I don't tell people I do Natural Horsemanship

I don't tell people I do Natural Horsemanship

July 16, 2019 6 Comments

When people ask me... Do you do natural horsemanship?" I almost always say no.

And here's why:

Natural horsemanship has come to mean two things in the horse industry. For one, it means reward oriented training. That's what it means to me and that's why I love natural horsemanship. But for most people in the horse industry, it means the horse gets away with everything. They say there is no discipline, and that all those people want to do is groundwork and liberty and bridleless riding, which all seem to have no value to a traditional or performance-oriented rider.

What I tell people when they ask me if I do natural horsemanship, is say I do mastery horsemanship. That means I focus on multiple disciplines including performing arts, groundwork, and even competition when it suits. I work toward understanding all aspects of the game, including connection, collection, liberty and more. I also focus on improving my horse's discipline, consistent responses, and confidence. 

Inevitably people ask me if I use "natural techniques." Again, I say no. I use reward oriented techniques, but I don't prescribe to only using rope halters or fiberglass sticks. I can use any tool and get results because my focus is on connection and communication, not tradition.

And finally, there are those people who say, "It all sounds great. It's like you are doing natural horsemanship but with performance arts being the end goal." To which I will respond... yes.

The point is, I try to avoid the stigma that natural horsemanship has received in the traditional world. People think it's about fixing problems and using funny tools, but many of those same people can actually be quite natural because they themselves carry a positive and reward oriented demeanor with their horse. I try not to let people I associate with think natural horsemanship is different from traditional or performance horsemanship, it's just focused on positive training.

That means that a performance rider, wearing short spurs and riding in a double bridle, performing a canter pirouette, is quite possibly... natural. It also means that a stick toting liberty trainer is quite possibly... abusive (the opposite of natural). It's not what you do but how you do what you do that makes you natural. Not the tools you use or the games you play. Some tools are harsh, they should be avoided. Some games are stressful to the horse's mind and body, they should be limited as well. But master horsemen and horsewomen are capable of great and wondrous things that far exceed the scope of pragmatic natural horsemanship or pragmatic normal horsemanship. That's why I say I do mastery horsemanship. I hope that you might feel inclined to say the same. 

Unless you have people around you who truly understand what natural horsemanship means, I recommend taking a more middle road to help people understand what you do to avoid being labeled as the wrong kind of natural trainer. Use the word "mastery," in the beginning, to help people see past the stigma. Help people realize that you are on a journey to improving your horse's connection and communication with consistent and positive reinforcement. Help people see that results do speak for themselves and you don't fall into that "natural" trap of letting your horse get away with murder and slapping your stick on the ground when you're not getting results. Rise above the stigma. Your tools don't matter, it's your focus that matters most. 

Let's show the world what natural horsemanship really is by constantly seeking improvement in a positive way. Years ago I worked with a famous natural trainer named Pat Parelli. I'll never forget how he said you could identify a "natural trainer." He said this, and I quote: "A natural trainer is positive and progressive."

To me, that sounds like mastery. And that is an exciting journey!

Would you like help on the journey? Would you like to be more positive and more progressive? Take a look at our products, we can support you. mastery products

Comment below, I'd love to hear your thoughts. And please share and subscribe to my emails if you haven't already.

Sincerely,

Don Jessop



6 Responses

Ali Cannon
Ali Cannon

July 29, 2019

I just wanted to thank you for your Five Steps to Mastering Liberty video. Like Mary Cline, I’ve been attempting at liberty work off and on with my horse for a few years but without much success. I can chase her around the arena and she responds to lunging cues and she does a number of tricks on and off lead but we’ve never established a connection and whenever given the choice, she chooses not to work with me. After watching the video, I had her looking at me and following me within 30 minutes and then the next day got her following me quickly and beginning to interact with objects within another 30 minute training session – all this within a large jumping arena where she had plenty of space to avoid me if she desired. You have a great teaching style and I really appreciate you taking the time to share your methods with the internet!

Mary Cline
Mary Cline

July 28, 2019

Last night I stumbled upon your video, Five Steps to Mastering Liberty. I’ve been tinkering with liberty work for a year or so trying to pick up tips from various online videos. My sweet mare and I have accomplished quite a lot, nut has felt piecemeal. My brain (and heart) were working overtime to connect the dots and find the beautiful flow that I knew was in there somewhere. Then I saw your video. Finally! I found someone with a message, a gifted teaching/communication style and a focus on connection and communication that resonated fully with my heart for my horses (and donkeys). Thank you!!!! I can’t wait to dive in!
(Oh, and as I looked at the beautiful mountains in the background of the video they looked quite familiar. I realized that we are neighbors. I live in just across our little valley in Victor. I am blessed beyond measure and you just added greatly to that blessing.)

Kathy Wattles
Kathy Wattles

July 17, 2019

Don, As usual you have so much insight into our experiences with horses and horse people. You always target my questions before I think to ask. I have not known how to respond to the term “Natural Horsemanship” without feeling it is too broad and undefined. I say it means we connect with the horse in a way he understands. We get him to want to do what we are asking. Thank you for such a clear explanation. I am so proud to be a part of your mastery program. Setting goals to help me bring my learning to the highest level. Thank you.

Melody Orso
Melody Orso

July 17, 2019

Thank you Don for this wonderful message. My neighbor has horses and she showed for many years. One day I mentioned making bridle path trimming a project when her horse was having problems with it. I received the strangest look. I will not mention that again. The only way I can make a difference is to show by example. It’s tough out there but I believe in being a master horsemenship.

Jill Lane
Jill Lane

July 17, 2019

Great article! I’ve seen people do “natural horsemanship” really well, and I’ve seen some that made the horse so distressed I wanted to cry. Your articles always get at what is going on beneath the surface with the horse – an important distinction. Last week’s article on round pens was another great example. Thanks for sharing what you do.

Corine Barone
Corine Barone

July 17, 2019

Great Job once again Don! You have a gift of making things that maybe difficult to comprehend so easy to digest after reading your writings. Thank you for all you share and bring to the horse community.

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