Natural Horsemanship is a method of teaching and interacting with horses based on trust, respect and communication, in a language the horse can understand, rather than using fear, intimidation and mechanical devices.
This should imply Natural Horsemanship does not use firmness and the establishment of appropriate space and behavioral boundaries for horses. Horses establish a hierarchy and pecking order within the herd, and establish boundaries and claim space around themselves. Horses move other horses with a look, laying their ears back, raising the bridge of their nose in an aggressive way and by biting and kicking. All of these methods can be used by the Natural Horseman; although we have found it takes a lot of practice to lay our ears back any farther than they already are. Horses do not beat each other with sticks, and Natural Horsemen don’t use sticks to beat horses.
Many people think using communication and trust to get horses to do what we want them to do is new. The truth is, gaining a horses trust is the oldest way of teaching them. When the first man climbed on a horses back, about five thousand years ago, he didn’t have a rope, a corral, a snubbing post, or a chute. All he had was his ability to communicate to the horse, that the horse, a prey animal, was in no danger from the predator climbing on his back. It was only later when we had the tools to physically subdue horses that we began to take the “shortcuts” that led us away from gaining the horses trust before we got on their back.
If we are going to communicate with them it’s easier for us to learn their language than the other way around. The biggest mistake people make in trying to teach horses is, using predator psychology on a prey animal, it just doesn’t work very well. The more we look at things from the horse’s point of view the easier it is for them to understand what we are asking them to learn.
Why Natural Horsemanship Works
Natural horsemanship works because it recognizes that it is easier for a horse to understand what we want them to do if we communicate to them in a language they already understand, rather than attempting to teach them our language. Leslie Desmond was once asked if she used verbal commands with horses. Her answer was “No”, because as she traveled around the world she often didn’t know the local language, but since horses throughout the world all speak the same language that is the language she uses.