Winning with Natural Horsemanship

The horse world seems to be divided into two camps: those who ride and compete, and those who practice natural horsemanship. Both carry misinformed chips on their shoulder about the other. Competitors feel the “lead ’em and feed ’em” crowd chases gurus and wastes time with silly tricks instead of getting to the nitty gritty of “gittin’ it done!” Natural horsemen feel competitors are bullies who do whatever it takes to force unwilling animals to chase meaningless prizes.

These sweeping generalizations fall far short of the truth. The principles of natural horsemanship have been around since the dawn of the horse-human partnership-certainly since the birth of the written word. In the first known written text of horsemanship, Xenophon tells us:” what the horse does under compulsion, as Simon also observes, is done without understanding; and there is no beauty in it either, any more than if one should whip and spur a dancer.”

As a longtime three-day eventer, I see the finest example of natural horsemanship in competitive success in Karen and David O’Connor. This husband and wife team dominate international eventing at the highest levels. Their training program is based on a natural horsemanship foundation, and its principles guide them to top level success.

But the horse is only half the equation. To us, winning natural horsemanship looks at both members of the partnership-horse AND RIDER. The winning natural horseman incorporates a deep understanding HUMAN nature as well as equine nature into the big training picture.

Psychologists have confirmed that humans, just like horses, have predictable responses to certain stimuli. In real world terms , this means when you get stressed, confronted, or step out of your comfort zone, you will respond consistently.

This response is usually negative. How many times has your mind gone completely blank just before you entered the horse show arena? How often does your body freeze in competition, so something that is so easy to do at home becomes almost impossible?

Natural horsemanship provides us with tools to overcome our horses’ unwanted behavior. Luckily, science has provided us with similar tools to overcome the limits of our own instinctive reactions. Examples include sports spychology, neuro-linguistic programming, and self-talk. Grin- we’ll start calling that Natural Humanship ™. Like natural horsemanship, there is very little natural about it. Instead, we are using our knowledge of human instincts to overcome the limitations of our nature.

THAT is an unbeatable combination!

Click Here for real-world examples of natural horsemanship in competition.

Click here for examples of “natural humanship ™” and mindset

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