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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,
<< 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?
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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