Natural Horsemanship Training
Trekking horses can do other things too
What is Natural Horsemanship, you may ask?
Natural Horsemanship is a collective term for various horse training techniques rapidly growing in popularity since the 1980s.
The term, Natural Horsemanship, has been adopted by many horse trainers, educators, and clinicians. To describe “it” is to think beyond traditional training methods. In its simplest form, it is about understanding and being aware of what is important to the horse and noticing the subtle things they communicate to us.
Natural Horsemanship can be taken out of context. Some people have been heard to jest that this style involves riding around naked without a saddle on the horse. Rest assured, even though our horses are barefoot and bitless, we do provide saddles!
What is Natural?
Natural describes something that comes from nature rather than being man-made. So often, we think it best practice to impose our ideas on something natural. What if, instead, we listen, observe, and notice with empathy those things that are natural? We can become open to a journey of partnership with nature rather than fighting to control it.
Many children are fortunate to have more naturalness than most adults. Adults get weighed down with the responsibilities of living. Look at that young teenager and pony partnership, having so much fun together. It is an excellent example of keeping the relationship natural.
I remember myself as a child, lucky enough to have my own pony, spending hours and hours together. It didn’t matter if we were out riding, or I was grooming her, or we just hung out. What we did, we did together. Without even realising at the time, we had formed a partnership. It was just a natural thing. If I wasn’t confident in my ability with her, she wasn’t secure either, or when I was, we went together. She was my mirror, and she was my partner.
Being involved in running a trekking operation for some years now, I have spent a lot of time with many different horses and humans. Every ride, interaction, and horse has made me realise there is more to learn than is possible in this lifetime!
Immersing myself in the teachings of skilled horse people, whose accomplishments I respect and who have achieved more than I could ever pack into my lifetime, has been a big help with improving my knowledge and understanding of horsemanship.
However, the best teachers have been the horses in my life. Observing how they are with different riders on every ride. Their interaction with us and each other. What gives them confidence. What tips them over their threshold of comfort. That look they may have given but was overlooked. Their body stance relaxed or heightened. Through becoming aware of these subtleties in their communication, I have gained a better perception and understanding of their behaviour. They soon let you know when you need to back off and when they will give more. Some of these things have been learned the hard way, but better to understand than not!
Every horse has been different. There is not one textbook for all. You learn to work with the horse you have at that moment. It is human nature to become an expert about horses, and when things aren’t turning out well for us, we blame the horse. By blaming the horse, we have lost the ability to look at what the horse is telling us and enjoy being in the moment with them. This is the journey.
5-year-old NZ Kaimanawa horse “Brave”. Nicola tamed and trained from the wild. This has been an incredible experience in horsemanship. The one skill you learn from an experience like this patience. Timelines mean nothing.
I love to see horses and riders connecting and building a partnership. Taking the time to form a partnership is what good horsemanship is about. Connection is key to achieving this.
If you know how to sit on a horse and don’t have to worry about learning that, you can then focus on engaging with them. It is this focus and engagement that brings connection.
It is unfair to expect any horse to know what we want. Horses are very intuitive, but they are not mind readers. They enjoy a two-way conversation and us being clear about our intentions.
When you have a conversation with your horse and start connecting, the partnership will come, and it is an experience worth having!
For the month of August in the winter of 2014 in we had a huge amount of fun with the trekking horses doing a photo shoot with the different tour guides.
For all the Horses that have made us better Humans
It is a delight to share our journey with you through our experiences with the horses, what they have taught us, and will undoubtedly continue to show us.
Here are some words from a few good horse people, some of who I have been fortunate to meet, and others that have inspired me through their journey. We hope you get inspired too and come riding with us.