Wednesday, March 11, 2009

My take on natural horsemanship: Part 2

In my last post, I talked about my positive reaction to reading Monty Roberts's book on natural horsemanship, The Man Who Listens to Horses. In this post, I want to share the experiences that have shown me the other side of that coin.

The manager of the second barn I was at was interested in natural horsemanship. She rode her horse using a regular halter, instead of a bridle and a bit, and I think she'd taught her horse some of the Parelli games as well. She was sensitive to the impact of body language, such as that facing a nervous horse head-on can come across as threatening to them. She was also the first person to introduce me to the bitless bareback riding videos on YouTube.

Even though she seemed reasonable and I respected the manager's approach, I was quite happy with the way my trainer had trained Panama. She was never abusive or mean, and she taught me to be sensitive to his body language. Obviously her methods worked, because Panama was well behaved and learning fast.

However, I also knew my trainer was not a fan of Parelli. She told me once that natural horsemanship, when used as the only training method, takes much longer to get the same results. Eventually I saw this for myself, when a mare trained in natural horsemanship came to board at that barn.

This horse was just a couple of months older than Panama, but almost right off the bat I noticed differences. She was really confident and well adjusted, but she took that too far, to the point of being rude and disrespectful when what she wanted didn't mesh with what you wanted. At this point, Panama had been started months before, and was cantering, walking diagonally, learning to frame up, and venturing out on the trails. The mare, who had been in training for much longer than Panama, was hardly even being trotted.

I can understand taking it slower for a horse that doesn't catch on as quickly as Panama. What I don't understand is letting the horse call the shots. I remember the mare's owner trying to mount her one day to go for a ride. The mare didn't want to have any of it, and simply wouldn't let her owner mount. She'd sidestep or walk away every time.

And then there was the time the vet came. The mare behaved terribly and refused to stand still, pushing her owner around in the process. She didn't have any ground manners whatsoever, because she was never disciplined.

These were not isolated incidents, either. This horse simply wouldn't mind her owner. And her owner, being a middle-aged woman and a beginner with horses, also was not learning the skills to give her authority with her own horse.

Now, I'm sure natural horsemanship works great as the sole training method for some people and their horses. But even I could tell that it wasn't working for either this woman or her mare. The woman needed to learn more confidence and authority with her horse than natural horsemanship could give her; and her mare, who was very headstrong, needed that from her too.

So now you've heard both my positive and my less-than-positive experiences with natural horsemanship. In my third and final post in this series, I'll discuss how all this fits in with my own personal approach to training and working with my horse.



At March 11, 2009 at 3:03 PM, Blogger Reddunappy said...

That is exactly the problem that most people have with NH, that lady is in the same rut that so many people put themselves in with NH, they are not strict, demanding, authoritative, dominate, with their horses,(or their dogs either) the whole thing to me with NH is you are supposed to treat the horse like a horse, they are very mean to each other, LOL, but not treat them in an abusive way at all, they have to be corrected, quickly and respectfully, not a s k e d with politeness, being afraid to scare them or that they might not like you, my rule is ask, tell, demand, they get it, and you earn a lot more respect, and have a much happier animal. So many people misunderstand Parelli, Pat isnt easy on them at all, its all in a persons personal perseption, I dont see that Pat is easy on them at all when I watch him, he just knows how to read them before it happens and knows how to correct it before it happens, geez I sound like a commercial, dont mean to, just an example.
It amazes me how many people out there that can not read a horse, or a dogs, body language, they have no clue. Its those same people that get stuck in the NH rut and give NH a bad name, useing it a a "buzzword" and not understanding it at all. LOL I could go on but I wont, I have probably irritated you enough LOL

At March 13, 2009 at 12:56 PM, Blogger Reddunappy said...

It is a sad day for Natural Horsemanship, Ray Hunt passed away on March 12.

A truly sad day. He was only in hes 70's

At March 16, 2009 at 3:00 PM, Blogger Katharine Swan said...

Pam, I think you've hit it exactly on the head. I agree that Parelli and NH are not really advocating letting your horse run all over you, but unfortunately because many people make that mistake. I think Parelli appeals to novices and people who don't understand that you'd better darn well be the boss when you are dealing with an animal six times your weight! Maybe they should have a required starter class -- "How to Be the Boss with Your Horse and NOT Misinterpret Our Teachings." LOL

I think it's interesting that as someone who has worked and been educated in childcare, I see the same thing happening in how people raise their kids. Maybe a decade or two ago, some brilliant person came up with the idea that overdisciplining a child wreaks havoc on their self esteem. Well, that's true, but we're talking abuse and such... Unfortunately, many otherwise reasonable parents have taken that to mean that disciplining a child at all destroys their self esteem. So now we have a generation of kids who are growing up having had no rules or expectations whatsoever.

Same issues as the sweeping misconceptions of NH, in my opinion.

At March 16, 2009 at 3:02 PM, Blogger Katharine Swan said...

P.S. I was not familiar with Ray Hunt. I will have to do some research.

At March 17, 2009 at 6:48 PM, Blogger Reddunappy said...

I totally agree with you on the kid raising too!

At March 17, 2009 at 6:49 PM, Blogger Reddunappy said...

LOL I love the idea of the "starter class" thats a good idea!!!!

At May 7, 2009 at 6:58 AM, Blogger jane augenstein said...

I agree with what you have all said about NH. Parelli is good but gee, do they ever rake you over the coals on their prices and in my opinion they take way too long on getting to the point. I like Clinton Anderson because he doesn't beat around the bush and yes, he corrects them when they need it. I don't see anything wrong with a good smack on the butt or shoulder when it's needed. Quick and swift, then it's over, the same way a horse does to one that is out of line. My horse can be disrespectful at times and when he is he gets corrected and we go on. He doesn't have any fear of me or my stick but knows not to do that again. I don't follow Clinton exclusively but mix a lot of what works for me and my horse. I like Monty Roberts very much too. Basically they have all learned from Tom and Bill Dorance everyone just puts their spin on the training to make it their own; and all the "equipement" you need to have.
I am only interested in training one horse, mine, so what will work for me and Gilly might not work for someone else. Working with Pokey the donkey has been somewhat of a challenge too, donkeys don't think like a horse. Pokey is a smart little guy though and will watch Gilly doing something in the round pen and pick right up on it. So I am pretty lucky, Gilly in a way is training Pokey for me!
Just hope he doesn't pick up any bad habits!
Good post, Katharine!
~Jane and Gilly~

At May 7, 2009 at 11:01 AM, Blogger Katharine Swan said...

Jane, I think you bring up a good point. Every horse and trainer team is different, and requires a different approach.

I agree, a smack here and there is not going to do any damage. They know what it means. And anyone who says you shouldn't discipline a horse that way because you ought to try to speak their language has never actually watched horses together -- they hurt each other A LOT!


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