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Talk to me about groundwork/natural horsemanship

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  • Momateur
    started a topic Talk to me about groundwork/natural horsemanship

    Talk to me about groundwork/natural horsemanship

    Hi all. I'm a lifelong hunter/jumper rider, but I never really learned much about groundwork/natural horsemanship. I've got a nice little 4 year old on trial (I'm likely buying him) and I'd REALLY like to do some with him. I think it'd benefit both of us.

    My trainer does a little of this, but it's not her forte. I'd like to invest in some education. I've heard that the Buck Brannaman videos are very good. Can anyone confirm or deny this? Any other recommendations?

  • kashmere
    replied
    Originally posted by Palm Beach View Post

    But that is not what I said. What I said is, "For those who compete and need to advance their horsemanship, an engaged relationship with the horse is needed." It was not intended to mean that no one else needs or wants an engaged relationship with the horse.
    See? We agree already

    Leave a comment:


  • Palm Beach
    replied
    Originally posted by kashmere View Post
    I might disagree with you that only people advancing their horsemanship or competing benefit from an engaged relationship with their horse - but I suspect if we talked beyond generalities we'd be closer to aligned than not.
    But that is not what I said. What I said is, "For those who compete and need to advance their horsemanship, an engaged relationship with the horse is needed." It was not intended to mean that no one else needs or wants an engaged relationship with the horse.

    Leave a comment:


  • Standard Bread
    replied
    For once I have to say I basically completely agree with G., even if his anthropology is leaving something to be desired.

    You don’t need NH to have a well behaved horse that stands tied, loads well, and respects space. You just need to understand timing and release, and have a good sense of patience and lateral thinking. And the NH trainers certainly don’t have a monopoly on any of that, especially not the last two.

    I personally don’t find much value in the things the NH trainers are putting out there. I think most of them are a series of gimmicks trussed up to look like a comprehensive program. And hey, I use some of those gimmicks myself sometimes, so I do find some value in it. But I do understand where the appeal lies, and if you (the OP) feel you would benefit from how they break down training, you’ve gotten some good names. But I’m a little surprised to see that no one’s mentioned Mark Rashid yet. His approach is quite unique, and his philosophy has greatly informed how I work with high energy situations.

    Leave a comment:


  • kashmere
    replied
    Originally posted by Palm Beach View Post

    I know what you mean. But I think a lot of that came from trainers assisting recreational riders who just need to basically stay safe around horses and don't aspire to riding at a high level. So it's safer for them and everyone around them to have a bit of a dull horse that is also very respectful. And those make for great videos - horse that would behave badly for the owner gets turned around, and the owner gets the skills necessary to keep the horse well behaved.

    For those who compete and need to advance their horsemanship, an engaged relationship with the horse is needed. There is not as much online with advanced riders and horses unless you are subscribing to a trainer's video library or bought some videos.
    Palm Beach That sounds like a smart assessment. I'm thinking in particular of one horse I've encountered recently who was taken on lease after a young rider outgrew her pony. The best description for the horse is "robotic," and we knew he'd come from a sort of "yield to death" place. As work was done to get past the walled off/robotic surface, it became clear there was a looooot of work to be done with the raw material underneath!

    At that point, in my view, one has to consider what is best for the horse and its suitability for intended use. In this case, it was clear he wouldn't be a good fit for this girl - his closed off robot ways were TOO rote and dull for her use, but underneath was a significant project, so he went back home. Whether taking the time to open that up and give him strategies to manage the world that aren't just "retreat" is kind, or whether it would be kinder still to let him continue in the path he's now so used to is up to interpretation and I'm sure lively) debate.

    And you're spot on, also, with the wider availability of the yield/dominate material vs the paid/subscription access to the whole philosophy of any particular trainer. I might disagree with you that only people advancing their horsemanship or competing benefit from an engaged relationship with their horse - but I suspect if we talked beyond generalities we'd be closer to aligned than not.

    Leave a comment:


  • IPEsq
    replied
    I like and have had success with Warwick's methods and TRT. I found that I needed to learn a lot more about my body energy, positioning and mental focus on the ground, and these methods helped me to communicate better not just go through some series of motions to get the horse to yield.

    I also recommend Mark Rashid's books. They aren't so much about training the horse but I found his book on starting and restarting horses to be very helpful for changing myself to be better equipped to deal with my horse who has had a lot of pain issues and who is very sensitive even though he likes to come off as tough and can be prone to shutting down.

    Leave a comment:


  • Palm Beach
    replied
    Originally posted by kashmere View Post
    I haven't studied many of the folks mentioned here in enough detail to critique their approach intelligently, but I have noticed that many of the amateur practitioners of some of the bigger NH-name methods get very focused on asserting dominance and constantly asking the horse to "yield" to them. That may not at all be what the actual methods are about, but there's a consistency in interpretation, at least in many people I've encountered, toward "being the boss." In most of those cases I've seen horses who are very dull and "closed off," doing these yielding movements by rote, but not at all engaging with their environment or their handler. That usually translates to under saddle work - obedient but not plugged in. Just something to look for in the language / approach of whomever you research.
    I know what you mean. But I think a lot of that came from trainers assisting recreational riders who just need to basically stay safe around horses and don't aspire to riding at a high level. So it's safer for them and everyone around them to have a bit of a dull horse that is also very respectful. And those make for great videos - horse that would behave badly for the owner gets turned around, and the owner gets the skills necessary to keep the horse well behaved.

    For those who compete and need to advance their horsemanship, an engaged relationship with the horse is needed. There is not as much online with advanced riders and horses unless you are subscribing to a trainer's video library or bought some videos.

    Leave a comment:


  • kashmere
    replied
    Big fan of groundwork, generally. Personally I like Tristan Tucker/TRT methods. While he does have some specific exercises he uses, the overall concept behind his approach is easily applicable to a ton of situations. Specifically, I like that it is about giving your horse strategies for dealing with stressful things rather than "desensitizing," and that there is a lot of focus on how the handler influences any given situation via their energy level - and not "energy" in a mystical aura sense, "energy" in a tone/manner/voice/volume/body language sense.

    I haven't studied many of the folks mentioned here in enough detail to critique their approach intelligently, but I have noticed that many of the amateur practitioners of some of the bigger NH-name methods get very focused on asserting dominance and constantly asking the horse to "yield" to them. That may not at all be what the actual methods are about, but there's a consistency in interpretation, at least in many people I've encountered, toward "being the boss." In most of those cases I've seen horses who are very dull and "closed off," doing these yielding movements by rote, but not at all engaging with their environment or their handler. That usually translates to under saddle work - obedient but not plugged in. Just something to look for in the language / approach of whomever you research.

    Leave a comment:


  • cloudy18
    replied
    I'll add to the Warwick Schiller fan base here. I also like Buck and have the 7 Clinics DVDs, but what really helped me was finding a trainer like Buck and taking a couple clinics and some lessons. I have to dedicate a day to taking a 2 hour lesson because he's not close, but it's worth it. If that truly isn't an option then soak up everything you can from Warwick, Buck, and similar. I'd also urge you to read Anna Blake's blogs. She really gets you thinking about the horse's perspective.

    Leave a comment:


  • Silver Silence
    replied
    Originally posted by CHT View Post

    NH often uses flooding to get a horse to accept external stimuli, and to put a horse in a state of sustained helplessness. There are many scientific studies to back up this reality. Similar to how a mouse curls up to the cat that has been trying to kill it: it can't escape so it just gives up and indeed looks relaxed.
    Very far from the truth, however.... anyone I follow or respect doesn't call themselves a "NH" trainer. Warwick for example calls it "performance horsemanship". I prefer to address the training style I use as just plain "horsemanship", it's about putting the horse first.

    Another vote here for Warwick, if you have experience with horses and a good feel already, his videos will serve you very well.

    Leave a comment:


  • wildlifer
    replied
    Originally posted by mvp View Post

    What the NH guys do well (as all trainers do), is teach the horse that he can influence his handler or rider. If he pays enough attention to the signals given, he can earn himself a release. This kind of horse is tuned into his person because his person makes his world safe, predictable and even fun.
    What an excellent, concise description!

    OP, here is what I have learned as a practical person, who did not learn about groundwork growing up, who wants as many good tools in my toolbox as possible to help me & my horses have a safe, healthy relationship:

    There is a skillset to be learned. You can learn a lot online for free or cheap. But if you have the opportunity to learn in person (auditing a clinic is great), it is worthwhile.

    I was (am) a good rider, but knew even less than I thought I did about this side of things. I found it enormously beneficial to have at least one live session with me, a horse (doesn't have to be your horse) , & a teacher who could direct me when I was "trying to communicate with my horse like a blind drunk." This person does not necessarily have to be an official "NH" person, just someone who understands the principles.

    Just like every other thing in the world, there are great people & there are shady ones. Usually the horses tell you which is which.

    I met Buck & have watched a couple of his clinics. He is kind of a magical person. I have learned a great deal & I use that information every week. But this is his life & his explanations are not always at a true beginner level. I have not seen his DVDs, so can't comment on them. His overarching principles tho, are excellent. When faced with a problem, I often catch myself thinking "what would Buck say?" (followed closely by "is this feasible for me")
    ​​​​

    I do not subscribe to any one person for anything. I take what is useful to me & leave the rest. I don't think it matters so much what someone's name is, it matters more if they can communicate in a way that you understand (& of course that they are doing correct work) & that includes how to be safe & how to recognize when to walk away & try again another day. And when to ask for help.

    Recognizing when to walk away is really important in all of this, even more so with a young horse. I am learning this over & over with my young horse. Breaking the baby steps down into micro steps which then become building blocks is a big part of all this. Learning how to read your horse, how he learns as an individual, not just "did he do what I told him to" , is just as important as learning how to speak to him. That's how you create that safe, understandable world mentioned above.

    I find it a fascinating enlargement of my learning journey with horses. I can't believe that 15 years ago, I didn't even know it existed. I have never bought a "magical" halter or super special rope. I did buy a basic, well made rope halter & I only buy 10' lead ropes. If I need a stick, I use an old dressage whip with a broken tip. The rest is just listening, reading, thinking, & trying.

    Thankfully, horses are very forgiving.

    Leave a comment:


  • mvp
    replied
    Originally posted by Foxtrot's View Post
    Where and when I was raised, "Natural Horsemanship" did not exist in my realm. In North America I learned about that and Western riding and desiring a very light, responsive horse. Both aspects add to one's learning - but there is also a lot of woo woo out there and a lot of over-priced conning from people who patent their work.
    In North America, where horse training is entirely unregulated, you can find a lot of "woo woo" (whatever that means) and over-priced conning in just about any discipline. I do think that those who wanted to try to systematize their work and deliver it via DVD and then YouTube videos were the first to trade-mark terms. They don't patent them, typically.

    And you have to admit that very proper, well-respected German training has its own central terms, too. I don't see so many people complaining that some of the German terms that have only crude English translations or a very systematized "training pyramid" are signs of a BS training method.

    Part of the problem with NH training methods are demographic and technological... even geographical! If you want to trace this back to some kind of origin, and you'd use Ray Hunt and Tom Dorrance as a kind of "founding fathers" that anyone knows about, you'd go back to just two guys in the middle of the 20th century in one corner of the country. In the Great Basin (and in California) they have a particular way of managing cattle, and California has an even older tradition that stretches back to the 18th-century Spanish (and most likely, Portuguese) cattlemen who made very broke, useful and even fancy horses.

    The only reason anyone outside of that corner of the world knows about any of this is because some of those trainers came of age when you could make a better living by being a clinician or (even better) making videos.

    And then the consumers of those videos may or may not have had the chops to use them well.

    But all that is to say that you might have a hard time parsing out the quality or usefulness of the training from its accidental history.

    Leave a comment:


  • Abbie.S
    replied
    The real, honest to Josh horsemanship of this variety has absolutely zilch to do with "predator/prey" or high pressure tactics. It has everything do with with using the language of the horse - what he already knows and speaks - to develop an real understanding and a relationship with him so he can be a solid, productive member of society.

    Those who use or teach this methodology have bastardized the principles that Tom Dorrance, Ray Hunt and so many others have tried to impart.

    So, OP, there are lots of "teachers" out there, but the good ones teach PRINCIPLES, not METHOD. There are lots of roads to Rome, and many are perfectly fine. Any "natural horsemanship" teacher worth their salt is interested in getting someone to understand an idea so the student can take it, expand up on and it use for it many horses in many situations over their lifetime. That's the beauty and breadth of this way of horsemanship - the possibilities are limitless because it's about conversation with the horse (which relies on being able to read and understand what is happening and drawing upon tools to respond), not dictatorship (which relies upon dominance and force or shortcuts to get a result, usually with a lack of real understanding about what is happening and why).

    Leave a comment:


  • WildLittleWren
    replied
    Originally posted by Foxtrot's View Post
    Where and when I was raised, "Natural Horsemanship" did not exist in my realm. In North America I learned about that and Western riding and desiring a very light, responsive horse. Both aspects add to one's learning - but there is also a lot of woo woo out there and a lot of over-priced conning from people who patent their work.
    Yes, I have never fallen into the "you have to have a special carrot stick..it has magical properties". Or the "you must buy this clinician's rope halter and lead or your training will fail". But a lot of people, like Warwick Schiller, are very good sources of information and learning how to better how you handle and train your horse!

    Leave a comment:


  • Foxtrot's
    replied
    Where and when I was raised, "Natural Horsemanship" did not exist in my realm. In North America I learned about that and Western riding and desiring a very light, responsive horse. Both aspects add to one's learning - but there is also a lot of woo woo out there and a lot of over-priced conning from people who patent their work.

    Leave a comment:


  • cardinale
    replied
    MVP, that's a great reply.

    Leave a comment:


  • mvp
    replied
    Originally posted by Palm Beach View Post

    No, it does not use flooding. I am thinking about the trainers listed above, and can't recall an instance where any of them use flooding. Most use pressure/release in some situations, which you are probably confusing with flooding. Or maybe you are thinking about different trainers. The only ones I have ever seen use flooding are English trainers.
    What the NH guys do well (as all trainers do), is teach the horse that he can influence his handler or rider. If he pays enough attention to the signals given, he can earn himself a release. This kind of horse is tuned into his person because his person makes his world safe, predictable and even fun.

    Leave a comment:


  • mvp
    replied
    Originally posted by CHT View Post

    NH often uses flooding to get a horse to accept external stimuli, and to put a horse in a state of sustained helplessness. There are many scientific studies to back up this reality. Similar to how a mouse curls up to the cat that has been trying to kill it: it can't escape so it just gives up and indeed looks relaxed.
    That is so not it!

    There is nothing about a cutting horse that is "learned helplessness." In fact, you *need* that horse to have an ego and to invest himself in the job.

    Leave a comment:


  • mvp
    replied
    Originally posted by CHT View Post
    I third Equitation Science. His book "Academic Horse Training" is easy to process and takes you step by step. I have not seen his DVDs. I regularly get an Equitation Science graduate up to teach clinics (Jane Stone) and the process is easy to learn although the timing takes some practice. The best part is that all training is broken down into 5 basic responses (move the haunches, move the shoulders, go faster, go slower, and head control), which can be used to address any training problem, or to achieve any "fancy" movement. Andrew competed in jumping/dressage at FEI levels: it isn't a western focused program like most NH.

    An issue with Natural Horsemanship is that it relies on the prey/predator response (which causes stress in the horse), and is also often short sighted (for example: teaching a horse to lead by following your feet or focusing on your posture makes it hard to correct a loading issue and can cause a horse stress when you then try to tie it and it can't follow your feet).
    I don't think the movement of one's feet are the only signal that a handler offers a horse. And the horse sure can't watch your feet when you are riding him.... which is the endgame of good NH person is using ground work.

    Also, what program of conditioning does Andrew use if not creating "stress" (or did you mean pressure?) for a horse that he has to figure out how to get his handler or rider to release?

    I always think it's interesting when riders who were raised riding English or who are the most educated in those disciplines as opposed to the Western ones feel confident telling folks all there is to know about what's wrong with the Western ones.

    Not for nothing, but I grew up in English world and now have a dressage mare who stands tied hard, loads, opens and closes gaits (this is a new skill for her and she thinks it is way hard to have a swinging, noisy gait that close to her body), and who learned to push cattle as a basis for learning to be confident went I sent her toward something scary. You know that this is for? Not cattle. It's for teaching her to trot boldly down to any judge's box at C because I asked her to.

    Leave a comment:


  • Palm Beach
    replied
    Originally posted by CHT View Post

    NH often uses flooding to get a horse to accept external stimuli, and to put a horse in a state of sustained helplessness. There are many scientific studies to back up this reality. Similar to how a mouse curls up to the cat that has been trying to kill it: it can't escape so it just gives up and indeed looks relaxed.
    No, it does not use flooding. I am thinking about the trainers listed above, and can't recall an instance where any of them use flooding. Most use pressure/release in some situations, which you are probably confusing with flooding. Or maybe you are thinking about different trainers. The only ones I have ever seen use flooding are English trainers.

    Leave a comment:

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