Natural Horsemanship

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Keys to an effective horse training session. I’ve trained a lot of horses. After nailing up my sign as a “professional horse trainer” several decades ago, I learned quickly that overhead is high in the horse business so you’d better make some hay if you’re going to pay your bills. Consequently, I rode many horses each day, breaking young ones and tuning up show horses.

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Most of us intend for our daily rides to improve our horse at some level, either by adding to his physical conditioning or progressing his training skills. But whether or not your horse actually makes these gains often comes down to the amount of time you spend on each phase of the ride. The format of your ride determines the outcome of physical improvement.

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The horse world has changed a lot over the last several years. I am not sure that it is for the better. The introduction of “natural horsemanship” has changed the way people interact with their horses. It has changed the philosophical approach of many people to account for seemingly natural horse behaviour. It has encouraged a relationship based on leadership where we are to be the dominant horse. It has changed how we physically correct our horses with methods that are gentler than those of the past. All of these are good things, right, so where is the problem?

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With today’s horse world being highly recreational, there are many horses that don’t have to earn a living. These recreational horses are often very well cared for and sometimes even coddled. I will not use the term “spoiled” as I think a spoiled horse is one that has become a serious problem for his owner. I will say, though, that some of these pampered horses are well on their way to developing “pampered horse complex.”

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Fun! It’s the reason so many of us are drawn to horses. It seems obvious... so why write an article on it? Because often fun seems to be forgotten by both horses and riders.

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Is it effective or abusive? I remember the feeling like it was yesterday. I’m about 15 years old, and I’m riding a lesson horse in a ring. We’re jumping, or we’re trying to. It’s not going well. My instructor is screaming at me. Screaming. In hindsight, my horse is terrified. He has refused a jump, more than likely because he’s scared of it. My instructor is screaming at me over and over: “Get it done!” and “Don’t let him get away with it.” Eventually, with much kicking and whipping, my horse carries his terrified self and me over the jump. Our hearts are racing. We are both scared, bordering on traumatized, in a place where we are unable to think or be effective in any way.

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Source: The Whole Horse Podcast by Alexa Linton | Episode 52 - One of my favourite podcast guests is back, because we all can use a little humour right about now. Liberty trainer Heather Nelson joined me to chat about the training of her “magical unicorns” aka her three horse herd. We got into some excellent detail about the unicorn creation process, mainly diving into working at liberty in different positions (including long-lining) and in different ways with each of her horses, and I was riveted and inspired. I hope you will be too!

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