Natural Horsemanship has always
been around, probably since the time man first interacted with the
horse. Years ago
however, it was packaged by a run of American Trainers with marketing
hype, buzz words, 'touchy feely' speak and in some cases, an almost Pentecostal
delivery. Good on them as so called 'Natural Horsemanship' (NH) is a
fantastic principal and has enlightened multitudes of closed minded
However, lost in the euphoria has
been the reality that 'Natural Horsemanship' as People have come to know
it in these times, is only a system of Ground Manners Training. IT IS
NOT a system of the Starting or Breaking in of Horses.!
THE OLD SCHOOL
Prior to those who brought
'Natural Horsemanship' to the World, the old methods can best be
described by these two Photos.
A lot of money has been made and a
number of Trainers have become household names as a result but in
essence, they are no better or worse than other good Trainers, the world
over. Many are not as good as conventional Trainers'. Luckily, I have
been around as long or longer than most of the NH preachers' and have
been able to take a long hard objective look at what they say, via their
clinics, video's and books and have watched a lot of their disciples.
Even more fortunate, I have been able to ride and handle the product of
every one of these systems, both before NH and since it's inception
which was about 20 years
ago. I was there the day that Parelli first showed his wares in this
Country. You will notice a heavy dose of NH type talk throughout my
writings but I was doing that long before NH was ever invented and so was
Lyons, Dorrence, Hunt and other top class Trainers'.
the World over, have always operated as "Natural Horse Persons"
Of the many observations about all of the various spins
that each Trainer has put on their particular brand of NH, I feel that two
That horses are capable of learning the various
teachings way faster than humans and that this is one of the
weaknesses in the system, and,
That as a result, there are a lot of confused horses
out there. A lot of horses suffer at the hands of NH newbie's. who
literally do get "paralysis of the analysis"
So who invented it?
MR - RAREYS SYSTEM (1800's)
He was from America and electrified the British
Public who noted that he had "an extraordinary Power over Horses" but he
would have for the British were used to caressing domesticated Horses
for around 3 Weeks and then leading with a dummy Man on top.
PROFESSOR SAMPLE (1800's)
'Professor' Sample and his
''Marvelous Horse Taming Machine". Sample arrived in London in 1885 but
was discredited. However when he ventured to Australia where in
Melbourne, he lead a Horse into the enclosure and proclaimed it had
never been handled before. Some things don't change through the Ages
Ray Hunt was born August 31, 1929
and passed away in 2009. He too was a conventional Horseman who was a
PAT PARELLI (1900's)
Pat, to his credit, identified
that the Horse World at large just couldn't get this "natural
Horsemanship' thing and he should always
be remembered for popularizing a form of it and all those who
followed, copied or altered Pat's 7 Games. He invented a way to bring
the thinking to the Masses, although, in a Modern way. Don't think for a
moment though, that all of the others mentioned here "floated the Rope".
They did however, work sympathetically and empathetically with Horses,
because Horses were their teachers and they
Let's set the
record straight from the outset though. An Australian first invented and taught
the principal of 'Advance and Retreat" and his name was Kel Jeffrey's.
He died in 1954. I would therefore submit that he was a 'Natural
Horseman". Pat Parelli credits Kel as the inventor of "Advance and
heavily influenced by the greatest Trainer of Trick Horses in the World,
J.D. Wilton, who was my mentor, Steve Brady and many of the best
Australian Horse Trainers of this day.
It is said that Jim Wilton was the greatest Horse Trainer of them all
and I know he was held in awe by American Horse People. Many of his
achievements will never be matched. He showed a group of Horses, across
Australia, at Agricultural Shows, AT LIBERTY. Horses in quadrille,
jumping Cars whilst holding flaming poles in their Teeth.
However, few have heard of this
PROFESSOR MCGILLIVRAY (1800's)
However, way prior to
that, a distant relative of myself, Professor McGillivray, toured
Australia from Town to Town where they would assemble the greatest Man
Eater and rogue Horses around and the good Professor would ride the Beast within 10
minutes and often within 30 seconds and using nothing but a
walking stick, no Bridle and Saddle I would submit that he was the first 'Natural Horseman'
and undoubtedly, the best.
Catching and Mounting an untouched Horse in 30 Seconds
MR. D'ARCY HYLAND (1800's)
an Australian, having seen Rarey and Sample, then
toured the Country and also wowed the Crowds but he was not a "Natural
Horseman". Other notable Horsemen of the Day were Curr, Edward
Micklethwaite (1820–1889) and Fetherstonhaugh, Cuthbert (1837–1925)
Gordon, Adam Lindsay (1833–1870)
Gordon in fact Married my Grand Mother's Sister on
my Mum's side.
He too was a renowned Horseman of the time. In July 1865 Gordon,
performed the daring riding feat known as Gordon’s Leap on the edge of
the Blue Lake. A commemorative obelisk erected there has an inscription
which reads: “This obelisk was erected as a memorial to the famous
Australian poet. From near this spot in July, 1865 Gordon made his famed
leap on horseback over an old post and rail guard fence onto a narrow
ledge overlooking the Blue Lake and jumped back again onto the roadway.
The foundation stone of the Gordon Memorial Obelisk was laid on 8th July
NATURAL HORSEMANSHIP NOW
Now, I am all for NH and have promoted Pat Parelli's
system far and wide over the years. For years before his first accredited
trainer appeared in the State that I live in, I was promoting his system
and equipment and actually had Manufactured and sold the first rope halters into Saddlery Shops
in Australiaas they had never heard of them. I use a lot of NH techniques but
people should never rule out what came before. The promotion of the
various systems of NH and the creed itself has become almost evangelical
and Religious in it's following and this is starting to affect the
mainstream Trainers and the Horse Industry in general. Two instances of
The break up of certain Pony Clubs because the Parelli
teaching makes people think that they cannot wear bridles on their
horses which has led to the a lot of Pony Club members leaving, and,
The effect upon Professional Trainers who may not wear
the NH badge of honor, with these people now starting to lose work or
be questioned about "what type of NH" system do you break a
horse in with?" (my answer to that is, that non of the systems
teach breaking in. They are all small parts of what is needed for a
completed horse but not the full deal)
You show me an NH system that includes the full system
of breaking in a horse. Yet, NH has taken the centre stage, almost to
the exclusion of. let's call it, Good Horsemanship. (GH)
NH has never
taught a system of 'starting or breaking in' Horses. It is simply a
'ground manners' system that extends to basic ridden work for fun. It
does not teach 'Starting Horses'
To his credit,
Pat Parelli has never actively sought to denigrate everything that is
not 'natural' and I have personally heard him accredit Jeffreys but
there is a new Breed of Natural Horse People arriving on the scene right
now and not only do they not credit Pat Parelli with their very
existence but they are going out of their way to discredit any Trainer
that doesn't follow their newly cloned brand which is 'Parelli dressed
in drag' It normally has the word 'Savvy' associated with it's name and
is even slicker in marketing than when Pat started out :) This is the
main reason for the update of this article.
I have ridden hundreds of NH started horses. None of them compare with
horses that come from the original Australian Horse Breaker. They also
have certain short comings.
They are often a problem to shoe. (ask any farrier)
They do not have the mouths that other systems
They often do not tie up properly.
Let's for the want of a better word, call that which came
before NH, GH. I include people like Ray Hunt, John Lyons, Tom Dorrence,
Kel Jeffreys, Tom Roberts, Professor McGilveray and many others. Hunt and
Lyons have jumped on the NH band wagon a little but their roots are in GH.
I can tell by watching them, but even they are a little intimidated with
the NH revolution and have been busy re-packaging themselves to keep up.
One thing is for sure though, NH should never over shadow GH and that
these good trainers' should stand their ground.
In the interests of open debate, I will now have a close
look at a couple of the more publicized systems.
The ground work, or the '7 Games' as it was called, is
fantastic and every person in the world should know and use it. If
they did, I wouldn't meet the 90% of horses that are 'pig ignorant' on
the ground that I do today.
side of it has use for the converts but not the general Horse
I have never met a horse broken in with this system
that I would rank as good.
The Parelli system of floating is fantastic
and most suited to the one person Horse Team but once
again, comes unstuck due to the fact that the human takes a long time
to learn how to carry it out proficiently. I meet a lot of problem
floaters' caused by the failure of Parelli aspirants' and I know
systems of floating that run rings around the practical use upon
problem floaters and especially for the Novice person.
The riding 'At Liberty' system looks like great fun
and can only improve horses overall behavior, however, it is for a
very limited audience and is not relevant to mainstream riders'.
Monty Roberts uses a technique he calls "Join
Up" He makes people think that once a horse has joined up, that it is
basically broken in and can be ridden. This is not so and is bordering on
dangerous in my opinion.
Professor McGilervray caught all Wild
Horses or local rogues, in 60 seconds, with a Walking Stick.
"Join Up" was also used by John Lyons
(on video) 20 years ago at
least and he was calling it "Round Pen Reasoning" or similar. I
saw the video and have used this system for at least 25 years. Let me tell you that in
performing the act of "Join UP", the horse is no where near
broken in, is not mouthed, does not have brakes or a steering wheel . You
should not assume that it does. I can imagine the accidents that may have
occurred by people thinking that these horses are ready to ride. They are
not. THEY ARE DANGEROUS!
The "Join Up" is a very valuable tool for the
wild or tough and dangerous horse and I use it fairly regularly. Again
however, the amateur person would have a great deal of trouble attempting
to gain much success from it as the years of experience in reading horses
etc, is needed. The Novice has great difficulty in carrying it out and
this often leads to the terrorization of Horses. In fact, a form of
'Join Up' was used by Rarey
and many others, although the term had not been invented, were also
'Natural Horsemen' imho. They all contributed to the revolution that
served to commence the fight against archaic methods such as throwing
Horses down, trusting them up, chocking them down and bucking them out.
'Natural Horsemanship is not about any one system or invention but it is
a way of interacting with Horses that uses the minimum of force to get
the job done, does not stress or upset Horses and above all, makes sure
they come out the other end of the Breaking in process with their
natural personality, no hang ups and with a look of happiness in their
eye and on their face. It is an anachronism to know that a fair sample
of the New Age Natural Horsemanship converts, in fact turn out unhappy
and Pee'd off Horses, do to their over exuberance with the systems.
I even have a version, which
takes around 2 Minutes. here
HORSES NEVER LIE
With the advent
of Youtube, I have been able to study many systems of starting Horses
but I have been encountering many clips of Horses that are trained in
the Savvy way where Horses are distinctly unhappy and depressed. Their
Body Language tells all. I see a level of stress in lots of Horses that
I never see when I have to work outside of my Natural Horsemanship mould
with Problem Horses. I never get such faces on Horses, no matter whether
I may have to lie them on the ground hobble them, collar rope them or
any manner of other remedial reasons. So what gives?
It gets back to
the fact that it is not about the system but how it is used. It is about
the Handler. Therefore, I will wager anyone that I can operate in a
Natural Horsemanship manner when Hobble Training a Horse. None of them
will ever end up with bad faces, the likes of what I am currently seeing
coming out of some well known Natural Horsemanship Trainers.
This is the face of one started last
week by one of my Friends. Spot the difference.
TRUE NATURAL HORSEMANSHIP - THE
True "Natural Horsemanship, the
likes of Dorrence and Hunt, will rarely be experienced and will not be
gained via the modern Day and so called "Natural Horsemanship' (7 Games
and Savvy based off shoots)
As 'Curley' in 'City Slickers' the
Movie said when continually asked "how did you do that", simply remarked
each time, "It's the ONE THING" Luckily, after many Thousands of Horses
through my Hands, I can vouch that "the One Thing" does exist. Tom
Dorrence was obviously referring to it via the Title of his Book "True
Unity". This is in fact true 'Natural Horsemanship'. What is
it?.......well as 'Curly' said....."When you get it, you'll know it"
SO WHAT IS NATURAL HORSEMANSHIP?
Well it is not the 7 Games alone.
It is far more than that. True Natural Horsemanship comes with empathy,
kindness, understanding, reading of the Horse, the ability to read the
Mind of the Horse, to understand and identify that the Horse can read
your mind, to admit that the Horse is highly intelligent and in many
ways a faster learner than Humans. How come I can teach a Horse the 7
Games in an Hour and a Human in 6 Months?
Dr. Robert M
Miller in his latest Book, 'Natural Horsemanship Explained' says the
interesting that, while today's recreational rider often has an
excessive dependency on and respect for such tools as bits, spurs and
whips, they usually regard hobbles as and unnecessary and cruel device.
I believe that all domestic horses should be trained to hobbles and that
proper hobble training is an integral part of 'Natural Horsemanship'"
It is a good read by the way.
Now I only raise
the most controversial subject in order to make the point that it is not
about the systems but about the way they are carried out and the
Some of the new
entrants are attempting to brain wash their target converts that anyone
who ties a horse up or anyone who desensitizes Horses can not be called
a Horseman. I completely disagree and so does Dr. Miller.
it is much slower than 'flooding', a safer technique is to progressively
desensitize the horse by using the advance retreat system described
earlier or even the pursuit of an unfamiliar and frightening object also
described earlier. A horse can follow a tarp being dragged away from it
until confidence and curiosity develop and fear dissipates."
pragmatic Horseman is the one that realizes that they have to custom
make each Horse to suit the 'Dummy' that may ride it. Whilst blind and
dizzy pursuits in the name of Horsemanship may give us all a 'warm inner
glow' at the end of the day, Novices who make up the vast majority of
the Horse Industry, have to be able to ride them and not die. Balance is
The principals behind NH are great and those pushing it
have done a mighty service to the welfare of horses. I credit Pat Parelli
as the leader in the advancement and launching of such thinking and he
deserves all the credit he gets. He rarely gets it by half the World of
new NH Horsemen and Women as they attempt to dupe us all that it is
their idea but they are all copying and varying on Pat. Sorry. Credit
where Credit due. He didn't invent it but he packaged it and
popularized it. Full stop/end of story.
I warn against people getting "Paralysis
of the Analysis" to use Pat's own quote, to keep an open mind and to build
their skills using parts of every system ever invented. I use it all and I
figure that I am a complete Horseman. If I stuck to one system, I would
not be known as 'Horseproblems' and I would not still be here after
NH, GH, and Horsemanship in general
Mr HP, Finally, I have a problem concerning horses! :) :) It is not my intent to make you a Lightning Rod, but I think this is
a subject that needs thinking about.
I have a problem with what seems to be one of the basic tenets of
NH, GH, and Horsemanship in general. The phrases "be the boss" and "be a leader" just don't sound quite right
to me. If you take a good look at horse interaction in herds, the Boss or
Leader takes responsibility for discipline in the herd. They do the bulk of the "Mother-in-Law" looks, shoulder
pushing, nudging, nipping, biting, kicking and, in extreme cases, going for the flank bite, although other horses do
some to maintain or increase their standing in the herd. It seems to me that any intelligent horse (which is most of them)
will, by its' very nature, avoid interaction with the Boss if it has
any choice. Unless it is challenging the leadership, it is going to
be low profile. With the herd boss, it is "My way or the highway".
Conform to my rules or you will be driven from the herd. Do Bosses
have respect for the other horses? Only if you define respect as not
coming down on them for following the rules.
When people do "join up" and "the 7 games" do they really become the
Leader? If not, what IS going on?
If you take another look at the herd you will see two horses
grooming each other, scratching each others manes, back and tail,
places where they can't reach themselves. Standing end to end
keeping flies off of each other. Just about anything that is of
mutual benefit, and sometimes just of benefit to one. If you watch
them when a more dominant horse tries to play dominance games, the
act together to protect each other. The more dominant horse
generally doesn't like those odds, so they are generally left pretty
much alone. They are pasture "buddies" who RESPECT and TRUST each
other. And are prone to" Separation Anxiety". :) By the trainer acting as a Leader, but being free with praise and
grooming for a job well done, has he (or she) become instead a
"buddy", a trusted (and respected) companion the horse enjoys being
with. Bosses generally only groom when they allow another horse back
in the herd, after accepting a sincere and heartfelt apology for
violating the rules. And I can't see them going over to a horse and
saying "Well done" and giving a little love for behaving. Is a Leader and Follower the best relationship you can have with a
horse? Or is it a Partnership where each listens to the other and
the horse happily accepts cues? Where each does his (or her) best
for the other? A "mutual admiration society" with mutual trust and
respect. Yes, you need a horse to respect you and your space, and you need to
do what is necessary to get it, but do you need to be a Leader?
After you have respect do you need to be dominant, or is equal (with
veto power) good enough? A Leader tells, a Buddy asks. (Did you know a horses and women have
at least one thing in common: very few like to be told what to do,
they like to be asked, and some of them you damned well better ask!)
:) :) :) If a horse has a choice of following the Leader going in one
direction and his Buddy going in another which way would he go? If
the defecation hits the accelerator the Leader is half way to Alice
Springs, but the Buddy is still there trying to help out. Is a horse
going to trot over to the Leader to say "Glad do see you"? Not
likely. Think about the best horse/rider combinations you have seen. What
kind of relationship did they have?
Is it time to change the nomenclature and basic thinking of horse
Ah Jack, yes. You know? If you and I were around a
Camp Fire, we would agree on most things and all of that but the
World isn't flat. I am ever mindful that I deal with and write for
those entering and trying to advance in the Horse Industry and as
you know, most cannot yet arrive at a place where they could achieve
those lofty ideals in their relationship with their Horses. I am
sure they all aspire to but we are talking high skill levels to get
there. However, your piece sure is an aspiration for all to strive
for and for that I thank you.
I devote this article to my
twenty odd Thousand Coaches. They were always right and none ever
"An ordinary Trainer cannot hear a
Horse speak, a Good Trainer can, a Great Trainer can hear them
whisper and a Top Trainer can HEAR THEM