Natural Horsemanship Defined

Joe's newest- "Natural Horsemanship Defined"

What we loved about this article is that it is fresh and new and not a rip off of the word "Natural" as in a marketing machine but from the mind and heart of a real horseman.


Sue and Allen


Natural Horsemanship Defined

By Joseph Baker © 2011


Though the practice of natural horsemanship – training techniques based on understanding a horse's herd instincts and psychology – has long been around, the term only came into prominence about 20 years ago with the publication and movie release of Nicholas Sparks' "The Horse Whisperer." The practice has again made headlines with the recent release of the award-winning documentary Buck, which follows natural horseman Buck Brannaman around to clinics he conducts about horse behavior. The humane treatment of animals isn't new, but following the guidelines of natural horsemanship serve as excellent metaphors for life. 


Your relationship with your horse

Natural horsemanship is built on the belief that horses can be trained using trust, respect, and proper communication rather than trying to coerce and intimidate the animal into behaving. Despite your best efforts, animals can still be unpredictable. Animals and humans will always instinctively protect themselves when threatened. Proper training techniques will prevent a horse from relying on its defenses. Convey your message nicely but authoritatively – much like you might speak to a child – and provide positive feedback when appropriate. Form a relationship of mutual respect and always remember to be patient. Frustration is inevitable but it doesn't have to pollute the good work you and your horse are doing.


Your responsibility as an owner

Horse lovers and horse owners are not necessarily the same people. Some may purchase a horse as a source of relaxation, but it is paramount to remember that your horse will still require care and proper instruction. Be mindful of your role in the horse's life. Be smart, reasonable, kind, gentle, and always approach your horse calmly. Know yourself, your mood, and how you react in times of stress. If your horse is acting out, the horse may be reacting to your negative attitude and energy. A horse exhibiting behavioral issues may also have an undiagnosed physical problem. Never assume that your horse is just going to know what to do, no matter how much time you've spent together. Failure to properly train a horse can result in serious injury and the need to have on hand a medical alert system.


Your respect for your horse

Have realistic expectations about what your horse can or can't do, especially if the horse was poorly treated in the past. Invest the time in correcting learned behavior, keeping in mind that realistic goals are paramount to your success as a trainer. Treat your horse as you wish to be treated, i.e., encouraging the animal towards the right answer rather than trying to force the animal to learn. Negative feedback is stressful and likely to prolong positive results. Everyone has a bad day. Before you give up, assuming your horse is purposefully disobeying you, consider the day and your environment. Whether you need to change your perspective and try again or come back another day, know that proper training takes time. Always respect your horse's abilities and limitations.


Anyone can be a natural horseman, whether you choose to define yourself that way or not. Base your relationship with your horse upon respect and open channels of communication; this will help you easily move through your training to a successful outcome.


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