A learning journey with your horse
If you're never studied natural horsemanship, you will likely feel like it's a little backwards. Although it has been practised by a small subset of horse owners for hundreds of years, it has been the topic of controversy in the horse community over the last century. Some traditional trainers argue that natural horsemanship is just horse whispering nonsense and is not even worthy of discussion. The number of people practicing natural horsemanship however, is growing, and it's becoming a more widely recognized method of horse training.
So what is natural horsemanship training?
At it's root, natural horsemanship is the art of communicating with and learning from your horse on his/her level. Rather than hitting, shouting at or otherwise forcing your equine companion to bend to your will, the natural horsemanship method requires that you be more in tune with your horse's natural needs and tendancies and learn from him.
Techniques for natural horsemanship training are many, but are all rooted in the same philosophy. Learn how the horse acts in the wild, and earn his respect by communicating with him on his level. Natural horsemanship techniques are developed by observing horses in their natural environment. You essentially learn his language and develop rapport with your horse.
Why practise natural horsemanship?
Typically, horse enthusiasts and trainers come across natural horsemanship because they reject the long-held belief that you need to use abusive training methods to earn their horses respect. Many equine trainers strike, kick and beat their horses to make them go, stop turn or do what they want them to do. This is often effective but not for the reasons that you may think.
When horse owners choose to strike their horse rather than exploring other methods to get him to do what you want, you may win the battle, but potentially lose the war. Rather than own a horse that obeys you because he respects and/or loves you, your horse will obey you because he fears you and knows he will be struck if he doesn't do what you want.
Pat Parelli Natural Horsemanship
Pat Parelli is one of the most well-known natural horsemanship trainers in the world. He has a mountain of training material available and for a good reason. Pat Parelli is considered the best there is in this type of training. Pat and his wife Linda, have devoted their lives to learning how horses communicate while teaching others to successfully communicate with their horses using non-violent techniques. There are a ton of natural horsemanship experts out there, but Pat and Linda Parelli are widely considered to be the best in their field.
Natural horsemanship and horse whisperers
"Horse whispering" is a term that is often used to describe the art of natural horsemanship training. This is usually spoken as criticism by those who do not believe in these methods. Horse whispering is the idea that somebody can just whisper something to a horse and it will understand and obey. There's really no such thing. It is possible however, to have such a solid relationship with your animal that he obeys even small cues that you give him either verbally or with hand and body motions. "Horse whispering" however, is basically just a myth. On the television show "Heartland" the main character Amy Fleming trains horses naturally as a career and is often criticized and called a horse whisperer.
Is natural horsemanship worth learning?
In my opinion, yes. My wife has two horses, and has decided to train them using natural horsemanship training techniques. I can see that it's frustrating at times when she wants her horses to do something and they just refuse. Sometimes she's not picking up on their cues and other times they just aren't in the mood. Somebody with a pointed boot or a stick could fix them up in a hurry but she's patient and gives them time to respond to her. It has been and continues to be a long journey learning this new type of training for her but it's very rewarding. When I see her horses come to her and want to be near her because she has earned their respect it's a really great feeling.
Is it easy to learn an entirely new way to communicate with your animal? No, it's not. It takes a lot of time and a mountain of dedication. It has been my experience however, that the things in life that are most worth doing are rarely easy.