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.
Labels: natural horsemanship