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Natural Horsemanship

6547 Views 64 Replies 20 Participants Last post by  bsms
Hi everyone, I was wondering if anyone on here knows about natural horsemanship, maybe practices it with their own horse?
Who is your favorite natural horseman/ horsewomen, who've you maybe seen on youtube or at clinics?

I am just looking for good people to learn from because I am very interested in the communication of the horse.

Thanks for the answers!
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“Natural Horsemanship” became a popular phrase during the latter part of the twentieth century, particularly in the United States. Robert M. Miller, D.V.M. and Rick Lamb did a good job of researching its origins and presented their findings in the book “The Revolution in Horsemanship and What it Means to Mankind”.

The basic idea of natural horsemanship was to develop communication with the horse in ways easily and “naturally” grasped by the horse rather than making the horse comply with the desires of the human through use of force.

While the term may have been new, the concepts themselves have been used by horse trainers throughout the centuries. The earliest extant book on horsemanship, “The Art of Horsemanship” written by a Greek general named Xenophon around 400 BC presents many concepts which might fall under the umbrella of natural horsemanship. People throughout the world have used a wide variety of methods when interacting with horses. Some were outright cruel. Others were extremely considerate of horses. Most probably fell – and still fall – somewhere between the extremes.

Trainers trying to make a living often presented their methods as novel and gave them new names. If the concept became popular, others would use the same name to promote their businesses whether their methods were the same or not. This can lead to great confusion as to what a term actually represents.

Rather than depending on labels, we should look at both the results of training methods and how these results were obtained. Spectacular displays of horsemanship may be obtained by various methods. We should go beyond casual observation if we truly care about a horse’s welfare. Are the horse’s movements stiff and mechanical or soft and fluid? Does the horse appear to “enjoy” what it is doing?
 

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You may find that many serious horsemen and women have a negative reaction to the term. It has been used as a marketing name for a specific training technique for some years now. Mostly but not only by the Parellis, who seem to have a deservedly bad reputation. At least I have read and heard all kinds of stories that reflect poorly upon them and their methods. Many novices get hooked on the methods and the specialized equipment, which promise a kind of guaranteed bond of communication with your horse if you follow the guidelines correctly.

Unfortunately, the only guarantee is that you will shell out a lot of money. There are lots of Natural Horsemanship devotees who have created unrideable monsters because they limited their technique to what was on the video and wouldn't learn from the people around them who could have helped them. I think that might be part of the package -- belief that only NH has wisdom and everyone else is wrongheaded or even cruel.

The reality is, the only solid way to learn about handling horses is pretty much the way it has been done for thousands of years -- find good mentors, put in the hours, make the mistakes, add to your tool box, learn from everyone, ride ride ride. Keep following your instincts but don't close yourself off either.

Hang out with different kinds of trainers and see what does and doesn't feel right to you. Remember that as a novice you are only able to see partially -- but sometimes novices see things with fresh eyes that those embedded in a discipline can no longer see.
 

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As usual what @Avna said best, especially paragraph three.

That miserable term did not exist when my grandfather was around but kindness, being fair minded and “treat that horse the way YOU want to be treated or sit on the porch for the rest of the summer”, sure did exist.

My grandfather was around, well ahead of the Brannamans and Hunts of the horse world. I respect them but granddad could have given them all one or two tips on good and fair horsemanship.

I never saw him raise a hand in anger to a horse - he would just grab the halter, look them dead in the eye and tell them to “listen up”. Somehow that was always enough, even for the stallion. He had a way of conveying that he meant business without taking the skin off someone.

As I stated on AC’s hoof thread, granddad was the Pegasus Wings Under My feet, I wish I would have been smart enough to tell him, before he passed when I was in my 20’s —- 50-some years ago.
 

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Agree with the above posts 1000% and there is, imo just about as much cruelty & force involved in some so lables 'natural horsemanship' as there is with traditional or otherwise. But that said, I reckon Warwick Schiller is one to look up.

Also learning the principles of behavioural training & so how to effectively use positive reinforcement(rewards) in training is invaluable, no matter what specifics you choose to use.
 

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Good information here already. I think the person you need to look into is Warwick Schiller, to teach you what you're interested in. For the most part, the other "celebrity" horse trainers aren't worth trying to learn much good from, in my honest opinion. WS's youtube channel has a lot of free, very valuable information and teaching on it. Best place to start, I think.
 

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This from Avna deserves repeating and repeating again.....

"The reality is, the only solid way to learn about handling horses is pretty much the way it has been done for thousands of years -- find good mentors, put in the hours, make the mistakes, add to your tool box, learn from everyone, ride ride ride. Keep following your instincts but don't close yourself off either."
 

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"Natural horsemanship" is such a vague term that it can mean almost anything. FWIW my favorite horse author is Mark Rashid; I think he could be considered a natural horseman. However, he's not about step-by-step instruction, an amazing method that works on every horse, or tools that you have to buy. He just tells you stories about what he did and what happened afterwards, and if you learn something great, and if not that's OK too because at least it was a good story. There are layers upon layers of wisdom and compassion in his stories.
 

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"Natural horsemanship" is such a vague term that it can mean almost anything. FWIW my favorite horse author is Mark Rashid; I think he could be considered a natural horseman. However, he's not about step-by-step instruction, an amazing method that works on every horse, or tools that you have to buy. He just tells you stories about what he did and what happened afterwards, and if you learn something great, and if not that's OK too because at least it was a good story. There are layers upon layers of wisdom and compassion in his stories.
Absolutely. That style is what I like about Warwick Schiller too. No magic methods, step-by-steps, heavily marketed yet useless tools. Just simply gaining an understanding of how horses work...
 

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I like to use a little from several trainer/clinicians to train my horses. As mentioned above Warwick Schiller, also Chris Cox , Craig Cameron, Ken Mcnabb and Steve Lanvit are my favorites . They all love and respect horses and know how to get the most out of them without abuse. I really like Walkinthewalk's quote from her grandfather "treat them how you would like to be treated". I try to always use that philosophy with people and animals. It works wonderful with animals but, some people it doesn't and I don't tolerate them. I also use a phrase often " the more I am around people the more I like animals" and you can take that to the bank!
 

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Good topic and quite a loaded question if you couldn't tell :)

The reason so many people don't like "Natural Horsemanship" is because it is a marketing term. @Avna covered that pretty well.

I'll let you in on an ugly secret from the horse world. Most of the heinous stuff and inexcusable treatment of horses comes from the horse show world. Real Cowboys and track trainers aren't the abusive ones, it is the people chasing ribbons generally speaking. Not the majority fortunately, but that is where you will find it the worst.

Realize that there are so many ways to teach a horse, there is no perfect program.

To answer your question directly I'll list out some though and let you pick your own path.

Clinton Anderson:

People love him or love to hate him.

Clinton makes the list first because he has a step 1-2-3-4 etc type of program. If you don't really know where to start or what good vs. bad is in the result, Clinton is probably the best to learn from at first. He likes to talk and can fill a half hour on one exercise like nobody else in the business. The production quality of his material is highly polished and blows the rest of the horse industry out of the water, the others aren't even in the same universe.

The instructions are clear and in plain language (no technical horse speak) with detailed examples including trainer mistakes and horse mistakes for every single training exercise. He also covers differences in hot and cold horses thoroughly demonstrating each on an actual hot or cold horse for many of the exercises.

Martin Black:

Martin is a real working cowboy and ranch owner from Southwest Idaho. In my opinion, Martin Black is the real deal and possibly one of the best horseman of our time.

If you are into a deeper connection and understanding with horses his book and DVD called Evidence Based Horsemanship are a must watch/read.

Beyond that his material is about the careful process of making a bridle horse for ranch work. Some of the best out there on this huge topic if your goal is becoming a top hand on a ranch.

Craig and Cole Cameron:

Nice guys and good horsemen. If you ever meet Craig he is a fun guy and doesn't miss a single thing when it comes to what is going on with the horse or rider. He really cares about the horse but also the people and one of the few that is more into fun with than worrying about being perfect.

I'd call his style more of a Texas Cowpuncher type of horsemanship. Meaning highly practical and the handy way is the right way. Big emphasis on riding outside and making a horse more brave, gentle and handy through just riding and giving the horse something interesting to do. If you are a trail rider or want to be one, in my opinion Craig is the one to learn from as it is one of his strongest points. He loves an outdoor obstacle course like nobody I know lol.

Joe Wolter:

Actually worked for Tom & Bill Dorrance and Ray Hunt in California. Very well known around here in Texas for his work in the 6666 ranch in Texas starting crops of 2 year olds as ranch horses for the Cowboys and sale.

Not really beginner level material, but like Martin Black is probably one of the best horseman of our time. Definitely worth hearing what he has to say.

Hope that helped.
 

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jgnmoose, that was such a good and generous post. Well done! I don't follow any of these guys, but have in the past and one thing I believe you get from them that you don't get from a lot of conventional training methods is a thorough understanding of the critical value of the release. I love that you are well informed and presented your experience without the negative bias that so often follows alternative methods.
 

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Very good explanation of each trainer. I missed CA and Cole. I whole heartedly agree Craig in person is such a good guy and he does explain things so good. Cole has inherited his dads teaching ability and is such a good horseman. Cole made a comment on one of there shows that really has stuck with me. He was speaking about bringing a young horse along and he said " Don't get discouraged if you are not seeing a lot of progress at times. If you only get a 1% improvement you are fine. Just keep working them thru it." Also, Craig always tells you to work on improving yourself too with every ride and talk to your self about what you need to do to improve yourself as you ride as well as your horse.
 

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Regardless what you call it, the best kind of training is the one the horse understands. Natural horsemanship promotes understanding the horse and communicating with it on its level, which is why it's used or at least incorporated into so many training methods.

But there are other methods that do that as well, Natural Horsemanship just happens to be the coined term for tackless liberty work where training is done without excessive straps and do-hickeys. As other people said, it's a vague term. There's not really a solid definition to it.

One of the most common causes of "disrespectful" horses is that nobody's ever taken the time to actually sit down and think "alright, what does this horse need specifically?" Not what another horse needs, what this horse needs. I think it's dangerous to stick to one method and that only. Why? Because as useful as natural horsemanship or any other method is, it won't solve every problem with every horse. Some horses think differently than others. Natural horsemanship doesn't work for everyone, but as far as training goes, it's pretty close to the "ideal" method. Understanding the horse and how they naturally react to certain stimuli and then responding accordingly is an essential part of horse training. As long as you do that, you're on the right track.

Anyone who claims there's one perfect method to train every single horse on the planet is just trying to sell you something.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Thank you so much for all the replies, I truly appreciate it. I understand why people don't like the term "natural horsemanship" anymore. I have seen so many people out there use it to just make money, like for instance Parelli. I remember when everyone in my country was trying to get parelli certified etc and when I watched his videos, he explains the training as a game but he never truly explains what each one means or what the horse is truly saying, people just kinda do it and it works without telling them why it works. I remember riding at this one place and there was a horse that would bite everyone who tried to approach him, I never approached him and instead observed him in while he was in the herd. The woman who owned him had told me that she had even got out a parelli certified trainer but not even she could help the horse. I asked her what the woman had done and she said that she had just tried to be friends with the horse at first and then the horse "attacked" her. I realized then that people didn't really know how to communicate or listen to what the horse is saying and that they had bought into methods that they didn't really understand. That's why I've been searching because I truly want to help horses and their owners, I want to learn horse and then teach owners what it is to speak and hear horse.

I know about Warwick Schiller and I genuinely like him a lot because he continues to grow his understanding of horses, instead of taking a " I am the boss" approach.

I'll definitely check out some of these other trainers and see if I can get my hands on the first book of understanding and communicating to the horse. I've been learning a lot too by watching horses in herds and apply pressure and release. Every horse is definitely unique, just like us, not one way fixes all but by assessing each individual one, one can see what might work for them.
 

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I took the following quote from this blog posting: https://blog.dressagenaturally.net/dont-do-natural-horsemanship

"Being a natural horseman is about being in the moment with your horse instead of being distracted by the future and beating yourself up about the past. Being a natural horseman is about being present and aware of yourself so you can see the cause and effect of what you do with your horse."

And I truly think this is what all good horsemanship boils down to - being truly in the moment, and understanding what action to take with your horse and the effect it will have. And I believe it is important to know and understand the difference between effect and result in this instance, because I believe they are different.
 

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to just make money, like for instance Parelli. ... he explains the training as a game but he never truly explains what each one means or what the horse is truly saying,
I learned about Parelli over 30yrs ago, when I was... well, I thought I was really experienced but in hindsight... and I thought Parelli was simply amazing. And I also didn't think I was a Parelli fanatic at the time but... I've been well and truly off that 'wagon' for decades since, but probably about 10 years ago I looked into his stuff again, to see what I thought when I did have a bit of a clue. I do find the original, basic principles he taught mostly sound & helpful. - I do find that for whatever 'methods'(for eg. 'clicker training' is a good one to look into) the specific exercises, equipment etc aren't so important, but understanding the *principles* behind it all is SO important. And I think he did originally have 'his heart in the right place' as far as teaching people to be better FOR their horses. But what with the 'guru trip' and the money making trip, I think his intentions got lost along the way. And I was not impressed by all his new stuff.

I realized then that people didn't really know how to communicate or listen to what the horse is saying and that they had bought into methods that they didn't really understand.
Yep, and I think people are generally 'conditioned' to have blind faith - be that in 'experts' or products, or... whatever. We are conditioned to just accept and follow the instructions of 'they who know'(or can at least 'talk the talk') and 'no yeah-buts'. If you have to boil it down to 2 things I think are most important to teach my kids, that would be critical thinking and respect - that is, not just for people, but the whole world. Don't think you can go too far wrong with those values firmly instilled.

So... by all means look into different trainers - I have been seeing articles by a Neil Davies thru FB that may be worth your looking into btw - but also look into the theory 'building blocks' behind being good with horses, such as ethology & equine bodylanguage and behavioural psychology, to enable you to better understand & make the most of whatever you learn from whatever trainer/method.
 
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