By: Lindsey Forkun
- Natural horsemanship is a balance between showing firm boundaries and leadership, but also developing a bond and partnership. Using natural horsemanship does not mean that you will never be firm with a horse. It is very important to protect your personal space and not allow a horse to push or move you. You may have to be firm with a horse to keep them out of your space; however, a natural horseman will never strike a horse in punishment.
Using natural horsemanship helps the horse to recognize you as the leader they want to follow. Some people use natural horsemanship principles without knowing that is what they are doing. Some people say they use natural horsemanship, but they don’t.
Natural horsemen will never:
§ Punish a horse: horses do not understand punishment and hitting a horse for something they have done will not cause the best result so a natural horseman will never punish a horse. For example smacking a horse for refusing a jump usually just provokes dangerous behaviour and/or a scared horse, so natural horsemen would instead use other methods to encourage the horse to jump but not cause fear or punishment. A natural horseman might get firm with a horse if the horse is challenging the leader, but as soon as the horse responds the natural horseman will reward the horse – there is no act of firmness as punishment, instead it is a cue and if the horse responds positively the horse is rewarded.
§ Use tools that do not allow the horse choice: natural horsemen believe that horses are partners and that horses have responsibilities and choice. A natural horseman will only use tools that influence a horse in the right direction, but never force. For example side reins force a horse into a particular head set so they would not be used by a natural horsemen. A chambon however encourages the horse to lower his head into collection but still allows the horse to have choice. A natural horseman might use a chambon, but never side reins or any other forceful tool that does not allow the horse to have choice.
Natural horsemen will:
§ Teach the horse to be a partner: a natural horseman will teach the horse to have responsibilities like to maintain direction, speed, and to watch where he is going. Letting the horse have some trust and responsibilities strengthens the partnership.
§ Understand horses: the natural horsemen will put a huge emphasis on learning to understand horses and the types of exercises and tasks that work well for that horse personality type. The natural horsemen will understand when a horse is asking a question, showing lack of confidence, or showing frustration – and a natural horsemen will know how and what to communicate back to the horse.
§ Put foundation before specialization: a natural horseman will make sure a horse has a solid foundation before moving on to more specialized tasks. If a horse does not accept a halter willingly then they would not progress to a bridle and bit. If the horse does not yet understand basic turns and stopping, the natural horsemen would not progress to canter and jumping.
§ Use ground training: A natural horseman understands that horses build understanding and trust more easily when we work with horses from the ground. The natural horsemen will teach what they can from the ground to ensure the horse’s understanding and trust before getting in the saddle. The natural horseman strives to balance riding and ground training.
§ Always start with the ideal cue: natural horsemen understand that you cannot expect a horse to respond to a lighter more subtle cue unless you offer the soft and light cue. For example, if you want the horse to stop by simply tensing your hips then you must always start with that cue (i.e. tense your hips, and then lift your reins to add pressure to ask for halt as needed).
§ Practice Life Long Learning: any good horsemen will know that you are never done learning when it comes to horses. Horses continually teach us new things and a natural horseman knows to always be ready for more learning.
There are many natural horsemanship principles that are the foundation to training horses. To learn all of the principles you can read ‘Natural Horsemanship Answering the What, Why, and How for ALL Disciplines by Lindsey Forkun.’
Natural horsemanship starts with learning how to understand your horse, and how to move your horse. You start with basic cues and movements and then expand to have more complex conversations. You reward your horse with something that is suited to your horse – for some horses that could be a rest break and for others it could be going for a trail ride. You learn to understand horses on a deeper level and how to use that understanding to bring out the best training and partnership you can have.
Natural horsemen influence horses using methods that are more easily understood by horses because they are based on an understanding of horse psychology. Horses understand the natural horseman, and the natural horseman understands the horse.
Natural horsemanship puts the partnership first – preserving the dignity of the horse, the trust in the relationship, and the confidence in the leader – now you know what it means to keep it natural!
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Lindsey Forkun is dedicated to promoting positive partnerships through humane natural horsemanship for all equine disciplines. Free online advice, articles, and videos. Offering natural horsemanship products and services, learn more at www.LFEquestrian.com