When you really think about it, whipping an animal is cruel. Yet many horse riding methods and those which proclaim themselves to practice 'natural horsemanship' whip horses and use whips in all of their routines. It is surprising when we consider that horses are adored for their intelligence, memories, beauty and sensitivity. Why would anyone teach to whip and cause pain to such an extraordinary animal?
True Natural Horsemanship has done away with the whip and instruments of pain completely. The philosophy is to learn the horse's language and how horses perceive our actions for better communication and training. By learning to understand how a horse perceives our actions and how easily our actions are misinterpreted, we can make simple changes in how we do things and watch almost magically how the horses come to understand what we are requesting or trying to communicate.
For example, one of the things that human beings really seek in communication is eye contact. We interpret with our eyes, we need the reciprocity from others with their eye contact, we speak to each other with our eyes - so to speak. Eye contact for us is affirmation that the person we are addressing is connecting with us. If someone is not making eye contact or avoiding eye contact, we become suspicious and wonder why the person is not responding with the eyes. In other words, eye contact really matters to our interpretation of effective communication and that the recipient is attentive to our communication.
We transfer our eye contact dependency to our communication with horses. Yet horses do not like direct eye contact and in fact strive to avoid it. Why? To a horse direct and prolonged eye contact is confrontational - if the alpha mare in a herd makes direct eye contact with another horse you can be certain that she is driving that horse away - probably because the horse is annoying in some way. She will maintain that focussed, direct eye contact with the horse as long as she needs to until the horse is moving well away from her. Horses know what's coming when another horse tries to 'connect' with direct eye contact and very rarely do horses communicate directly with their eyes for that reason - direct and prolonged eye contact is confrontational.
We know that horses are flight animals and avoid confrontation as much as possible. As human beings, we guide all of our communications with direct and prolonged eye contact and have no idea that a horse does not like and avoids what we seek. When we then approach a horse, let's say in field, seeking that direct eye contact, it is little wonder that the horse avoids it. Some horses simply move away from it and an abused horse may even become dangerous.
One of the questions that often comes up in TNH private online consultations and workshops is why a horse is 'hard to catch" and how to solve the problem. The easiest way to change the response of a horse that moves away from you when you approach is to change your eye contact from a direct meeting of the horse's eye to a slightly lowered eye. When a horse is not challenged with the direct and constant eye contact the horse relaxes and begins to approach naturally. By making a small change to how you communicate with your eyes, you have now mastered how to approach a horse in friendship rather than, from the horse's perspective, in potential confrontation or possible conflict.
The next time you are in a field watching a herd, watch how two horses that know each other approach in greeting. Each horse walks towards the other with the head and eyes slightly lowered. One horse does not seek direct or prolonged eye contact with the other and as you look at the two walking towards each other you see by the body language that there is no tension, no potential invitation of conflict and that they simply want to meet and perhaps even graze nearer to each other.
True Natural Horsemanship teaches the language of the horse and how we as humans can make slight changes in how we communicate to effect positive outcomes in training and working with horses. By learning how to use your eyes in many different situations with horses, you change how horses perceive and interact with you. By learning what you communicate to a horse with your body and emotional language, you can make the difficult become effortless. You will learn how you can become the alpha or 'leader' in your relationship with a horse whether you are strong or weak, tall or short, knowledgeable or not. Anyone can learn the simple changes for effective communication and horse training with no abuse, no whips and no pain paraphernalia.
TNH is also effective in dealing with horses that require rehabilitation or retraining.
With online courses, anyone can learn the TNH method and show others how wonderfully horses respond when we take a moment to really learn about them.
Felicia Allen is the Founder of True Natural Horsemanship and teaches private sessions, provides online sessions to individuals with problematic training outcomes and manages the Epona Academy of True Natural Horsemanship. With online courses now available, anyone can learn the TNH method and become a Generalist True Natural Horsemanship instructor. More information is available at www.EponaAcademy.com