There is something to be said about natural horsemanship. Although some may disagree about this, saying that there are abusers in every form of training, there are certain aspects of this form of discipline that needs to be considered. I agree when people say that there is no perfect way to deal with any animal – especially one that has an instinctive and natural fear of humans, like horses. However, just like psychology for humans, there are some schools of thought that deserve a higher standing than others since they truly understand the psyche better than others. And, when dealing with any animal – human or not – taking the entire being into consideration is far more important than entirely choosing how things will go. After all, as they say, you can tell a lot about a person by looking at how they treat animals; if they are ‘the unique and know-it-all leader’ with their animals, they will surely seek to overpower their peers in several situations (such as at work) by gossiping, trying to put them down in unnoticeable ways, and toying with their emotions. However, if they work at developing a mutual respect of ‘I decide but you’re still my friend’, they will not only get better results with their animals, but they will achieve this form of respect anywhere in life and build more lasting relationships.
One population that is known and famous for this form of thinking with animals is the North-American natives. Their respect for nature and all its inhabitants is honourable to say the least. And, their form of working with horses is comprised of compassion, natural healing, wholeness, empathy and enhanced communication. This ensures a more sensitive approach to caring for animals, which leads to a much more rewarding experience.
Some will say that the current form of horse training and discipline is more like a military exercise than an animal obedience session. The idea is to use communication instead of ‘correction’ techniques, which make the relationship flow more naturally. Communicating our intentions instead of imposing our will is accepted much more easily. This way, their confidence and self-esteem stays intact, and if the horse does not fear you and even respects you, you will notice how truly rewarding it is. Therefore, the attempt to dominate using traditional methods such as spurs, whips and bits will only make it harder to control the horse.
Furthermore, we are guilty of having robbed these animals of their most basic right: freedom. Some may argue that owning animals is a multiple-century belief and that they are used to it by now, but horses were never fully and entirely domesticated. Most still live very well in the wild; unlike several breeds of dogs and some farm animals, they could very well do without us. Therefore, we owe it to them to treat them with the utmost respect if we are going to demand they live with us and share our space, whatever the reason for ownership happens to be. We need to secure their sense of well-being and build a system of mutual trust.
Some of the principles of this form of raising and training horses include, but are not limited to:
1- Herbal and naturopathic care
2- Respect and trust instead of dominance and cruelty
3- Lots of TLC, as though it was your own child, all the while keeping its own nature and natural instincts in mind
4- Use them to learn about yourself; they will ‘mirror’ your reflection back to you
5- If your horse isn’t healthy or happy, ask yourself what you did wrong; chances are, you’re overlooking something
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