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  1. #1
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    Default Observations on Natural Horsemanship.....

    This subject has been dissed and discussed to death, I know, but my experience has been at times very positive, and at others, entirely negative. I would really like to hear your experiences with this system as it relates to the horse.

    Here's my story in a nutshell. NH allowed me to keep and enjoy my Boo who, at age 5 was defensive and 'belligerant' (description of someone I hired to help me with her) and dangerous. She would double-barrel, refuse to lead, throw her shoulder, run up on top of people - not a nice girl at all, and if NH had not worked with her, she would have been euthanized. A local NH trainer and I worked her through her fears - and her vices were based on fear. She had never been abused, but knew her strength - and she had locking stifles which made her overly defensive with other horses and people. She needed taking down by a dominant mare, and trainer had such a horse who put Boo in her place in 15 seconds. Her training was only able to proceed then.

    I have my lovely, responsive and sensitive horse, but, over the years since, have observed a disturbing by-product of the round pen work, the heavy pressure back up, harsh one rein stops and quick turns which is that so many nice young horses become damaged physically by this system. Many times, round pen work is done in a space smaller than 70' in diameter, putting tremendous pressure on the unformed, unmuscled bodies of the youngsters. Speed work, fast turns in reverse seem to negate the benefits of the system, as too often the moves are drilled. Under saddle, quick stops and back-ups, pivots on the haunches, all can and do create muscle and joint weaknesses. The German training scale , OTH, allows for the incremental gymnastic development of the horse (ideally, of coures), movements being added only as the horse is physically ready.

    So often, NH principles applied to larger, or slower maturing horses seem to spell early unsoundness and accompanying mental stress. For example, a very tall sweet warmblood of 4 couldn't handle RP work, couldn't collect his huge body (was asked to do so incorrectly, front to back) and went intermittenly lame, then began exploding. Another draft cross was pushed too hard in order to be sold and was returned after a short time after he had become dangerous. Lame and sore - Another lovely young horse, ridden backward, broke down.... and so it continues.

    Time is the factor most important to training. Money has a tendency to over shadow the best interests of the horse in any form of training. And NH, which has within it the classical principles, gets stuck instead in the round pen, drilling over and over without a clue about the needs of the horse.

    This angers me.

    What say you?
    Form follows function, or does function follow form?

    www.clearvisionequine.com

    http://clearvisionequine.blogspot.com



  2. #2
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    Jan. 18, 2008
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    Default

    Any type of system which is overused/overdone can cause problems.

    Can't really comment on NH persay since haven't done a lot of it though.. have seen some nasty results but have seen some good ones as well. Depending on who does it.

    *sits and watches*

    P.



  3. #3
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    Default

    I will say that any training method will definitely be better or worse according to how it is implemented.

    A very good, sensible trainer will be good with any one method applied as appropiated and with common sense to any one kind of horse that trainer is handling and riding.

    I have seen good and bad training in Europe and in the USA, in English riding, racing, NH and all kinds of western riding.

    Your examples are of bad training, not especially bad training methods.



  4. #4
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    Nov. 3, 2004
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    Default

    Firm, kind, reasonable...OK.

    Otherwise? Natural is running on the praire and eating grass, survivial of the fittest ,and not being a beast of burden to humans...No matter how it's packaged.

    So...... I think common sense horse management is the way to go. Let the horse show you what is needed.



  5. #5
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    Mar. 25, 2008
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    Default Hay

    Same with the barefoot/farrier threads and with all trainers, you have to work with someone who is quality, know what you're looking for and be educated enough that they are a good quality trainer not some weekend clinic attender who is now teaching.
    Sorry! But that barn smell is my aromatherapy!
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  6. #6
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    Mar. 12, 2006
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    Default

    I think that many NH people are beginners who bought the wrong horse and don't work with trainers. They buy the DVD's, videos, watch clinics and proceed to fail. They would fail if they bought the GM DVD's, a book on training from Klimke or Martha Joseys guide to barrel horses.

    The biggest problem is that the people need a trainer to help them and teach them, whatever method they choose- but they just don't. They go it alone, their horses learn to bully and it gives NH a bad name.

    Honestly- I ride with some NH people who just annoy the shit out of me. 6 days a week, I easily catch my horse, tack her up, groom, ride and have a merry time. I have heard more than one snide comment from them on what I do. Frankly- it took me 30 years to learn all I know- and I still need lessons to improve. And when some NH person who has been riding for less than a year starts telling me my horse is "making me move" or that XYorZ is wrong, I really want to beat them with their stick. Put in the hours, work with a good trainer- that is your only path.



  7. #7
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    Dec. 13, 2005
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    Best and most complete definition of Natural Horsemanship.

    "Natural horsemanship (NH) simply means that we know and understand the horse's instinctive and herd behaviors and that we use that information to develop a willing partnership and communicate with the horse and in a way that he understands." ~ Julie Goodnight
    "Have a Coke and a Smile"



  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by magnolia73 View Post
    I think that many NH people are beginners who bought the wrong horse and don't work with trainers. They buy the DVD's, videos, watch clinics and proceed to fail. They would fail if they bought the GM DVD's, a book on training from Klimke or Martha Joseys guide to barrel horses.

    The biggest problem is that the people need a trainer to help them and teach them, whatever method they choose- but they just don't. They go it alone, their horses learn to bully and it gives NH a bad name.

    Honestly- I ride with some NH people who just annoy the shit out of me. 6 days a week, I easily catch my horse, tack her up, groom, ride and have a merry time. I have heard more than one snide comment from them on what I do. Frankly- it took me 30 years to learn all I know- and I still need lessons to improve. And when some NH person who has been riding for less than a year starts telling me my horse is "making me move" or that XYorZ is wrong, I really want to beat them with their stick. Put in the hours, work with a good trainer- that is your only path.
    Well put!



  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by 7HL View Post
    Best and most complete definition of Natural Horsemanship.

    "Natural horsemanship (NH) simply means that we know and understand the horse's instinctive and herd behaviors and that we use that information to develop a willing partnership and communicate with the horse and in a way that he understands." ~ Julie Goodnight
    Except I think that is a good definition for ANY good training.



  10. #10
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    Jun. 21, 2008
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    It depends really. My mustang I took him over in my old barn. He was captured at about 1 and adopted out. He had three trainers-conventional trainers try to break him-he just became more and more aggressive. None could halter break him. So you had this wild , nasty,aggressive beast not halter broke, outsmarting several trainers. Then he was abandoned at my barn -stuck in a 24 by 24 for almost two years-no turnout-just being sullen and aggressive. Why I got him-no idea-wasn't even looking for a horse. But slowly worked with him and got him to be somewhat friendly and nickering every time he saw me. But still my "horse-sense" told me he was a little more than I could handle. You generally get a feel if you can safely handle or not.

    He just has this real solid,strong, grounded personality-the only ones interested were the types who BREAK them . So searched and found this guy-old cowboy type, been riding since he was walking. Dealt with several mustangs and does cows, reining etc. Also does NH. It has been intresting to watch the training, the round pen, the ropes etc. Also interesting to see my feeling was right-my boy has more fight in him than fear-you don't get away from several trainers without being smart and tenacious. So watching him coming around is interesing. Once he gets green broke, I can work on it. But it is different. But he is getting my 6yr old mustang to a place where fighting is not an option..I am happy-initially my horse was not-but he needs to learn to adapt to our world without being abused or beat on, despite him being quite aggressive-so it depends on what you want...

    But I think once he is broke and gets the mileage, he can be an anyone can ride horse. My mare on the other hand always needs a competent rider. But his personality, once you get past the deensiveness is just solid -even now his reactions to stuff is much more solid...

    But NH I guess it depends-there will be horses that may not work-my mare will probably be worse. She is very smart, gets it right away and has a temper. Do things over and over-she will find things to spice it up-if you don't catch it, you will think she is stupid and react accordingly and it will go downhill real fast. But that goes with any field. So I guess it depends...



  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bluey View Post
    Except I think that is a good definition for ANY good training.
    TRUE! The real problem is that many try to put way too many practices and techniques under a NH umbrella. By doing it they feel that it gives them some legitimacy to what they are doing. Too many people get hung up on "titles".
    Last edited by 7HL; Dec. 28, 2008 at 02:00 AM. Reason: spelling
    "Have a Coke and a Smile"



  12. #12
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by 7HL View Post
    TRUE! The real problem is that many try to put way too many practices and techniques under a NH umbrella. By doing it they fel that it gives them some legitimacy to what they are doing. Too many people get hung up on "titles".
    Oh, I missed your original meaning, that makes more sense.



  13. #13
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    Feb. 23, 2008
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    Default

    It really must depend on the trainer - there are some "self-taught" "dressage" riders out there who read some books and watch some videos and do some terrible "dressage". Ditto some very mediocre to bad instructors teaching jumping. Any method of training takes years of experience and also some good natural ability to do well, no?

    I've been working with a NH trainer for a year, after several years with German dressage and British system trainers. This trainer is good. One of her big rules is "never drill the horse." Drilling a horse, whether in the round pen or doing endless lunging, or endless half passes or whatever will sour them and/or injure them. I suspect this trainer would still be a good trainer if she were working in another discipline or style instead of NH. She is intelligent, has a sharp eye for how the horse is responding, knows when to make them try again and when to reward them for a good try. That kind of awareness and skill is important no matter what method of training you are using.

    Her horses are well mannered, friendly, well conditioned, move freely and forward, are responsive, etc.

    I think her approach has been especially useful for my ex-Amish Morgan mare, who struggled with a lot of defensiveness and body tension, and a constant anticipation of being harshed on if she made a mistake. She made some progress with previous trainers, but two weeks into working with this NH trainer I saw a lightbulb go off in her eyes - she got it. She turned a huge corner in trust and confidence and relaxation. She has a new sense of fun and curiousity, instead of acting like a grim soldier all the time. It may be less the technique than that she clicked with this particular trainer's sense of timing and so forth, too - who knows?

    And we don't sit around waving carrot sticks! I trail ride, fox hunt, hunter pace, carriage drive, and do mounted games (western). Other students compete in eventing and dressage.

    I wouldn't toss NH out the window as a method, based on some people doing it badly, or the fact that certain famous trainers have turned it into a "train your own horse in your backyard using a DVD" type of thing. No more than I would throw "dressage training" out the window just because I have seen way too much iron-fisted, mouth cranked shut, draw-reined, tension-filled, spur-and-whip dressage. There's crap and brilliance in every discipline - heck, in every human endeavor.



  14. #14
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    Aug. 25, 2007
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    "Natural horsemanship" is an oxymoron, like "military intelligence" or "jumbo shrimp." From the horse's point of view, what could possibly be "natural" about allowing a member of the World's Most Successful Predator Species to climb on its back?

    NH'ers also sometimes develop some very strange ideas. When I suggested to one that she read Xenophon she was aghast; 'Is he "natural?"' she asked. 'How could a guy who died three hundred years before the birth of Jesus Christ be anything but "natural!"' I responded. She said she'd stick with Parelli.

    The hard truth is that horses are 1000 pound critters that can do a lot for us, and can do a lot to us. I prefer "smart horsemanship" which I'd define as using the horse effectively to accomplish a human task while maintaining effective short and long term soundness.

    G.



  15. #15
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    Jan. 10, 2008
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    I agree with many of the previous posters; it's not that NH drills the horse or that German dressage instructors are considerate, it's that some practitioners of NH are idiots and some German dressage instructors are good horsemen. The problem is when people make sweeping generalizations about either their own chosen methods or those of others--equal problems with both the "natural horseman" who thinks that NH is chasing a horse round a round pen over and over again, and the people who assume that that's what NH is about.

    I practice "natural horsemanship" in that I listen to my horse and try my best to communicate with him in a way he'll clearly understand. That means using my energy and body position to remind him to lead politely out of my space, to go where I send him, to move each foot when I want him to. I prefer a rope halter to a chain shank, but I don't need a clinician's endorsement on the rope halter. My horse can round pen, but I don't do it often, because I don't need to; he's well mannered on the ground and under saddle, so why chase him around a round pen? The round pen is a tool to use to help my relationship with him if we do have issues down the road.

    I agree that the problem with what we think of as "natural horsemanship" is that a lot of people, mostly middle-aged women, decide to buy a horse and use video clinicians as a substitute for a good trainer. I like watching RFD, I love going to clinics either to participate or audit--but I still think it's most valuable to have someone there to tell me when my release is off or when I'm being too heavy or too soft. It's like teaching yourself Grand Prix dressage or show jumping; you're headed for disaster without taking it step by step with a responsible person helping you. Too many people think they can learn only from books or videos, be it NH or dressage or trail riding or jumping, and do harm to themselves and their horses.



  16. #16
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    There are few horsemanships today that have not been touched by the 90-day-wonder/futurity syndrome, or the some-is-good, more-is-better. All of those will have lameness casualties because they forget the value of taking time when working with horses. NH is not the only area where horses are pushed to effect a sale, meet a deadline, yadda yadda, or mindlessly ground upon with the assumption that they will learn/develop faster.

    It doesn't work that way. Anyone who falls into those traps will end up dammaging horses mentally or physically. Cowboy, German, French, European, Mexican, South American, North American, classical, new wave, english, western, Australian, outer Mongolian; mustang, QH, WB, Iberian, TB, SB, Heinz 57, pony, draft horse, --whatever. Push too fast, you will ruin horses. Grind on 'em, you'll mess 'em up.

    Learn to develop some feel, be sensitive to their development, stay humble, keep an open mind, listen, reason, try, fail, learn--you might have a chance to become useful to a horse.
    "One person's cowboy is another person's blooming idiot" -- katarine

    Spay and neuter. Please.



  17. #17
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    There are some very interesting comments and experiences expressed in this thread. I find this very useful and goes along with my experiences. I've seen the worst NH trainers and not too many great ones but I still believe in some of the basic concepts of observation, watching the natural life of the horse and using their language to communicate to them. Of course results must vary because each horse has a different personality and temperament. I think that if the trainer doesn't adapt their methods to the individual horse then that trainer isn't worth his/her salt anyway.

    All 3 of my Nokota horses have been trained by different people and though I'm no trainer I have seen my horses respond well to certain attempts at training them for specific things like trailer loading. I think I'm pretty good now at trailer loading, but just as I thought I figured out how to get them to come to me instead of tricking them one of my horses or more shows me I'm all wet.

    To quote the worst NH trainer I've ever met, "The horse is a patient teacher." But he never learned from the horse, so he failed.



  18. #18
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    Apr. 19, 2004
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    Fabulous and interesting replies here.

    One of you used the word 'humble'. That one word, along with 'time' are the two keys to developing a successful relationship with any horse, IMO.

    Bring the trainer's overblown ego into the picture and the horse looses.

    The bottom line is control. Perhaps the good trainers learn how to control themselves before they attempt to communicate with horses. They know, have the experience, the trust and the deep affection necessary to develop a trusting, willing, happy partner.

    And the journey continues.....
    Form follows function, or does function follow form?

    www.clearvisionequine.com

    http://clearvisionequine.blogspot.com



  19. #19
    Join Date
    Mar. 25, 2008
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    Default Hay

    Twofatponies said: "It really must depend on the trainer - there are some "self-taught" "dressage" riders out there who read some books and watch some videos and do some terrible "dressage". Ditto some very mediocre to bad instructors teaching jumping. Any method of training takes years of experience and also some good natural ability to do well, no?

    I've been working with a NH trainer for a year, after several years with German dressage and British system trainers. This trainer is good. One of her big rules is "never drill the horse." Drilling a horse, whether in the round pen or doing endless lunging, or endless half passes or whatever will sour them and/or injure them. I suspect this trainer would still be a good trainer if she were working in another discipline or style instead of NH. She is intelligent, has a sharp eye for how the horse is responding, knows when to make them try again and when to reward them for a good try. That kind of awareness and skill is important no matter what method of training you are using.

    Her horses are well mannered, friendly, well conditioned, move freely and forward, are responsive, etc.

    I think her approach has been especially useful for my ex-Amish Morgan mare, who struggled with a lot of defensiveness and body tension, and a constant anticipation of being harshed on if she made a mistake. She made some progress with previous trainers, but two weeks into working with this NH trainer I saw a lightbulb go off in her eyes - she got it. She turned a huge corner in trust and confidence and relaxation. She has a new sense of fun and curiousity, instead of acting like a grim soldier all the time. It may be less the technique than that she clicked with this particular trainer's sense of timing and so forth, too - who knows?

    And we don't sit around waving carrot sticks! I trail ride, fox hunt, hunter pace, carriage drive, and do mounted games (western). Other students compete in eventing and dressage.

    I wouldn't toss NH out the window as a method, based on some people doing it badly, or the fact that certain famous trainers have turned it into a "train your own horse in your backyard using a DVD" type of thing. No more than I would throw "dressage training" out the window just because I have seen way too much iron-fisted, mouth cranked shut, draw-reined, tension-filled, spur-and-whip dressage. There's crap and brilliance in every discipline - heck, in every human endeavor."

    Excellent post. Love the last line best: "There's crap and brilliance in every discipline..."
    Sorry! But that barn smell is my aromatherapy!
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