Nikki Livermore

What Is The Message Of "natural Horsemanship"?

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New article up talking about: What is the Message of "Natural Horsemanship"?

http://horsecity.com/stories/042810/tra_nathorseman.shtml

From the article:

"In the world of "Natural Horsemanship", there is a widely used phrase "be as soft as possible and as firm as necessary." It you ask 20 people what Natural Horsemanship means, you will get 20 different answers. There is also a growing concern about how firm is too firm and how gentle is too gentle."

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I think it goes like this. First its moved to the debate board where the smack downs continue and then shut down due to unnecessary roughness.

Or we could both be wrong and be the only ones to post on this issue.

I honestly do not have an issue with natural horsemanship, I take issues with people saying it is the only way to do it.

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It makes perfect sense to me. Well written Randy. I was fond of thinking that I was the one that coined the phrase "benevolent dictator". I certainly am pleased that it works for others. It just seems like the most logical "role model" for our position in the leadership equation. There must be a leader and a good leader is still able to listen to and learn from his subordinates. When the chips are down however and disaster is coming, ONE creature needs to be making decisions and all others either follow or get left to fate and endanger all others. I believe this is why horses take their herd structure so seriously. You test now so that when you need guidance you know where to look for it.

There is nothing abusive or "unnatural" about asserting dominance over horses. They do it all day long to each other. There can be "active" and "passive" leaders as the other recent article on the home page focused on but even the passive leaders are effective when they need to be.

William (historyrider)

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I do not disagree with anything the man said. I just think he and many of the other so-called NH horsemen and trainers do not explain a big part of it what those that do not have a lifetime of experience do not understand. They do not understand the subtle differences between effective training methods and ineffective useless repetition.

There is a lot of confusion around when negative reinforcement is ineffective and when it is absolutely needed. Many of these so-called NH trainers don't know the difference themselves between ineffective negative reinforcement and only needing relief or release of pressure to get the wanted response.

Until horse handlers and riders learn the difference and learn how to deal with un-wanted behavior as opposed to teaching new wanted behavior, they will always be ineffective trainers and will confuse a lot of horses and people alike.

Pressure and the release of that pressure will teach any horse how to correctly do whatever he is able to do and the trainer has the timing and feel to teach. It does not require negative reinforcement if the horse is good minded and the trainer has good timing and feel.

Some unwanted behaviors will go away with a little 'getting after' the horse or a little 'spanking' or 'hustling' and making him move at the handler's will. Other things require a LOT more force and the horse might need to find pain -- not just discomfort -- if you want him to give up the behavior. Otherwise you are going to have to try to correct him day after day after day and he will be the one that gets better at it. Some horses can just be scolded and others need to be half killed -- or at lest think they are going to be.

Knowing when and what is appropriate is what takes experience and judgment and someone that is 'horse smart' and has that elusive timing and feel.

What few people recognize is that if a trainer does everything right, does things in a logical order (logical to the horse, anyway), does not ask for anything that the horse is not ready and able to do, then the horse usually does the right thing the first time asked.

People hear all the time that horses learn from the release of pressure rather than from the pressure itself. But, I have found that most people do not know how to put that into actual use. They are just words that they cannot apply to what they are actually doing.

Edited by Cheri Wolfe

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Too soft is only too soft if it's ineffective and too strong is only too strong if it isn't justified.

Once the horse understands what you want you can refine your cues, on the ground, to simply using your eyes, a look, and the horse will respond. If you start with the look, then give your cues and escalate until the horse responds, you will get the horse responding, over time to less and less pressure because they are reading your body language and know what you are asking.

But, Like Cheri said, if you do not understand the theory, do not apply it properly and do not NATURALLY have "feel" you will not be sucessful.

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I agree, manes. But "feel" can be learned, or achieved with time. So many times I hear that if you don't have "feel" you will not be able to do this right. That might scare people off.

Keep at it, and if you have the right minded horse, he will come around, and you will develop that "feel".

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I love natural horsemanship. Me and my filly have been working together and I am over joyed with how well she responds to it. But like others said, it is a feel and timing thing. If you don't have the feel, you won't understand and if you don't have the timing, you may only confuse your horse. I still have a bit of a timing issue but it is getting better and she is responding better also.

And there is deffinately a differance in to gentle or to much getting after. You just need to know when and how much to achieve the appropriate outcome.

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I agree, manes. But "feel" can be learned, or achieved with time. So many times I hear that if you don't have "feel" you will not be able to do this right. That might scare people off.

Keep at it, and if you have the right minded horse, he will come around, and you will develop that "feel".

I agree, but those who do not naturally have feel, need to practice on each other, not a horse, until the develop it. [Crazy]

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Knowledge plus experience makes feel in my opinion. You have to have some idea of what you are trying to do first, then you must practice. The more you practice what you know that works, the better your feel becomes of when to pressure and when to release. This is your timing in horse training. The better your feel, the better your timing gets. The reason this criteria always surfaces in a "Natural Horsemanship" discussion is simple. Horses "speak" with body language. They are extremely expressive using it and practice all day long. Doesn't it make sense to use a horse's "Nature" in any training program whenever possible?

I do agree with Manes about practicing techniques and using new tools first away from your horse. I get some real good chuckles (under my breath of course) when I introduce training exercises to owners. How do some of these people walk and talk at the same time? Don't let yourself come to your horse ready to be his leader while you are fumbling with some new stick or gadget you just acquired at the Expo. That's just not such a great boost for the confidence. Don't think for a minute that your horse isn't wondering about it either. "That's a fancy extension of your arm there pal. Did it come with instructions? <snick>"

William (historyrider)

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I think you can practice on a horse. A dead broke "been there, done that" horse. That kind of horse is very forgiving when you make mistakes. He will just not respond if you screw up, probably. You don't want to practice on an untrained, sensitive horse because that will only confuse both of you.

You have to start small, of course, and add things as you become more confident in what you're doing. and in how the horse responds.

History, I've seen some of those people who have trouble walking and talking at the same time! [Crazy]

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quote WR:

"I think you can practice on a horse. A dead broke "been there, done that" horse. That kind of horse is very forgiving when you make mistakes. He will just not respond if you screw up, probably. You don't want to practice on an untrained, sensitive horse because that will only confuse both of you."

Oh I agree they have no business around a green or sensitive horse but a dead broke horse is going to respond and lose what respect they have for them when they over correct. They will respond and get jerked all over for their efforts. NO00000, i STILL say they should practice on each other so they can actually "feel" what they are doing and how they are doing it "feels like". That is the BEST lesson in tool handling a newbie can get, when their inept methods bodily affect them, they are MUCH more thoughtful about how they move those tools around.

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I've got this image in my head now of a cranky husband and wife team taking turns with a stick and string trying to gauge it's effectiveness, on each other.

"Does this hurt?" Whack! "Oww. Sure does. Now hand it over. Does THIS hurt!" Whack! "Owwee! You jerk! Give it back." "Why don't you put this thin rope halter around your neck and I'll pull you around with the tractor for a bit?"

;)

William (historyrider)

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I've got this image in my head now of a cranky husband and wife team taking turns with a stick and string trying to gauge it's effectiveness, on each other.

"Does this hurt?" Whack! "Oww. Sure does. Now hand it over. Does THIS hurt!" Whack! "Owwee! You jerk! Give it back." "Why don't you put this thin rope halter around your neck and I'll pull you around with the tractor for a bit?"

;)

William (historyrider)

[ROTFL] [ROTFL] [ROTFL]

Yep, That's the idea~!!

Actually, in the Parelli level one, the red pack, students do just this~!! It's amazing how much better their communication becomes when they understand how little it takes for the horse to feel the slightest movement of their hands. It takes "thugs" who jerk their ropes and sticks around and gets their hand eye coordination and rhythm moving much more smoothly~!!

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Oh I agree they have no business around a green or sensitive horse but a dead broke horse is going to respond and lose what respect they have for them when they over correct. They will respond and get jerked all over for their efforts.

Exactly. And then they learn.

I guess I should have clarified that a complete newbie to horses won't be able to do practice with a horse without instruction from someone who does have feel, or is at least knowledgeable about the right way to do it.

I'm not saying a newbie shouldn't practice on other people, either.

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My idea of 'natural horsemanship' is to learn to 'speak' and understand HORSE-ese, and apply it in a way the horse can understand. No gimmics, no expensive tools, just the right 'language'. Can't get much more natural than that.

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I'm not saying a newbie shouldn't practice on other people, either.

The only problem I have with that is people don't respond the same way a horse would, so learning would be limited.

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I put in two years of apprenticing for one of the natural horsemanship 'gurus' out there. And while I got a lot of knowledge under my belt....ironically my 'feel' went right out the window. This 'guru' is one of the ones that I believe is more about repitition and less about considering the horse. I definitely have some horses that I need to apologize to as a result(thought what trainer doesn't?). Now this isnt a jab at natural horsemanship altogether(I still use so-called natural methods as a trainer) its just a comment on my own personal experiences.

It was actually the reining trainers I worked for who set me straight again. I dont know how many times I got chewed out for overworking a horse or for being unfair in my expectations. I remember I was riding a two year old one march(I started him in Janurary) and he was being really frisky. It was a Monday and he had had the weekend off plus I was riding outside in a brisk wind. My boss was watching me do frantic rollbacks with him in order to get him to do what I wanted. After awhile he said to me 'you're riding a horse on a monday like I ride mine on a thursday.....IN JULY!!!' It took me a long time to feel like I didnt have to shove everything on my horses all at once.

When you have guys out there who try to create a foolproof training program in books or dvds or tv shows (stage 1 step A method 24 etc etc) I think you tend to end up with a training program designed actually NOT to create feel. During my education I was pressured into having my training horses perform at a certain level and if they werent doing it by the book I got in trouble. Therefore, I became so focused on the fact that Flicka the training horse had to be doing rollbacks by week 3 day 5 of the training program that I forgot to actually think about the fact that maybe Flicka is not ready, or she might be sore, or she might lack the physical talent to do it this early, or are rollbacks really that important for a horse meant to be someones trail companion and should I really be killing her for not doing them perfectly?

Edited by LaFormaDelCaballo

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You and your reining training mentor just validated what my entire program has always been based on.

Never ask a horse to do anything he is not ready and able to do. If you do not skip any steps and do not ask a horse for anything he is not ready to do well, you don't get the resistance or the problems you get if you push too hard.

The NH gurus are trying to do the impossible. They are trying to put together a program that lets people with no timing or feel and no natural ability or background succeed at something they have no idea how to do. If you are trying to teach someone to handle or ride a horse and they have no feel or quality judgment, they can try to do it by numbers replacing quality riding with gimmicks and tricks.

This is why I have always said that apprenticing to an event trainer that is successful and you respect will teach you much more than following some clinician that never finishes and shows any horses but works with nothing but aspiring beginners and common backyard horses that know so little that they do not know what they do not know. World class trainers with World class horses are a world apart from clinicians and NH Gurus.

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Agreed Cheri with everything you said....Unfortunately I learned that lesson the hard way. I was actually surprised at how thoughtful my reining mentors were when it came to their horses....Its easy to assume that a reining trainer would be all about the bottom line. But in all practicality you simply CANNOT run a horse into the ground if you want to win in the show pen or if you would like to keep your clients. And you are right about the showing and finishing horses part. Showing IMO is an entirely different discipline from training. I know some of the best 2 year old trainers in the country but you never see them in the Open Finals. They have not yet learned the subtle art of keeping your horse together long engough to show and show well. It really makes you sit back and reevaluate your program. For reiners we have TWO YEARS to get the horse there. There is no rush. The most important thing I ever learned is to never put a tight schedule on your program. As a trainer you will only set yourself up for failure if you say 'I only have this horse for 90 days so I have to get him doing this and this and this before he goes home' I promise my clients only one thing when they bring a horse to me for 90 days.....'Your horse will get 90 days of riding'. Do I have goals for the horse? Sure! But I am willing to be flexible with those goals and open with the client about the horse's progress and potential and thats all you can do. Horse training is such a mental game and if you shove lofty expectations on yourself and your horses you will only end up in trouble.

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Never ask a horse to do anything he is not ready and able to do. If you do not skip any steps and do not ask a horse for anything he is not ready to do well, you don't get the resistance or the problems you get if you push too hard.

Agreed. This is my idea of natural horsemanship, and the clinician I've followed seems to do exactly this.

Edited by Wild Rose

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I don't know if I can explain this that it makes sense, but here goes. It sounds easy to say never make a horse do something that it is not ready to do. We all agree on this. I was always taught unless the horse will do this 99% of the time don't go to the next step. I think sometimes we think 75% will surfice and this is where misjudgement on the persons part comes in on how much this horse has really retained. Unless you are a professional, this is easy to miscalculate, either you can be to cautious and not expect enough or over confident and the reaction is confusion. Now, of course you have to correct the problem, go back and start over or ask advice before this turns into a full blown problem.

This is why to me, it is so important to know ones limitations. Not everyone is suited to be a trainer, but we all can be horsemen. So, to me it's a huge judgement call on the owners part to know just how far can I go with this horse without second guessing my decision. The point is, do I send this horse to a good trainer to get it right or do I chance and hope I haven't miscalculated my efforts. A well trained horse still has to be maintained regardless of who trained it. It's alot easier if it has not got holes in the training.

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I don't know if I can explain this that it makes sense, but here goes. It sounds easy to say never make a horse do something that it is not ready to do. We all agree on this. I was always taught unless the horse will do this 99% of the time don't go to the next step. I think sometimes we think 75% will surfice and this is where misjudgement on the persons part comes in on how much this horse has really retained. Unless you are a professional, this is easy to miscalculate, either you can be to cautious and not expect enough or over confident and the reaction is confusion. Now, of course you have to correct the problem, go back and start over or ask advice before this turns into a full blown problem.

This is why to me, it is so important to know ones limitations. Not everyone is suited to be a trainer, but we all can be horsemen. So, to me it's a huge judgement call on the owners part to know just how far can I go with this horse without second guessing my decision. The point is, do I send this horse to a good trainer to get it right or do I chance and hope I haven't miscalculated my efforts. A well trained horse still has to be maintained regardless of who trained it. It's alot easier if it has not got holes in the training.

This all boils down to your ability to read a horse. If your horse accepts a saddle, doesn't move when you put it on, but his head is up, he's tense and his eyes are forward and glancing back at your every move,................he is NOT accepting of the saddle yet.

You, as the horse owner have to be responsible for learning every little minute detail of the program. It is not: Do step one, then step two, etc. It IS do step one, and then you have a number of variables that will happen. You work through those variables with patience and in a relaxed confident manner.

No, not everyone is a good trainer, has feel, can read a horse, etc, but, if you never start to learn you will always NOT be a trainer, have feel, be capable of reading a horse, etc. It would be nice if everyone could, not only afford and have available a riding instructor and horse trainer, but also have them 24/7 at his disposal. All three humans, working together, could ensure that the horse and owner have competent and correct, timely instruction so they both could smoothly transition in their training and skill levels. Not going to happen.

Until then, the info is out there and those with the right characteristics to succeed with it, will succeed and will progress. Those without will struggle but they will hopefully struggle LESS than they would without it. You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. There is NO program made for any type of instruction that is fool proof. You will always find someone who just won't understand or be capable of implementing the program correctly. That is not the fault of the program, but the shortcoming of the human.

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I put in two years of apprenticing for one of the natural horsemanship 'gurus' out there. And while I got a lot of knowledge under my belt....ironically my 'feel' went right out the window. This 'guru' is one of the ones that I believe is more about repitition and less about considering the horse. I definitely have some horses that I need to apologize to as a result(thought what trainer doesn't?). Now this isnt a jab at natural horsemanship altogether(I still use so-called natural methods as a trainer) its just a comment on my own personal experiences.

It was actually the reining trainers I worked for who set me straight again. I dont know how many times I got chewed out for overworking a horse or for being unfair in my expectations. I remember I was riding a two year old one march(I started him in Janurary) and he was being really frisky. It was a Monday and he had had the weekend off plus I was riding outside in a brisk wind. My boss was watching me do frantic rollbacks with him in order to get him to do what I wanted. After awhile he said to me 'you're riding a horse on a monday like I ride mine on a thursday.....IN JULY!!!' It took me a long time to feel like I didnt have to shove everything on my horses all at once.

When you have guys out there who try to create a foolproof training program in books or dvds or tv shows (stage 1 step A method 24 etc etc) I think you tend to end up with a training program designed actually NOT to create feel. During my education I was pressured into having my training horses perform at a certain level and if they werent doing it by the book I got in trouble. Therefore, I became so focused on the fact that Flicka the training horse had to be doing rollbacks by week 3 day 5 of the training program that I forgot to actually think about the fact that maybe Flicka is not ready, or she might be sore, or she might lack the physical talent to do it this early, or are rollbacks really that important for a horse meant to be someones trail companion and should I really be killing her for not doing them perfectly?

This sounds to me like you were not reading your horse.

You took the program you were using and treated it like instructions for building a table.

TSk, That's not the program's fault. That's YOUR FAULT for looking at a living, breathing, thinking animal and totally disregarding the feedback he is giving you.

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Manes, agreed reading your horse is huge factor in success. I'am a firm beliver in correcting something that could turn into a problem before it starts. For instance, Iam riding yesterday out by myself. Mare is roaring in heat. I won't give her a pass on this as an excuse for unacceptable behavior. She whinneys real low to the gelding in a pasture. I bump her and give her a throaty cut it out. She knows better and I want her focus back on me. These are little things that could very well turn into big things. The correction fits the crime in this case.

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