Understanding the Nature of Horses
What is natural horsemanship? According to Lucy Rees, natural horsemanship works with the horse’s natural behaviour and communication rather than suppressing it. It therefore involves knowledge of that horse behaviour, and a sympathy with it, as well as various methods.
Harmony: An Aspiration of Any Horseman
The aspiration of any horseman, whatever his style of riding, is to achieve perfect harmony with his horse. “He seemed a part of his horse”, we say in awe of a great horseman.
What seems to the novice to be a struggle to dominate and control the animal with a stream of commands becomes instead, (as one improves), a struggle to stop dictating and start listening: to feel the horse’s balance, move with him, and develop a critical sense of timing so that the subtlest suggestions receive a willing response. Harmony is not a one-way affair.
Yet only too often the horse’s first experiences of being broken in are the very opposite of harmony. The horse is forced to submit to restraints which are wholly unnatural to him. Twenty million years of evolution have shaped his instincts to fear confinements and restraints: he feels secure only when he is free to run away from predators.
He is a herd animal. The trainer tries to alleviate his anxiety with calm, quiet, repetitive handling. But some horses retain an inner core of fear and resentment, though they learn that acting out these feelings results in pain.
To achieve harmony, much natural horse training is a process of working through tension to rediscover the horse’s true, natural sensitivity and flowing movements.
“And what exactly do you whisper in the horse’s ear?”
Her reply was “Oh, it’s not what I whisper in the horse’s ear, its what he whispers in mine!” ~ Lucy Rees
Natural Horsemanship Techniques
Natural Horsemanship techniques themselves are not difficult to learn, especially for those who have experience of horses raised in freedom. They do, however, depend on a critical sense of timing, accurate reading of the horse’s signals, and understanding the effects of your body and movement.
If we work only with restrained horses, depending on our power to control them by force, we may fail to develop those skills working with free horses, we learn to present ourselves in a way that is naturally sympathetic to horses, and so become better horsemen.
If we make a mistake the horse simply reacts to what he sees: he is not hurt or frightened. A horse started in this way is remarkable for his soft, relaxed paces and confidence in his trainer.
In trained horses, too, natural horse training can be used to sort out a variety of problems. It is, as many have found, a valuable addition to the trainer’s techniques.
The particular natural horse training technique we demonstrate, is where the horse is not restrained. By subtle use of body language, the horse’s confidence is gained until he willingly cooperates in being ridden. This system is also useful in retraining frightened, difficult or aggressive horses. It gives rapid harmonious results without tension.
On these Natural horsemanship courses with Lucy Rees you will find knowledge that is helpful even with more traditional forms of training. It also allows you to evaluate your own body language, from the horse’s point of view. You will be encouraged to experiment and experience for yourself the true joy, harmony and understanding of working with a horse, naturally.
Guest Instructor: Lucy Rees
Born in Wales, Lucy currently lives in Extremadura, Spain. She studied zoology at the University of London, specialising in neurophysiology, neuroanatomy and ethology and went on to complete her undergraduate studies at the University of Sussex.
Check out the Events calendar for details of the next Natural Horsemanship clinic to be held at Hacienda Dos Olivos.