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So What Is Natural Horsemanship (NH)?

As funny as the cartoon is, every year my view on what NH actually is changes, as does the relationship I have with the horses that I am privileged to be with.


This is because we are learning lessons from the herd themselves all the time. And applying that with an ever evolving approach, which changes and adapts constantly, as we continue to grow and learn more about these magnificent animals, as a species as well as from the individual horses, as every horse is as unique as we are, and requires a individual approach to suit them. 


So for me it is way more than being about a "method" of training horses and more about "being" with horses and using a kind, and empathic approach that works best for that particular horse.

This spreads from all facets of being with horses: from the environment that our herd lives in, to the way we feed our equine friends, to the equipment we use to communicate with them, and the way we interact with horses....and more. Because every area needs to work for the horses benefit to add up to them having a truly happy life in domesticity. 


Therefore, no one area of approach encompasses NH for me with horses.


Because you could be the best trainer in the world but if you house your horse alone every day in a stable, that is still going to add up to a very lonely and unhappy animal. So, it is the sum of all of the parts of horsemanship that lead to happy horses and happy horses is what NH should be all about. That is the whole picture of being with horses and what you can do to create harmony for them that makes for a truly happy horse. 

I've read a lot about what others believe NH to be about-some good, some bad and some in between. And from what I can gather, the people who originally coined the term "Natural" were trying to communicate with the horse in a more natural language for their training in order to try to communicate with the horse from the horses point of view, hence why they called it NH. They wanted to try to improve communication between human and horse by mimicking horse behaviour after watching how horses interact with each other, which is a neat idea, though I'm not sure that is the end all and be all of it. 


As I personally believe that the horse is obviously intelligent enough to realize that human companions are not horses, though I also think that we can develop a language to meet in the middle that each of us understands. 

What I will never support that some NH trainers utilize is the harsh handling of horses such as claims of mimicking the kicking of one horse to another by the use of a heavy snap being shaken in the face or a smack with a whip or rope etc...As violence towards animals doesn't sit well with me and I cannot support that in any way, shape or form.


Unfortunately, it's due to this that some trainers misinterpret the approach and I am sadly aware of some of terrible treatments carried out to horses under the term of "Natural Horsemanship". 


It is due to this heavy handed approach by some others that the term NH can often be misunderstood and in some areas has become a controversial topic these days, depending on which side of the fence that you're sat on. Which is such a shame as if you're reading this you are probably a horse lover and I genuinely believe that we can all learn from each other regardless of the name of your approach to training.


FOR ME it means . . . . . .

*To do no harm


*Putting the horses confidence and perceived safety above all else that you ask of him.


*Being a fair partner/leader who doesn't change the rules halfway through the game or lesson.


*Establish a connection with the horse on the ground EVERY time before you ride as it's this that builds a bond.


*To realize your horse has a big brain and therefore he will resent being micro-managed -allow him to make some decisions, choices and even mistakes-he'll thankyou for listening to his ideas.


*To develop a kind relationship with the horse bases on mutual trust and respect


*To keep your horse in as natural as an environment as you can manage with others of his own kind for his emotional health and mental well-being


It's never hard to spot a truly happy horse, as their behaviour and body language reveal all if you take the time to really look :) 

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