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Common Sense Horse Handling Instead of Natural Horsemanship

Updated on December 31, 2010

Duke's Pony Ride

Be your own Horse Guru

The relationship between humans and horses is thousands of years old. Through the centuries man has devised methods of handling and riding and written about it. Xenophon the Greek is the oldest known author on horsemanship and widely regarded as the man who put it all together. Fast forward to the end of the 20th Century which ushered in a new era of horse experts, ones who may have done more harm than good.

Natural horsemanship started out as a wonderful idea. Break down the basics of handling a horse into simple and well defined stages. Seems easy, right? Well, sort of. No two horses are alike, with some being much touchier than others, and others who can be said to be smarter than their human owners. The idea that a system of training can be a one-size fits all proposition is a bit ludicrous. Each horse needs to be assessed as an individual and handled accordingly.

It happens way too often that a horse owner gets run over by their horse because they're fearful. Horses are big animals and can be intimidating, true. But here's where the mistake is made: Assuming the horse is going to hit back if you strike first. This only happens when dealing with a rank animal, one that's got no manners or respect for their handler. In all other cases, horses go by pecking order in their social hierarchies. It's never the stallion that rules the herd but the alpha mare. Humans need to step up and become that alpha mare to their horse.

Language such as alpha and dominant are distasteful to some, but there's simply no other way to put it. Yes, the terms denote force or aggression and gives the impression that's how the horse is supposed to be handled when donning the mantle. And it's as far from truth as it can be. The alpha mare simply pins her ears and bares her teeth to show she means what she's saying. While it's impossible for a human to pin their ears, they can make a nasty face that shows intent.

Now, a face alone isn't always enough to get the warning across. Horses don't always zone in on this. Adding in a firm no or warning noise with the face does get the message through. Sometimes a little force is needed in the form of a tug or placing a hand on the shoulder and pushing. And giving a light swat is OK. There's no harm done by giving a smack. All you're doing is telling your horse to move right now, not later. A firm pull on the halter should be sufficient enough to turn the horse. If they resist, release a little and pull again. Giving them a steady stream of resistance turns into a tug of war that the human's going to lose. It's up to the human to use their bigger brain to outsmart the horse.

The key to handling is be firm, be consistent. When a horse rushes past their handler, it shouldn't be treated as something funny. It's dangerous. So don't decide one day to jerk the horse back then giggle at it the next. Doing something like this does not instill manners into the horse, much less gain its respect. Learn to read the horse and their personality. Adjust actions as necessary. Don't go buying a book and assume that one size is going to fit all.


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    • Bostonfamily profile image

      Bostonfamily 7 years ago

      Good information! thaks for sharing