In today's post I would like to return to our original question, which I posed in my first article: "Which training style is more effective? Conventional or Natural horsemanship?"
A quick note: The last several articles I have written considering training methods are the foundation I am basing the rest of these blogs upon, so if you are new to this series I heartily recommend you begin Here in order that you might benefit the greatest from what I am sharing. For those who have been following these posts, I wish to apologize for not being punctual in publishing this next installment on training methods.
So, which training style is more effective?
In order to properly answer this I must first address and dispel preconceived notions of both.
A lot of people attach a certain air of cruelty or abuse to either of these names, but we must stop this train of thought immediately. Abusive training is simply abusive training. Whether it fell under the name of "natural" horsemanship or a more conventional title it is a slur to either style's reputation –but it does not mean that is the method's principle as a whole.
Let me give you an example: Imagine two individuals each had their own vehicle –one owned a Ford, the other a Chevy. Now, one individual took careful and attentive care to his vehicle, changing the oil frequently, regular tune-ups, and changed the tires when they showed signs of wear. It is no question this person's vehicle would run in a reliable fashion and the car's performance would be very similar to the manufacturer's claims.
But the second individual was particularly neglectful or even abusive with the handling of his car –he never changed the oil, didn't change the tires until they blew, drove in a hard and reckless fashion, did not wash it or add radiator fluid, etc. When this vehicle broke-down or performed in a less than satisfactory way, he might blame its manufacturer and develop a negative opinion towards that model of car in general.
All his friends might believe from then on that Fords were terrible cars whose reliability was to be feared. They may look at that individual who drove a Chevy, and seeing the car's pristine condition and glorious performance become convinced you must drive a Chevy if you ever wanted reliability. But it is easy for us to see his opinion could never accurately represent Ford vehicles as a whole, because he treated his vehicle in a way that it never should have been treated. Any vehicle that received that treatment would end up with a similar fate –not just a Ford.
In this same way there is an unfortunate amount of individuals in the world of horsemanship who will implement and even market a certain style or method of training yet do not actually represent the method correctly or in its entirety. If they abuse its principals and do not train their animal in a manner that looks out for the wellbeing of themselves, their animal, and others, people may see this and want no part of the method they represent or condone. Professional trainers are not excluded from this.
This said, I want to bring up another perspective that is also frequently overlooked. Each individual, when they are learning any particular method, should be encouraged to use parts of a method that they have found beneficial to themselves and their animals –that is not wrong, nor is it a slur upon that method.
Taking something and making it your own –using it in a way that best suits you and your horse as an individual- should never be seen in a bad light, BUT, it must be done with wisdom and caution. If something goes wrong, ask yourself what might have happened uniquely to your situation –do not blame the method as a whole because it was not used as a whole.
Think of a trainer you admire. Can you think of anyone who has become certified to train with their method, or anyone they learned from before they become a trainer themselves? Though the root of the implemented training method is the same, the application will always be different from one person to another –however subtle.
I point this out not to be highlighting individual's imperfections, but to show you that this is a liberty that should be encouraged instead of looked down upon. Since no one will ever be able to perfect and replicate a particular method in its entirety, implementing a training style should be done in a way that will make each individual's unique qualities grow –not hinder them. This point is of critical importance to consider for your horses.
Methods were designed as guidelines, a basis that we can build a safe, happy, and healthy relationship with our horses off of, but I think too easily we forget that and adopt the fear that if it is not followed to perfection it will be a failure on our part.
Yet if several people were traveling to the same destination but each took different routes, would it be considered a failure on their part for not choosing a single road? What if they took the same route but drove in different lanes? Training methods are our road to success with horses, why should we look down upon others for taking the freeway, or others for the scenic route? Or for one person to drive closer to the shoulder instead of the absolute center of the road?
This freedom in no way excuses abusive or dangerous training practices -individuals who utilize such methods have no place working with animals. But, it does give people the choice to find what works best for their individual needs -and that of their horses.
This freedom to choose what best suits each individual, their horse, and their ultimate goals is what makes training horses so enriching to our lives. So if one individual prefers a certain discipline or training method over yours, instead of seeing the imperfections in their training, use their experiences as an opportunity to enrich your own knowledge and training routine. The beauty of variety is that you will see things you never saw with your own method, and it will give you a greater understanding of horsemanship as a whole.
In my next several posts I will take a more in depth look at the differences between natural and conventional methods, and how these differences can be better suited for certain individuals (and their horses) than others.
Questions or comments? I'd love to hear from you!
Part 1, How training methods affect the relationship between horse and rider.
Part 2, The heart of Horsemanship
Part 3, What causes variable results within training methods
Part 4 How tack and housing can affect your horse's potential
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