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I was wondering about Natural Horsemanship trainers. I know a lot of time is spent on the forums rating them but I am wondering if maybe it is our needs as potential students that determines how effective a training method is as opposed to the trainer themselves.


16 or so years ago my first foray into Natural Horsemanship was via Pat Parelli. Maybe a big part of this was simply because in NZ he was kind of the first really commercial, relatively easily accessible trainer in the field of NH. Regardless of how I found him, at that stage of my life I really resonated with his teachings (I bought the box set - but not the carrot stick lol). Looking back at myself I realize how terrified I was of training a horse. I was breaking in my first young horse and was so lacking in confidence that the Parelli push button, step by step method felt like a life line. I learned a lot, but ultimately I experienced more failure than success. For some reason my young head strong colt refused to respond in quite the same way as the well schooled horse demonstrated in the PP video's lol.


I moved on.


My next attempt at breaking in a horse went so much better - so many early failures had helped me no end. I had matured a lot and no longer felt like it was a disaster if I didn't get the instant results sold by PP. I started broadening my reading and ended up stumbling across Buck Brannaman. At this time I really resonated with Buck's calm manner, his easy, soft ways really inspired me - I too wanted to make handling a horse look effortless. Interestingly, a few months after finding my way to Buck (yes, I did by his box set - but not his flag stick lol) I was able to attend his clinic here in NZ. I was so excited! He was my guru. I had an absolutely miserable time. As much as I loved his ability with horses, the whole time he was with people you could see that he didn't actually like us. At lunch time, which was a group barbecue, he went to the far side of the arena, as far away from us as was possible and sat at a little folding table with a book, radiating a "do not talk to me" energy. Even though I had paid a lot of money for a 3 day clinic I never went back after the first day.


I learned a lot from BB methods but I was left feeling like, if you have no interest in helping the people then how can you help the horses? I needed to feel important and neither Buck nor Pat, could meet my needs in the end.


Now, several years later I stumbled upon Warwick Schiller and I find myself really enjoying his lessons. The part of Warwick's teaching that strikes a chord for me is not his horse skills so much. Don't get me wrong, he has mad skills and I want to be just like him but what works for me is his emphasis on how our behaviour will determine how we interact with our horses.



Over the last, nearly 2 decades I have lived a life. I have experienced joy, sorrow, bore a child, lost a child, bore another child, raised a child, built a business, dealt with long term chronic illness, loved, feared, fallen and got back up again. I have moments of incredible wisdom and moments of incredible ignorance. Through all of this life I too have come to the conclusion that my position of power is my ability to choose how I react to the things that happen around me. Like Warwick, I have come to the realization that for success with horses the most important training I can do is train myself. I have learned that no one outside of myself can give me what I need, I have to do that myself and the more care and consideration I give myself then the more care and consideration I have to share with, not just my horse but other people as well.



Maybe the trainers we gravitate toward have less to do with the actual trainer and his methods and more to do with our state of mind and the place where we are at in our lives. Just a thought.



PS Does Warwick have a box set?
 

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Very well said.

Maybe the trainers we gravitate toward have less to do with the actual trainer and his methods and more to do with our state of mind and the place where we are at in our lives. Just a thought.
Absolutely agree! Different strokes... and for the same folks at different times.

Different people's personalities, preconceived attitudes, etc will govern who they do & don't like, regardless of the subject's skill & attitude. Thinking of people like CA here, who I'm sure has a lot of good stuff to say, but as he is so aggressive & arrogant & his voice grates on me, IMO, he seriously gets on my nerves & I've never found I'm willing to watch enough to maybe find that good stuff.

Then there's basic skill & understanding that you 'bring to the party' - I remember being relatively new on this 'journey' & being so excited that I'd bought the (new at the time) book 'True Unity', sat down to learn a lot from one of the true masters... and persevered doggedly through the first... maybe quarter, before giving it up as it was a lot of gobbledigook to me. Though I picked it up a decade or so later & was struck by the immense common sense of it & wondered how on earth I'd found it so unintelligible when I first got it.

Interesting that, given all our different skill levels, attitudes, personalities, WS is the first 'guru' I can remember since Tom & Bill, who seems to be universally loved, so far as I've seen. He seems to strike that chord with all.
 

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I agree with what both of the above have said.

When I was learning at a riding school, I watched and listened, a naughty horse/pony was ridden with determination and force. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't. One remedial pony the regular helpers were told to keep riding it until it stopped bucking. I wasn't allowed to try. After quite some time they gave up and let me have a go.

Now my wise old Mother had always said, "There's more than one way to skin a cat." So, when this pony dropped me, I didn't get angry, I just got back on. Time and time again. In the end he just gave up. I could walk trot and canter him in the arena and later out on rides, with no attempt to buck or drop me.

I was lucky after that because I was the one used to back youngsters, ride the remedials and learned so much from them.

The most important lesson I learned was that although determination was needed a big stick was rarely the answer. There were times when it was needed but most answers came from the attitude of me, the rider./handler.

I attended a Monty Roberts clinic when he first came to the UK. It was interesting but I wasn't terribly impressed. The second time he came over and was dealing with a fearful unrideable horse, I was impressed - greatly.

I attended several clinics and several things came to the fore. First, his stories changed, he made himself to be the 'hero' and saviour of all horses. Secondly his promotion of how he spoke the language equs.

At another clinic he had a remedial, a big solid lovely looking warmblood whose problem was napping. This horse was determined not to move forward, his reaction was to rear. His owner, a slight young woman rode with determination, spurs and a big stick. In the round pen the animal did a good performance of airs above the ground.

I had seen the horse in the stable. I looked at him and thought 'WOW' what a lovely animal. Nothing gave me the vibe he was bad. Then, when I saw his feet which would have been more suited to a 14 hand pony, I realised that he probably had navicular.

Watching him move in the round pen he had a short stride and to me he looked lame on both front feet. MR did get the horse moving forward by placing an eye shield on him so he could only see the ground in front of him.

All the time he was talking and giving reasons for the horse napping non I can recall! Me, being me asked that did he not think the horse was lame on both fronts and that rather than talking to the horse would it not be better to listen to what the horsemwas trying to say? That went down like a ton of bricks.

The owner did take the horse to be Xrayed and it had fairly advanced navicular.

I say that animals can talk, it is up to us to learn their language.
 

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^ :lol: I bet Monty loved you for that! A friend audited a clinic of his over here a few years ago & he spent the first 10 minutes(or whatever) doing 100 push ups & getting the audience to all count him. Then bragging about how many push ups he could do at his age.

And 'more than one way to skin a cat' is a family saying of mine(maybe my pommy heritage...) that I usually get funny looks or comments for saying - good to hear someone else use it!
 

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Some people just love clinics, and clinicians. I know people who do a dozen a year or more. Some are disciples of one clinician in practically the religious sense of the word, others just go to anything within a drivable radius.

As a novice I kept going to clinics, at the urging of my friends, until I realized that I was wasting my money, as I never brought home anything useful; I don't learn in that kind of setting. Everyone's different.

What I've found is that while a good teacher can give you helpful pointers and observations, the main thing that is going to further your progress is just continually learning to listen to your horse and what he is trying to tell you. Moment by moment. There is no technique a human can impart to another that is going to be more helpful than that. Trying to force your horse into a diagnostic box or lesson plan is just going to keep you from reading your horse and being appropriate. Is he afraid, angry, confused, bored, distracted? Right now? How can you help him right now? How can you tell you are helping him?

Your attitude of calm leadership, your attentiveness and sensitivity, your ability to be both flexible and focused, those are the things which you can build, and which make the difference in your training. And those only come with patient hours of work. Endless hours, really. I am neither an excellent rider nor a particularly good trainer, but I know that all my progress has been accumulated grain by grain, mistake by mistake. I never have huge breakthrough moments and neither does my horse -- unless those breakthroughs are immediately followed by sliding back to almost where we were before.

That kind of infinitesimal progression doesn't keep clinicians in silver-toed boots though. Everyone wants a god-like mentor who knows exactly how to help you and your horse, but that person, I truly believe, does not exist.
 

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I say that animals can talk, it is up to us to learn their language.
Amen!

Just my personal opinion...MR is mostly interested in MR (loved the push-ups story LOL. That mental image is going to keep me entertained for days.) and sort of the same feeling towards PP.
I have actually picked up a lot of very useful information from various well-known clinicians. The availability of information today is amazing. I'm just thankful I have had enough experience to take what I needed and leave a lot of it. A video by a California trainer was pure salvation when faced with a serious trailer loading issue years ago. I can always learn something. Sometimes it just takes a lot of sifting to find the good stuff that works for horse and handler.
 

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Try getting a copy of Horse Whisperers and Lies. That will make you think!
I don't need to read that book - I got to witness first hand MR's methods at a small clinic hosted by a farm I worked at a million years ago. It was my first taste of 'commercial' natural horsemanship and was certainly eye-opening, as what he presented was stretching the truth at best..


I have always tried to use every experience as a learning one, be that something I would repeat in the future or stay well away from. Always fascinating to look back and see how my techniques have changed over the years (whether that is because I learned a better way or because now I don't bounce as well). I have much greater respect for someone like Warwick Schiller who admits his methods have evolved with time than I do those who claim to know it all (which means they have stopped learning). At the end of the day, the horse is the best teacher.
 

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When I started back into horses four and a half years ago, I had in my mind certain ways that things were to be done. Mostly it was... okaaaay? My idea of training methods was nicer than most, but pretty clueless now in hindsight. I started watching some videos by different online trainers, and I would nod along and they would make sense. I didn't mind Clinton Anderson, and his "make them move their feet until they show you respect" approach wasn't too far off from what I'd grown up with.

But once I found Warwick Schiller, my eyes REALLY opened. His understanding, and explanations, of pressure, release, and timing, and of how to find both anxiety and signs of relaxation in horses, was unparalleled by any other trainer I had come across at that point. So so so many things clicked. Now I can't seem to watch any other training videos without catching bad timing mistakes, or missed moments where the horse should have gotten a release, or time to come down and process something. Even from trainers who I think do really good work... they're missing so many signs. And once you see those signs, you don't un-see them.

Now I can barely watch Clinton Anderson. :/ I don't mind him with horses who are just being total butts, but he has a one-size-fits-all method that never gives the horses time to relax, think, process, listen. I guess taking a lot of time and letting horses relax and process doesn't make for big exciting videos.
 

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I think that the problem with many of the world's horse experts is that they have become known as the "Experts". I have come to the conclusion that there is a very real difference between someone who is an Expert in a subject and someone who is a true Master.


Many of the trainers out there have ended up boxing themselves into the role of expert. Someone who is an expert on a subject can dig a hole for themselves because once it becomes known that you know "everything" about a subject then it becomes very difficult to then demonstrate that, actually I don't know a whole range of aspects of the subject I am an expert in. Monty Roberts for example probably did have a remarkable break through with a horse many years ago. I think it was probably such a wonderful AHA moment that it must have felt to him like, "Yes! I have mastered the art of horse". Unfortunately I think that he got stuck on that Aha moment as being the only thing that he needed to understand about horses and he has never looked any further. In his excitement he went forth as an expert to teach others what he knew and in doing so inhibited ability to grow in horsemanship. For many, MR became the epitome of true horsemanship - this has worked for him on several levels, he makes money, he feels important in himself and he truly believes that he is helping others so really there is no need for him to do anything any differently. Kind of like a one trick pony.



Once a trainer becomes known as an expert then they can do no wrong in what they teach. Because these experts have to have the answer to every problem, we see more and more outlandish solutions. People genuinely seeking a way to be in a good relationship with their horse except these solutions as gospel because an expert has sold it to them. I personally can not watch videos of CA, the last one I accidentally watched was him teaching a horse to tie up and he had this monstrosity of a maypole thing with a chain attached to the rotating top so the horse could go round and round in circles, he actually sells these things and I was like wtf? Anyway, my point is that I bet there are people all over the world who now believe that the only way their horse can ever be taught to safely tie up is to buy an 18 foot pole from CA and cement it into the ground - after all he is the expert so he would know.


Experts teach what they know to prove they know what they know. Once you know everything then there is no reason to ask any more questions or seek anymore answers.


Someone who has true Mastery of a subject however is a different kettle of fish. True mastery of a subject comes when you realize that what you know is a mere speck of what can be known, that any knowledge now is just a step on the road to a more in-depth understanding of a subject that is infinite.



A level of expertise can be taught and I have definitely learned many helpful things from many different horse trainers. Mastery, however has to be acquired by an individual and can only be achieved when one admits that one knows very little of ones chosen subject. This comes down to personnel choice, some people don't want to be masters in a subject and this is fine. Most solutions to problems with horses can be answered by any one of the gurus out there and can be applied like a band aid over the problem. People who go this route just want the fix without getting bogged down in the technical details and that is absolutely ok.



I think people begin a journey of mastery of horsemanship when in their desire to 'fix the horse' they discover that all paths lead back to self. A horse, is a horse, is a horse. Unless a horse is physically unwell, including food/digestion issues or mentally unstable from inbreeding, horses behave like horses. Their basic biology, chemistry, instinctual behaviour is pretty much the same within a spectrum of sensitivity - some more others less. The journey towards mastery begins when we start to expect more from ourselves, instead of holding our horses responsible for the quality of our relationships with them. We are the ones with the large brains, relational frame thinking and opposable thumbs after all.
 

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Me too!!
 
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The Natural Horsemanship seems so Unnatural!

The appeal, is with our society. One used to learn from the elders and those around them. Somewhere, along the way, someone proclaimed that "Anyone could train a horse, if the person just followed their method".

No more did folks have to carry a horse to the local stable/trainer for breaking. The new idea was that anyone could follow a step-by-step plan and predictable results would follow.


The first people to follow these plans by the emerging Gurus were horse men and women. They knew how to ride, and maybe even had already trained some. But here was a new way, so they tried it. Being experienced with horses meant they had overall, fairly good results, thus cementing the claims of the gurus.

Not content to only appeal to experienced horse people, the Gurus wanted to sell to everyone, thus the mass marketing of DVD's outlining the only way to advanced horsemanship!

It is marketing, pure and simple. Ways to make money, by selling a system instead of a product. But products were also sold, rope halters for $45 instead of $5 because they had the Guru endorsement.

We do all evolve, at least we should all be! Stagnation is never good, lol. But horses are pretty much not too different than they ever were, we are the ones who have changed. Horses have changed in how they are used, and how we interact with them.
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The first big Guru I remember (before the Natural label) was John Lyons and his "round pen reasoning" it is because of JL that the country side is now dotted with round pens. Before that, folks just lunged or ground drove horses before getting on. No one had round pens...many barns didn't even have arenas!


I also remember being advised to read a book by Sally Swift Centered Riding. I really tried to read that book, but it was so weird. She would say one should use imagery to ride; imagine your hands are holding birds instead of reins...well that stuff is impossible for me.


I've had chickens and my sister had several species of bet birds. Birds poop. A lot. They are slippery too. I have held real live birds and it is not easy or pleasant. I can't imagine riding holding birds.


Why can't I just be light in the hands without imagery? If I was going to use imagery, I would use something that makes sense to riding. Maybe imagine a picture of a famous rider, and pretend I am them...legs, seat and hand perfect...gorgeous horse moving effortlessly under me...our every move in harmony...
 

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first, @kiwigirl: your opening post was simply divine. you truly have a way with words, and surely are a natural born writer.



I see myself so much in how you described your 'journey'.
I , too, struggle now with seeing horse handling that where I see missed chances to reward the try, or, someone letting go TOO SOON. Not staying in there until they get a change. It is good that Warwich Schiller is doing some searching of his own, and being up front about his own journey. As a teacher, he is morally bound to keep striving to learn, too.


I think what happens to a lot of the trainers who market themselves (or allow someone to market them) is that over time, they lose the humility that brought them to seek answers 'FOR the horse'. They start focussing on the human, and forget that training is for the horse first.


Learning requires being willing to admit you don't know something, and that requires humility. Humility is a very elusive state. If you persue it, you cannot have it. We may want to 'stay humble' as much as possible, but as soon as we start thinking about and focussing on 'being humble', we are on the path of self agrandizing. Lots of words there . . .but I hope you understand.


I have had the good fortune of seeing in action a trainer who is truly, as I would say, a Master. He allows no commercial videos of his work, writes no books and has very small and limited clinics. This is Harry Whitney. I suspect, judging from Warwick Schiller's words, that he may have met and been inspired by Harry. But, I don't know that for a fact.


I did watch two Buck clinics and was struck by his apparent disdain and dislike for his participants. He leads a hard life, I suppose. But, I won't contribute to that ever again with any of my dollars.
 

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You asked if Warwick has DVD sets and yes he does but he has such a massive library of videos I find that his online subscription works better because that is searchable by keywords and that makes it very useful to me. You can find his DVD sets here: https://www.warwickschiller.com/product-category/dvds/

and you can find his online subscription here: https://videos.warwickschiller.com/

The subscription has a free trial I believe so you can evaluate before you buy. I have been doing a subscription to him for several years now. I like where he is in his journey and many of the conclusions he has come to such as his "principles of training" etc.

I like a number of other trainers as well who are lesser known like Pat Puckett. Pat makes me laugh and reminds me of my grandpa who was a horse trainer(as was his father my great grandpa). Pat has a heavy bent toward working ranch horse training which I like because that is what I use my horses for but he covers a lot of other things too. He does a lot of videos on Youtube just to pass information along he thinks people might find valuable, not to make any money. His wife Deb films him. They can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC1qkyTkOqmOfpRF1wRfnLMA

He reminds me a lot of Ross Jacobs in that way. I also like Ross quite a bit as well. His channel is here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCPMhpvRw8CHYelTy8wL12IA

He(Ross) doesn't post often but I find his videos informative when he does post.

Another one I like what I have seen so far from him is Stephen Halfpenny.
 
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