Jul 23, 2019
Do you go down rabbit holes? Let me explain. A rabbit hole is where you get an idea or suggestion and when you follow it, it takes you one place, then another, and then another. Rabbit holes can be fun or a complete waste of time. And yes, sometimes they can be both. I'm not afraid to chase them. Sometimes you can discover or rediscover new things.
Let me tell you about a recent rabbit hole I followed. A notification arrived from YouTube telling me that the Clinton Anderson Channel posted a new video. Often I don't have an opportunity to check them out. I spend much of my YouTube viewing time watching audio or video editing tutorials.
The title of this video caught my eye, it was something like Natural Horsemanship vs Real or competitive horsemanship. I'm not sure why, when I went to check on the exact title for this podcast, it was no longer available less than a week later. (https://youtu.be/H37xLVxINQQ ) In it Clinton was comparing natural horsemanship to the horsemanship you need to have in the competitive arena. Now, he wasn't running natural horsemanship down, but he wasn't talking about it in glowing terms either. This series of videos that Clinton produces I believe is meant to inspire and I think he was trying to motivate his followers, of which I am one, to step up their horsemanship. This wasn't the first time I had heard the term natural horsemanship used as almost a negative term.
When I thought about this, I could not remember where I first heard the term. It had to be around 2005 when my cable service picked up RFD-TV and they had a two-hour block of horse training shows. I remember, thinking highly of the term natural horsemanship. I didn't know what it meant, except perhaps working with what came natural to the horse. But, I knew it was approaching the horse differently, and I very much needed a different approach.
From Clintons video, I went to Google and typed in the term. There was a slew of articles about the topic. One trainer stating emphatically her method was NOT natural horsemanship. I read her reasoning, and it kinda made sense. I won't try to explain it here, I'll just muck it up. If you would like to read her explanation go here: The Willing Equine
There was a link to Wikipedia. I read on. The complaints about natural horsemanship are: It is not new or unique. True, people have been using the techniques for a while. It is over-marketed. Again, that's true. As with anything being sold, let the buyer beware. I was thankful the term came along because it lead me to believe there was another way. That there was a better way to communicate to the horse what I needed him to do. It was a starting point to learn from. It was a suggestion that much more could be gained than I was getting from my horse.
I hung around this search page for a while reading different opinions, when I came across an article written by Tom Moates, The Myth of Natural Horsemanship. Now, here was a name I recognized. Tom had been on the show. It's a good one, I recommend you listen. Here's the link: Tom Moates on the Whoa Podcast.
In his article, Tom says natural horsemanship casts a wide net that at most means very little and likely means nothing at all. Parelli coined it in a book he wrote (although I doubt that is the first use of the term) and the public latched on. Tom breaks down the main issues he has with the term natural horsemanship one by one and does a fine job of supporting his hypothesis. He concludes "that natural horsemanship is if anything a shift in the language of horsemanship. How people change the language of horsemanship at large and share ideas as an attempt to impart ways of improving the horse/human relationship is where some consistency may be found under this heading. But the frequent application of the term "natural horsemanship" to all kinds of people and methods muddies the waters."
The term has been around for a long time now. I am thankful it came around and got me thinking about different ways to interact with my horse even though I may not have been able to tell you exactly what was natural about what I was doing. Terms - labels- of any kind, if one tries to define them exactly, can be extremely confining and limiting if you keep them that way. For me, natural horsemanship, is just one of the many stepping stones I needed to learn to get me across that river of knowledge dealing with horses.
Anyway, it finally lead me to Tom's book, A Horse's
Thought, which I got in the Kindle format, and
reading it has given me some new things to work on. This
rabbit hole was worth it.
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Thanks for listening,