Training Your Horse The Natural Way, Revolutionary or Not.
The Horse a Fantastic Creature
The Horse, as I have written many times is an animal very close to my heart, been brought up with them, ridden them, cared for them, competing with them up to this day. In fact they are part of the family, however far-out that seems, it is true that is why I have a deep fascination with this fantastic animal. Training a Horse can be tough, frustrating, infuriating yet extremely rewarding, when everything falls into place over time. There are no short-cuts, as such when training a Horse, to get a youngster up to standard of riding reasonably safe, with the basics all in place, of walk, trot and canter can take up to six months. However, this is all dependant on the animal in question, like us all, you can have a quick learner, or a slow learner, and this can vary greatly. At the end of the day they are a living, breathing creatures and they need to be respected. Since the 1980's there have been many variants into training Horses, and the growth being in "Natural Training" using the Horse's natural instincts, and habits to aid the training. The two main protagonists here are "Monty Roberts" and "Parelli Natural Horsemanship" which is "Linda & Pat Parelli", all however, do have years of experience with Horses. So, is all this natural horsemanship revolutionary and new, or has it all been around for years, and been cleverly exposed by these few people.
Beauty in Motion
Tapping Into The Horse's Natural Instincts
My late father had been around Horses all his life, being born in the 1920's he would reminisce about the days when two of them would ride two ponies, and herding up to fifty other ponies to take to auction thirty miles away. Not only that, as traffic was non-existent the whole journey was done along a main trunk road, now that is quite amazing to hear, however, that is the easy part. Both the ponies being ridden were totally wild and un-handled a week previous, yet, now they were being ridden, and controlling other wild ponies along the way. How could this be, I hear you ask, me personally would call it in a nutshell "Natural Horsemanship". And that is what it was, my father was not the best horseman, he wasn't the best rider, but, he could catch any Horse on any field, and calm them in a matter of minutes. Could this be called Natural Horsemanship, would total strangers pay money to have seen him in action, or, for an hour or two seminar with him, he did have a few tricks up his sleeve, but he never exploited his talents. Which these days are the "Norm", anyone with the slightest talent wants to make a living out of it, which probably is a bad thing when the talent is non-existent.
When I was in school we had one Pony, a 14.2hh chestnut mare, named, wait for it "Angharad" it’s a Welsh name. She was a delight to ride at all times, excellent in competition, always giving her all. Once she was inside the showjumping arena, and the bell went it was as if, she was on auto-pilot, she knew she was there to perform. She had very little faults barely non, apart from one, this is where she would frustrate you and infuriate you, both at the same time. After competing at shows we usually, if it is good weather put the Horses out for a few hours, just for them to relax and have a few hours of playing. However, Angharad the 14.2hh chestnut pony was a pain to catch, with no-one being able to catch her. And this played out two weeks after we had her home, after the show we chucked them all out, but never realised what was ahead of us. We were in the field for three hours with no luck at all, she just would not let us near her, food, sweets everything was used to bluff her, she just wouldn't have it. After about three to three and a half hours of trying, we were ready to give up when my father came to us to help us out. He didn't say anything went through the gate and walked up to her, and off she went exactly the same as what she did with us, however, he had some tricks up his sleeve.
Trust Is Everything
Being The Leader of The Herd
After the initial walk up with food in hand, she just walked away, he then changed his strategy, cutting a heavily leafed branch he walked up to her again. This time though it was totally different, when he was some five metres from her he began to run waving the branch in his hand, just like a mad man. But, it got the reaction he wanted, she was off, and this was in a seven acre field, however, he ran after her still waving the branch, and shouting. With us on the side-lines shouting at my father, "what the h!!! Are you doing", "we'll never ever catch her like this, you're scaring the life out of her, we'll never catch her again, ever". Anyway, with both my father and the Pony panting, things began to calm down, with my father never approaching her again, he came over to us and began chatting away. And as if she was frightened, she also came over and stood right behind my father, practically rubbing her forehead against his back. With this break-through he didn't move, he just kept talking to us ignoring her completely, and she kept on rubbing her forehead, you could say frantically craving attention. After ten minutes of this he finally turned around and gave her affection, and she more than accepted it, but, he still didn't put the head-collar on her, keeping it in his hand. It was after she felt safe again that he put on the head-collar, by this time the trust was back, and she knew there wasn't a threat, by the head-collar going on her head. There wasn't the need even to lead her back to the stable, she was happy enough to follow my father and into the stable.
All this is similar to what the likes of Monty Roberts and Linda & Pat Parelli teach people, or hold seminars on, being Natural Horse People. Taking the Horse back to its roots, is at the core of it all, a Horse is a herd animal with strict "pecking orders", so each one of them knows their position in the herd. And that instinct can be tapped into today by making the Horse feel it's still part of a herd, you make out to be the leader of the herd. Horses are inquisitive animals, and if you get them to see you as the leader, they will quite happily follow you. And by turning your back on them, then, comes the inquisitive part of the Horse's nature, he then wants to know, basically, why your back is turned. And never giving them eye contact, as respect gets earned through eye contact, and this does work. However, you have to remember there is no magic to it, no secret ingredient of any sort, and everyone can do it, if they abide to the simple rules. Be firm, you are the leader, think of yourself as the head of the herd, chase the herd away sometimes, even the one Horse, and get them inquisitive. Turn your back, make them crave for your attention, this gives the Horse the impression that you are that leader in its herd, with this the Horse will accept you, and more than anything trust you. This can be put into practice with even a Horse that has never been handled, or virtually never been handled, all it does is to react with the Horse's natural behaviour in the wild.
Understanding Your Horse
Natural Horsemanship, Not a Gift Just Instict
So, is all this "Natural Horsemanship" a new thing, or is it something
that only a few people can do, are there people who have the gift, or some
magical powers over anything equine. Let us put it this way, my father could do
it without thinking anything of it, when I had the Pony mentioned here that was
back in the 1970's, and since his childhood in the late 1920's early 1930's
that is how they were taught. Obviously there are people who are better at it
than others, that can be said with anything, in every walk of life. You have
good riders, showjumpers or three day eventers, just like any other sport,
runners or footballers, boxing and so forth. However at the end of the day, I
believe we can all do it, just by following the simple principals of reacting
to a Horse's natural instincts. At the end of the day, we all react better to
what we know, and what our instincts tell us, a Horse is no different, just act
and behave with him as they would out in the wild. Maybe, just maybe that there
are many more "Natural Horsemanship" people in the World, just that
they don't know it, yet anyway. Thanks for Reading. Until Next Time.