Natural Horsemanship

What is Natural Horsemanship?

My understanding of Natural Horsemanship has been evolving over the years. I had to reject some of the methods and definitions, they had become obsolete in my mind. I even questioned the very validity of phrasing the two terms together. With the definition of natural meaning an absence of human meddling, how can the two be in congruence? It became apparent that human action must conform to the Natural world, where action is derived from mutual consent and in harmony with the natural rhythms. But what does this mean in a broader sense for the rider? What about the leadership? Humans have an inherent tendency to conceptualise. In partnership and life-long pursuit of developing oneself, the rider finds a more harmonious way to be with their equine companion. Leadership means providing protection; it means kindness, trust, and wisdom. Our role is to understand the principles of communication with the equine species. Horses have their language, which is a combination of body language, and communication based on emotional intelligence. Communication with horses on their level of being is essential for Natural Horsemanship to work. Consistency in communication builds trust, it means that it is us humans developing skills of perception and conscious action. Everything circles back to our ability to feel, and the development of self-awareness. Only then do our pursuits successfully transfer from the ground to the ridden work. Only then the horse can engage in play. Without play, there is no joy in doing.

Naturally Collected

Locomotion is driven by behaviour of the horse. In the wild optimum amount of movement results in able bodies, perfectly adapted to survive the rugged lifestyle. Naturally collected equines are able to move lightly, and navigate through rugged terrain in a balanced manner. Carrying their body weight on powerful hindquarters. True collection is required to gymnasticize the haunches of the horse. To maintain the same lightness and balance when carrying the rider horses must flex the haunches. Only then the horse is able to take the weight of the rider without causing damage to himself. Through the regimen of working horses from the ground, classical art of riding offers a number of exercises that aim at developing the musculoskeletal structure of the horse. This approach takes time, patience and effort placed at getting basic horse-oriented work on the ground done consistently. Through progressive development the horse will be able to “gather up” while maintaining the balance under the rider. The horse will develop a compact frame without the need of gathering the head with reins. The difference between generic forms of riding and classical school might seem undistinguishable, however one ends up in lameness, and other does not. 

Dressage is for the horse, not the horse for dressage.

~ Bent Branderup

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Behavioural consultation will include hands-on work, practical instruction, and take-away exercises.

Crooked Horses

All horses are born crooked, nature has solved this problem by gymnasticizing horses in endless ways. Domestication is guilty of eliminating behaviours associated with types of movement that mimic natural lifestyles. Natural boarding for horses encourages interaction, and enables the freedom of movement that naturally straightens the body, and flexes the muscles.

Riding creates a demand upon a rider to work with the horse from the ground in an effort to “straighten” the horse and strengthen the “closed muscle ring”. These muscle groups are key for true collection, their development requires a dedicated rider to learn the art of horse-man-ship. Unnatural locomotion is so prevalent, it has been normalised. Riding under-developed horses results in upper body damage and lameness. More so, it is also risky for the rider. Kissing spine and Navicular syndrome are the two most noted for lameness related to unnatural locomotion. The holistic system of NHC approaches lameness through preventative medicine – “First cause no harm.” – Hippocrates.

The spirit of a young horse is like a blossom, when it withers it will never return.

Pluvinel

Mind, body and spirit…

Nature does not make mistakes because it’s founded in truth. Every species is created perfect, and it is a perfect expression of the environment to which it has adapted through evolution.

What has nature intended for the human species? Whatever it is for the individual human soul, those with a thirst for the highest attainment in the arts of riding must touch the soul of the horse. Collection on the loose rein is as much technical as it is esoteric.  It begins with a journey within. Developing a genuine relationship with horses involves constant introspection, and a willingness to improve oneself. Loose reins are the symbol of partnership, trust and harmony between two creatures that join in the body, mind and spirit.

Recommended Read on Natural Horsemanship

  • The Natural Horse: Lessons from the Wild, (1992) J. Jackson

  • Navicular Syndrome, (2021) J. Jackson

  • Dancing With Horses, Communication by Body Language (1993) K.F. Hempfling

  • Bent Branderup