Horsemanship that is.
Back in the last century, horse wranglers became horsemen. They began to learn communication skills to work with horses instead of breaking horses.
it was a great shift in handling and working with horses. The men who learned this craft had trustier horses. But this new breed of horsemen didn’t invent this way of dealing with horses.
Horses have been partnering with people for centuries without forcing but through cooperation. Skilled horsemen and women learned how to work with their horses instead of expecting every horse to do everything. Horses had jobs that they were bred and trained specifically for.
For example, some horses were riding horses like the Andalusian horse. Some horses were bred for carriages like the Fresian horse. Some were bred to pull heavier wagons like they Gypsy Vanners and some were made for racing like the Thoroughbred.
It’s easy to have a horse and keep it in your back yard or a local stable; for pleasure. Since most people don’t need a horse today, they are simply for recreation. And then, of course, everyone wants to ride every horse. Even horses who were never designed for riding. That’s all well and good until the problems start.
This is where we really need to look into the true nature of your horse. What is it’s ancestor’s traits, what was their purpose and what’s the purpose of your horse? It’s important to know this so you can begin to work with the true nature of your horse.
And this is why ‘One Size Horsemanship” doesn’t fit all.
Today, in the USA, 84% of all horse owners are women who have horses for peace, recreation, stress relief, companionship, and fun, often fulfilling a childhood dream. These same women often are buying a dream; a Painted Horse; a Mustang; a Fresian; a Palomino; a Gypsy Horse, often buying the horse based on looks rather than thinking about the true purpose of the individual as well as the breed of the horse.
When the horse doesn’t fit into the dream, often help is sought. Today, that could be countless you-tube videos. Plenty of well-meaning horse friends at your barn, the myriad of trainers at horse expos and horse shows, never-ending clinics and tons of online courses. Just enough information to confuse the most well meaning horse owner, causing her to do things that go against her nature. “You’ve got to be the leader, show ’em who’s boss” “Make him do it” “Don’t let him get away with that” “Don’t let him win” Instead of a relationship, somehow, it’s turned into a competition, learning that All you need is this special halter, this special stick or this size round pen. Follow what “I” do step by step and you’ll have a ‘steady horse.’
The truth is, nothing could be farther from the truth! The truth is, the nature of all horses is that they’re herd animals who desire to be together. If they don’t want to be with you and do things with you, look in the mirror.
WE, as their human keepers are more like captors; keeping horses in the most unnatural circumstances. Long periods of isolation, starvation, and confinement. Taking away choice and responsibility. Keeping horses in sterile environments so they can’t possibly hurt themselves. Never trusting them to be able to make good choices. This looks like cross ties in barn aisles because they will leave if given the opportunity. Chasing horses in round pens when there’s nowhere to go! He can’t touch or cavort with other horses but he’s right next to them. The sheer confusion of wrapping them in a padded halter only to ride with a bit in their far more sensitive mouth just because that’s what you’re ‘supposed’ to do.
We create the dominance and hierarchy we see in domesticated herds by limiting resources and creating competitive habits. In essence, we are creating stressful relationships within our herds and with us. Take the example of the poor people at the barn who need to bring all the horses in at 3:00 to eat. There is massive excitement and competition around the gate. Horses who can’t even walk without painful chains over their nose, prancing high headed because we’ve created such anticipation around feeding concentrated meals. And we wonder how 80% of backyard horses have ulcers in their ‘low stress’ environment.
In natural herds where there are no limited resources, and no human intervention, you can’t detect a hierarchy, this behavior is only observed around limited resources, such as in times of drought (limited water) or too many stallions( limited mares.) (Lucy Rees – Equine Ethologist – Horses In Company)
When we work with the nature of the horse – everything is different!
This is where you get the reputation of being even more natural than natural with horses. What it really means is that you’re interacting with the true nature of the horse, not the coined phrase called Natural Horsemanship. Something I now call Natural Forcemanship. We’ve learned to use the psychology of understanding horses against them. I think, in our modern times when this way was discovered, it was the best deal possible for the masses of horses being trained by the recreational or show rider. As we continue to evolve and as more and more women have influence over the horse world, relationship becomes the most important thing.
We begin to do what horses do with one another. Have you ever come out and see your whole herd laying down? The picture above is how that idea gets started. It was a beautiful day and I invited Sterling to come to hang out on the lovely green grass. We all sat down after a while and the picture is where I invited Sterling to lie on the grass with us. He began to yawn and chose to join us.
We lazed around for quite a while. Grazing together.
When you start to be honest with your horse and stop trying to be like someone you’re not, your true gifts emerge and your horse responds in a whole different way!
I know this because I spent more than a decade on the ‘Natural Horsemanship” treadmill, always with a stick, my horses were on auto-pilot. Posturing, tit for tat, and my horses wouldn’t choose me, they chose each other. I see this all the time, people circling their horses, heavy on their forehand, dull and uninterested. But it doesn’t have to be this way!
Now, they all choose me, my whole herd, just like they choose each other. And that’s because I stopped doing Natural Horsemanship and I started just being me, with all my quirky ideas and faults and gifts. I’m not sorry for my journey but am thrilled with my evolution.
At first I was ridiculed and criticized and then people started saying things like, yeah, MaryAnn, you just have nice horses, my horse is_____ (fill in the blank) an orphaned foal, a rescue, an Ottb broodmare, a pony, a stallion. Right! Me too!
At the end of 2005 (more than a decade ago), I stopped following the guru’s and learned about real observation, seeing what was actually happening and not seeing what some guru was telling me was happening.
I see that all the time now, and so do you. You’ll see major players in the horsemanship arena chasing horses around a round pen talking for the horse. Some even saying sweet words and praying first. Just because someone is saying you’re creating an unbreakable bond by chasing your horse around in a round pen, doesn’t make it true. It only means the horse would like to breathe so they’ll try to figure out what you want so you don’t keep chasing it, or they’ll jump out of the pen, or they’ll attack the person chasing them. All in the name of Natural Horsemanship.
Learning to see what’s actually happening came to me by observing more than 15,000 people as they interacted with my loose horses in my arena of equine-assisted learning and psychotherapy over the course of the next decade and a half. Now I teach this simple skill to all of my horsemanship students. It’s simple but not necessarily easy when you’re in the menage with your horse, it’s certainly easier to observe what’s actually happening ➡️➡️ over there with someone else and their horse. All you need to do is go to any horse show and stand at the rail and listen to all the advice about what the person actually in the arena should be doing.
You have gifts.
And so does your horse. Your gifts are personal to you. Discovering what those gifts are is a fun and liberating journey. And truthfully, the reason most of us actually have a horse, to be free and liberated. Helping your horse to leave behind experiences and ideas that don’t serve him in the present is best done by you in a clear and supportive way.
No one expects you to know how to get here alone. Horses are big flight animals who can easily hurt people without even trying. Being nice is part of the solution but so is clarity, feel, timing, knowing when to ask for more and knowing when to quit. Getting permission from your horse and allowing him to have his voice and say over his body. This is how you learn to ride bitless, you’ll learn, there is no need to control your horse through pain or discomfort.
Learning how to have a conversation with a horse and really learning what’s important to him and showing him what’s important to you, like in any relationship, is a fun, rewarding and personally transformational journey.
If you’re ready, call me ( ⬅️that’s a link to my calendar) and we’ll get clarity on what’s happening and why and how to fix it. All I do is help people all over the world create a close bond with their horses so they can enjoy riding and living In the Company of Horses.
Peace and Herd-like Joy to you and your horses.
“Changing Lives, One Relationship at a Time”