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Re: RC: Please explain NH to me.

In a message dated 09/27/2000 5:18:32 AM Pacific Daylight Time, writes:

<< That's entirely possible : my statement stemmed from limited experience 
 Natural Horsemanship, largely reading, watching videos, attending clinics
 and surfing the net.  If I've got it all wrong, then I'd be grateful if you
 could explain it to me : just why do these guys spend so much time in the
 round pen, and why do they chase the horses round it?
Dear Tracey,
OK I will attempt to explain what NH (or boiling cabbage) he he, means to me 
and how I learned it. A lot of what I have to say may not be new to you, but 
may help shed a little light for you. Since you are like me, and you probe 
things to see why they work here goes my take on it:
    I'll start with really basic ideas about horses and humans working 
together. First, we need to look at why we have horses in captivity. Most of 
us want to ride or drive them. In order to do this, in order to get the horse 
to go where we want to go, we need to direct their feet. Whether we are 
riding the horse or handling him on the ground, we have to be able to direct 
him, to get him to do what we want and go where we want him to. There are 
many ways to do this other than a round pen. We can put a horse in an 
enclosure where the fence forces his feet to stay there, but that doesn't 
mean he is there mentally or that it's his choice to be there. Likewise, many 
training methods use force and large amounts of pressure to make the horse's 
feet do our will. This creates physical resistance because they don't allow 
the horse to make a choice.
    If the horse is being led or guided but doesn't feel like he is partner 
to the human, he'll feel resentment instead of respect. To be successful in 
the long-term, you need to create a relationship of willingness which works 
for both parties. You don't make the horse do anything. You allow him the 
opportunity to make a choice. The only way true leadership works is if it's a 
    Communication between horse and rider is the first thing. Over the years 
I have been given several racetrack rejects to unruly Warmblood dressage 
rejects that would have otherwise all been "Alpo." It has been interesting, 
most of the horses that come to me don't have necessarily training problems, 
they have communication problems with their riders. The horse can't hear the 
rider's request or the rider can't hear the horse. They were unable to work 
together. It just tickles me over and over when that same horse comes around 
and shouts at me "Hallelujah, that is all you wanted, I just never understood 
    For communication to happen, both parties have to be giving and receiving 
information to and from each other. The horse can't be looking back up at the 
barn or after his friends, and the human can't be thinking about work or 
their friends. The two have to be mentally focused on each other and always 
focused on what is happening at that moment. 
    The horse's brain has to hear our communication, our suggestion for 
action, and then organize the body to go where we are asking him to go. If a 
horse's brain and thoughts are not with us to begin with, our communication 
to him cannot take place. He can't possibly respond with a correct response.
    Think of a young child in a classroom. If he is physically sitting in the 
classroom, but is mentally thinking about roller blading down the sidewalk, 
he cannot hear the teacher. If he is mentally on the sidewalk, he may as well 
physically be out there as well. It's the same with the horse.
    If you are trying to ride your horse out on the trail, but he's worried 
about his friends back at the barn or the horse down the trail in front of 
him, he will be unable to hear you asking him to go down the trail. He will 
also have no willingness to follow your leadership to continue down the 
trail. Have you ever noticed that where the horse's mind is his feet will try 
to get there? The other thing to realize is that anytime the brain and feet 
are working together (which is the goal not only NH training but ALL 
training) the horse's anxiety level reduces.
    Once the horse is with us mentally, then and only then can we direct his 
feet with no resistance and put a smile on his face. This means we can lead 
him, drive him, ride him where we want to go and have a willing partner. It 
is really important to be able to read the horse's body language and posture 
in order to see if his brain and body are in agreement.
    Going back to the young child in the classroom thinking only about his 
rollerblades. If and only if that teacher can find a big enough motivation to 
bring all the child's thoughts into the classroom will the teacher ever have 
a chance to be heard.
    Few people understand how to be the biggest motivation in the horse's 
life in a way which brings about partnership. When I say the biggest 
motivation, I mean the most important thing for the horse to focus on. We 
simply draw his attention. We become the leader, but we do so in a way which 
creates both respect and eager responsiveness from the horse. Once we do 
this, the horse desires to be with us instead of another horse. Then, the 
horse might have enough confidence in us not to flee his fears. He becomes 
content, willing to do what we direct. 
    Roundpen training the way I learned,  is simply just a (tool) or exercise 
to teach the horse to focus on the human. Draw his attention. You don't 
necessarily need a roundpen --- I have found that it just helps to get their 
attention faster being in a smaller enclosure. I do not drill these exercises 
into the horses brains.  Naturally, if I am dealing with a horse that has 
human trust issues, abused, or is particularly dangerous or aggressive I 
would not feel comfortable just going out on the trail or riding in the area 
right away. I'll take as much time as they tell me they need. Although, when 
they are SAFE we advance ASAP to the trails either leading or riding 
(whichever is safer). I do find the horse's love going out, and seem to rehab 
at warp speed. But the roundpen training was the foundation that allowed them 
to learn first that 1.)I am more interesting than their horse buddies and 
most of all 2.) how to "hear" me. Through all the dangerous "Alpo" destined 
horses that have come my way, I have found that these training idea's have 
kept them and I safe, and happy. Most importantly to me, I have never hurt a 
horse in anyway, and I have never broken my neck or been hurt yet (knock on 

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