What Has Horsemanship Become?

I recall a time when not so long ago, there was basically no such thing as “natural horsemanship.” With marketing tycoons such as Pat Parelli the word ‘horsemanship’ has been forever revolutionized. Has good marketing replaced good horsemanship?

Fifteen years ago, pre “natural horsemanship,” I was using the ole trial and error system. I tried, I failed, I tried again. The only way I learned was by what my horse was telling me, how he responded. If I did it wrong, believe me I knew. I learned to respect my horse, and from there we moved forward.

Nowadays trainers and natural horsemanship guru’s alike suggest that if you “read my book, watch my video, you too will become a horse trainer. In fact, I will even certify you. Just buy all my books, buy all my ‘tools’ and ‘equipment’ and come to all my clinics.” Wow, finally horse people have become business people! Now not always, but usually the people you will find buying all the dvds, books and tools and what not are typically are not even horse people. I see mostly hobbiests, weekend warriors, or folks who are just starting or returning to horses later in life. I will agree lots of these principles and exercises are insightful and useful, IF you know what you are doing. But mostly I see horses training people, not people training horses.

Much like working dogs, certain horses have been carefully bred over hundreds of years to race, jump, dance. The natural horsemanship revolution says that “anyone can be a horse expert” and if you are not allowing your horse to train you, you are being mean, forceful, mechanical and abusive. A friend of mine recently got reported for hitting her horse. Little did the person who reported her know that her horse was a stallion and if she did not use some force at that moment in time to gain control, that stallion could have gotten away and potentially harmed her or anyone else in its way. I am sure that person read a book.

Have you ever watched horses out in a herd? They are brutal, kicking, biting, and chasing each other. They don’t earn each others trust by not assertively defending themselves. That is natural. If someone is timid and unassertive, honestly I don’t trust them especially to be my leader. Why would I? If someone is wishy-washy I don’t respect them. Just like people, a horse can recognize who is the weakest link. You’ve heard people say, ‘oh, he’ll test you at first’. This is true for every horse. It is their instinct. Reading a book may provide helpful insight and a new outlook, but it does not replace time and experience. Horsemanship is a way of life, day in and day out. It can get ugly, it can be rough and it can be amazing. Anyone can read a book but not everyone can live it.

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