Where’s the first place to start with Natural Horsemanship?

When I am called out to help someone who is having trouble with their horse, I often find that they have had their horse for some time and they are at their wits end because they really do not know what else to do and I am their last port of call!

The horse is displaying dangerous unwanted behaviour and no amount of bits, gadgets, schooling regime, or food calming supplements seems to help them with their situation.

This can be so frustrating for the owner if they have a horse that is super super talented and has been bred for a particular use or discipline but has a mindset that is working against them.

So I think the first place to start is with how WE think.

Very often at the first assessment session that I am called out to give, they look at me like I’ve fallen out of the ‘funny tree’ and hit every branch on the way down!  They often think that my suggestions are madness as it is very different from what they expected.

If they are lucky and they are open I can help them change the way that they think and approach the horse in a completly different way.  I ask them to put themselves in the horses shoes and try to see things from the horse’s point of view rather than their own wants and needs.  I help them understand that the horse has different motivating factors from us humans.  I also help them to develop a ‘language’ that the horse can understand. If they can do this in the very first session then changes can occur.

Now what do I mean by changes?

Ideally, the way that the horse perceives us human beings because if we can’t change the horse’s perception of us then there’s always going to be oppositional behaviour.

What do I mean by that?

Well, who wants to spend their life on a horse that spends it’s time rearing on it’s hind legs, or bucking it’s rider off, or running away bolting?   Some horses just plant their feet and will not go forward….at all….and if you try to make them go, they they display one of the previous behaviours.  Some horses display very undesirable behaviour on the ground.  My first horse used to charge at me or anyone else who dared enter her field and even when stabled she would fly to the door with her mouth wide open bearing her teeth to anyone foolish enough to get too close.  Goodness knows how I managed her.  She also spent most of her time rearing.  How I wish I knew then what I know now!

So my suggestion to you is to let down your guard and be open to ideas that you will not be familiar with.

It says on my website, ‘Congratulations for admitting that you are part of the problem’.

Ouch!  That’s the hardest part…… admitting that.   You see, the horse isn’t really the problem is it?  All he wants to do is be out in the field with his mates, eating, playing and generally just being a horse as part of a herd.  That is how they have evolved.  That is how they feel safest.  That is what the horse wants and so often we put our own human egotistical wants and needs above what the horse needs to be mentally, emotionally and physically happy.

So if we want to get something from our horses, then let’s start at the very first step, which is trying to see things from the horse’s point of view.

Now that is not easy to do.  If you have been using ‘traditional’ methods up until now, just like I was when I first stumbled over Natural Horsemanship (I’m not sure if you know that I used to TEACH traditional methods as a fully qualified BHSII…for decades!) then I understand how you are feeling at this moment and it’s great that you are still reading this blog post!

I was probably one of the most difficult students to come to Natural Horsemanship as I questioned absolutley EVERTHING! I used to say things like, ‘He should be able to do that by now’, ‘He ought to do it’, ‘He’s been doing it for long enough’, but at the end of the day that didn’t change my horse’s perception of me and for him to want to do things for me.  I found he was always working against me.  Gradually though my own thinking changed and then my little horse started to perceive me a different way.  And then the changes came thick and fast!

So start with an open mind.

In the beginning, it’s not about you being able to ‘do’ anything with your horse.  It’s about educating ourselves on the principles of what is important to the horse.   There are many great horse trainers out there who are brilliant with horses.  They take them into their yards for training maybe for 2, 3 or 4 weeks, some even longer, and then they hand them back over to the owners who……….have not changed their thinking!  Sometimes, the owner and horse get along for the first day or so, but it doesn’t take long before the horse realizes that the owner still is the same.

When I start with a new person, I work really hard to help them look at their own thinking and how it would benefit their horse if they could do this.

Do you understand what is important to your horse?  What motivates him?  He is not motivated by the same things you are.  Have you established a body language which is so subtle that your horse is motivated to respond to it?  If you are having trouble with your horse, then the chances are that that is missing. In other words, he needs to know that there is comfort (or the release) if he complies with our request.  I like to call it ‘The Horse’s Hierarchy Of Needs’.  You see, if we don’t have this basic knowledge then how on earth are we to communicate effectively with our horse?

The possibilities are limitless when we open our minds to how the horse might view our request.  Your first few sessions will challenge your current beliefs and habits more than you could possibly imagine.  It will take you out of your comfort zone as to what you have believed to be ‘normal’.  But that’s OK.  I will stay with you and help you as you work your way through that.  Now, for some people, they simply can’t park their current beliefs and I understand that.  It doesn’t make them wrong or bad people for that and if I am helping a client who is having trouble with their own belief system then THAT is the thing I focus on first.

Your horse will thank you for it.  They always do.  It is quite remarkable to see the change in the horse’s perception of it’s owner sometimes as quickly as the first hour!

If you would like help to resolve an issue with your horse in a one to one situation can I suggest that you connect with me….let me know you are out there and I will do my very best to help you read your horse and understand things from his point of view.

Please come back to this blog time and again as I would love to help you learn to connect with your horse in a way that even makes your horse think that you are good!

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