'non-pressure' stimulus like a smooch or body language (like horses do to each other) instead of a touch (kick, whip, spur or???) you have a happier horse. Horses to not start wringing their tails from a smooch or from using body language like they do from too much contact with whip, heel or spur.
I think most people 'over-think' training and over-think a horses reasoning ability. Horses respond in a very basic and rudimentary way when you understand how they teach each other how to be an accepted herd member. Their thinking, to me, if very simple and basic and VERY predictable.
If we stay light with our stimulus, a light touch of only an ounce or two is all it takes to teach a horse to move away from that pressure. We are dealing with a very thin skinned animal with so many nerve endings in their skin and the ability to move and flinch their skin, that a fly elicits a response from most horses. Why would a person have to use more pressure than that? I think horses are many times more sensitive to pressure than any other animal I have worked with and much more sensitive than people. They just naturally do not like touch. I am convinced they have to be taught to tolerate it. I am convinced that all of the petting and feeding treats and praise are less effective than releasing pressure. I am convinced that all of this is for people and not a benefit for horses although they can be conditioned to it.
So, Now, all of the people who are convinced otherwise can respond.
Won't get any debate from me, I agree with you :D.
I'll respond although I'm not convinced otherwise - I agree wholeheartedly, and think this is outstanding, scientific, and sheer common sense. Very well done!
I think when I think of natural horsemanship, I think "riding without a bra"! :rofl::rofl::rofl:
I think that observation about horses not liking being touched is very interesting. That's the firsdt time I've heard anyone say that. . that by their very nature, they dont' like contact of any kind , except mutual grooming of an itchy place.
I wont' disagree with that. I think that it's probably true. I wish it weren't so, because I always want to pet and "hold" Zulu's face, but he doesn't like it. It's like seeing a really adorable baby or kitten , and not being allowed to touch it.
I agree with the idea of horses liking sameness. This is also hard for humans to understnad, becuase we want to "demonstrate" our affection or other emotion, and we think we need to "do" something, all the time, especially to reward the horse and let them know we love them. So, we end up intruding on the thing they love most; being left in peace.
I will say that there is one thing that I think horses DO like and it's something we can use to help us satisfy our need to demonstrate our love for them. That is , horse like to BE with others. Just BE with them. So, just BEing next to the horse, in a state of calmness and peace, brings security to the hrose, and that's about the most desireable trait in a companion, in the eyes of a horse.
Although you look a lot younger than I do, we are of similar age (5 pts.). I, also, have been using NH for over 50 years - long before it was called NH. You are correct - it is mostly common sense and studying and learning the nature of horses - how they communicate, respond, and react. In my opinion, commercial trainers have used and abused the term NH to describe their method of shortcut training that does no more than attack symptoms without addressing the underlying causes, thus is only temporary rather than permanent training. True NH does not invoke short cuts - it is a step by step process with progress dictated by the horse, and its results are both effective and permanent. Just my opinion, of course...
I agree with everything you have said completely :-)
I truly believe this is completely WHY I can get so much out a horse so quickly without a fight or even an argument. I am the 'herd of two leader' and I want his trust and I have figured out how to get it.
Do you see the difference?
You misunderstood me. I meant that for the HUMAN, the rider or handler, to just BE with the horse, without touching, cuddling or in any way interrupting the unchangingness, was what a horse likes. Not bringing any emotion except calmness , security and self confidence.
I did not mean to have another horse nearby.
I was envisioning how yesterday, when I went to check on the horses, Zulu walked all the way up to the water tank right beside me. whenever I reached out to touch him, I could sense that I had interrupted the "steadiness" and "sameness" of the slow, rythmic walk we had been doing, together. So, that was not a comfort to zulu.
at the water tank, they drank and I sat by the tank, afterwhich they stood around me and nuzzled me a bit (for treats) and then just stood nearby with cocked legs and I just sat , with cocked legs, and it felt like the horses were in the place they are happiest, which made me happy. the happiness of NOTHING.
But then again, I'm not a hugger either even if some people are. That's just how things are.
However if you just watch horses, they usually don't touch unless they need to communicate or have a scratch. They graze side by side, not cheek to cheek.
Good post from the OP, I still have to read it properly though.
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