I am sure many of you have heard the term Natural Horsemanship. How does that differ from normal horsemanship? Normal is doing what everyone else does. Natural is doing what comes naturally for the horse. I have done the normal horsemanship for many years, even so far as raising and training a Supreme Versatility Champion Walking Horse. In the eyes of man, I guess you could say I have been successful in the horse world. Deep inside of me though, I always wondered, how do I really look in the eyes of my horses? Yes, I believed they cared for me, as I always trained with a loving touch, but still I felt there was something lacking in a true partnership with them.
I began to study the works of the great horseman that have passed on. Men like Tom Dorrance and Ray Hunt. Then quite by accident I saw Pat Parelli doing a demo and I was stopped dead in my tracks. His horse had eyes only for him, even though he was totally loose and was surround by a crowd of thousands.
As I watched them dance together, I thought, this is what dreams are made of, what little horse crazy girls fantasize about. I did not know their secret but I knew I needed to know more. That was about 10 years ago and to say I am now living that dream is an understatement. I play with my horses at liberty, we dance together and even when I am playing with one, the other one is waiting for his turn. They are more confident, and responsive, and they surprise me everyday with what they have to offer me.
I am not writing this to brag, on the contrary. The exciting news is that everyone can have this kind of a relationship with their horses if they so choose. However it takes some changes on our part. Horses are not going to change who they are, they have survived thousands of years being who they are. It is up to us to make the change. The question is, how do we do this?
First of all, we have to have the heart and desire to become more of what our horses need us to be. If you want something bad enough, you are willing to change and do what is necessary to achieve it. I was, and believe me when I say that after 30 years of doing things like everyone else does, it was not easy to break old habits. I was however determined to develop a true relationship and partnership with my horses that was based on love, and learning their language. Yes, you heard me right, horses do have a language all their own.
Did you ever see a mare guide her foal out of danger, or another horse warn another one to not come near him? Of course they communicate with one another, so we have to ultimately learn how to communicate with them on their level. That starts by knowing how they perceive the world.
They were born natural prey animals. That means they were hunted by predators for dinner. They are very much aware of this, and as a result they are constantly on the look out for danger. The fact that they are so in tune to this danger is what has kept them alive for thousands of years. I know that the modern day domestic horse does not have to worry about this, but remember it is in their DNA to be concerned about this. So with this in mind the first step to having the bond we want with them is to always remember we as humans are prey animals – we do eat meat, but we have to constantly be acting in such a way that our horses never perceive us a a prey animal. To learn true horsemanship, we have to become more horse-like, in learning what they need and how they communicate. Take some quiet time occasionally and just observe horses out in a field, and watch how they interact with one another. You might be surprised at what you learn from them.
I will in the future write more on how this is all possible, but for now I would like to give you some things to remember. The things that are most important to a horse are safety (he does not want to feel threatened in any way), comfort, play (yes, horses do like to play) and food. We do provide their food, but does your horse feel truly safe, at all times when he is with you? Is he always comfortable? What about his play time, does he have a chance to just goof off, and maybe play with another horse, or you? Yes it is possible to play with a horse!
I hope I have given you some food for thought, and I look forward to sharing more of this exciting better way with horses with you in the future.
So till next time, keep it natural,
Photo credit: http://sxc.hu
About the Author
Belinda has been involved with horses for over 50 years. She has trained and shown many breeds, but her great love is the Tenneessee Walking Horse. She and her husband Bob have spent many years promoting their beloved breed. She has held a Walking Horse Trainers license for a number of years, and has served on the board of the Buckeye Walking Horse Association. Belinda has appeared on a local televison show promoting safety around horses for children and has done many demonstrations with her Walkers in helping the public learn more about them, and their versatility.