Sunday, 27 September 2015

Un-Natural Horsemanship

I've been working really hard on getting Mystic lunging politely this month.  And since Henry's evil alter ego (who I call TurdHenry) has returned I've been working with him quite a bit too.

Speaking of TurdHenry... 

I've had some great moments but there have been a few things I seem to get stuck on.  I've had some trouble with the shape of Mystic's lunging circles (they're a bit...oval).  And Henry doesn't really respect my personal space as much as he should.  I feel like Henry and I get into a cycle of me shoo-ing him away and him creeping back in.

I decided to book a session with the coach who I mentioned here yesterday.  Her training focuses on classical dressage and some principles of natural horsemanship.  I e-mailed her specifically asking for help with Mystic's lunging and for a little help with Henry on the ground.  I was hoping a second pairs of eyes and hands would really help un-stick us.

We worked with Mystic for about an hour and half.  I was really proud of my little mare.  The trainer threw a lot of weird exercises at us and she really rose to the occasion.  We worked on yielding the shoulders and hindquarters.  We worked on using driving aids in-hand and going through/over obstacles.  I definitely put a lot of tools in my toolbox.  I felt like an hour and half was a bit long for Mystic (and me, to be honest).

Mystic wearing her pink and sparkly slinky I bought for her a while ago #bestpony

When Henry's turn arrived I was feeling a bit mentally fried.  I find in-hand work and groundwork is a lot more difficult for my brain to absorb.  He's the more challenging horse of the two so I suggested that we shorten his session as I was feeling a bit overloaded.  She offered to work with him to show me a few things I could practice on my own (I opted to video this as my brain was at capacity).

She really liked Henry.  She actually expressed interest in purchasing him if he was ever for sale.  But she agreed that he was the more difficult of the two.  She recommended keeping him busy and mixing up his activities/exercise often.  She actually decided to bridle him (first time ever) and work with him in that rather than the halter.  It was pretty cool to see him looking all grown up.  He thought it was pretty weird.

What do think Henry?

WTF mom

I always find myself feeling the same way after I take any lessons that have a "natural horsemanship" feel....

It's really hard for me and I don't enjoy it.  

I don't.  I hate the extra long lead ropes.  I hate the dressage whip with a string or a bag on it. I can't handle all that extra crap.  I also really suck at it.  It doesn't come "naturally" to me.  At all.  I am truly terrible at it.

I also don't give two shits about making my horse stand on a pedestal or playing the fucking friendly game with me.*  Sometimes I wish I did.   

There's part of that feels like some natural horsemanship techniques offer a more horse-friendly approach to training.  I think I actually feel guilty for not liking it more.  I feel like I should...but I don't.  I have no judgement for people who enjoy NH-type training and find success with it.  I wish I was one of you - but it just doesn't grab me.    

*I understand there is a lot more to it than that. I also understand that there are many types of training that vary a great deal but fall under the very large "natural horsemanship" umbrella.

I genuinely feel like I added some good tools into my toolbox during my lesson.  But I didn't accomplish the number one goal that I mentioned twice during our e-mail exchange when booked the lesson (I WANT MYSTIC TO LUNGE PERFECTLY AT THE W/T/C).  I don't have a lot of extra room in my budget for lessons so I'm a bit disappointed.   But maybe she was pulling the old Mr. Miyagi and next time I try to lunge Mystic it will be a harmonious and beautiful event.  I can certainly see how yielding the shoulder and hindquarter will be helpful for lunging in future.

I can't really decide if I want to continue with the odd in-hand/on the ground lesson or not. I was thinking of doing a monthly or bi-monthly session with Henry over the winter.  She has a lot to teach me.  I just don't know that I'm the right student.


  1. I'm with you on a lot of this. I like that natural horsemanship uses the way horses interact with each other to get them to have respect for their humans. I think, as with any training philosophies, you have to walk away with what works for you and your horses, and leave the other parts behind. I think it's great that you gave it a try, and it sounds like you did learn from the sessions, so it's not a total loss. As for future, it might be useful for Henry to have some things he can do with you to learn that you're his alpha mare. That way, when it's time to really get down to business, you have a working relationship already.
    Of course, the youngest horse I've ever had was 3 and already broke. So it's likely I have no idea what I'm talking about ;)


    1. Thank you, that honestly made me feel a lot better. I don't ever want to have unbroke horses again after this batch... it's got me questioning everything I thought I knew haha.

  2. i feel ya. i used a NH pro to get my mare trailer loading and it worked really REALLY well - no regrets there. but the entire program as a whole doesn't really work for me. i feel like you could spend *forever* working on all these little basics before ever getting in the saddle (or doing whatever it is you set out to do - lunging in this instance). and honestly i kinda just want to ride, ya know?

    1. Yes!!! I always feel like I get stuck on the ground with any NH stuff. The point of horse stuff for me is getting to ride (not all the time, but a good amount of time). I just can't get that excited about ground work stuff.

  3. I think that natural horsemanship is good in a lot of ways, but I'm not huge on it. It's definitely not for everyone. Not always, but it often seems like they make the basics a lot more complicated than it should be.

    1. You hit the nail on the head, I feel like the basics are majorly complicated in the NH world (for my brain at least). I might still dabble but I'd like to find an approach that more straight-forward and fun, for me and the ponies.