Q: What is your opinion on natural horsemanship? (Natalie, SK)
A: My opinion is that the entire world of natural horsemanship all in all has gotten a little crazy. And by a little, I mean belt-up-and-throw-in-a-rubber-room-and-melt-the-only-key-down-forever.
What is "natual horsemanship" anyways? Immediately, people jump to the conclusion of riding without certain pieces of tack and free-lunging and bouncing ginormous balls off of your ever-patient horse's butt. In my opinion, the only kind of NATURAL horsemanship there is is showing your horse the wide open plains. Because let's face it, it's not natural period for people to work with horses.
I don't like the term, is all, even though I do use it and apply it to my own training methods.
Now, I think the idea of what most people think natural horsemanship is is great. For people who know a thing or two about the animals. For people who don't know anything about horse psyche or horse training... or hell, even horse anatomy.
Too many people are being polluted by the likes of Parelli and other commercial NHM practitioners. These people visit a couple demonstrations and go home to their doomed horse. When the horse is trotting around them in a tight circle with its hears slung back and its shoulder turned outward and its stride short and sloppy, they're sitting there patting themselves on the back for having a horse that will trot a stiff circle without a lead because he's been bored and annoyed to the point of just doing anything to get the crazy trainer to shut up. And suddenly WOW, these people have a "special connection" with this horse because they don't need to crank the lead around to get him in a circle.
All the games, all of the excersizes... they can be GREAT if they're used correctly, but 99% of the time they aren't. They're used by brainwashed idiots. And that's what gets me.
And while we're on the subject, I think Pat Parelli is such a hack. I can buy a length of rope for two bucks and make a halter that EXACTLY MIMICKS his 40$ rope halter. And his games? We normal, humble folk call that GROUND WORK. The circle game... is that not just free lunging?
Let me tell you, I get a lot of criticism from NHM enthusiasts because I don't follow their way of training or whatever. But at the end of the day, when I hop up on that horse tackless, I'll be cantering around on a well-behaved horse that respects me enough to not need tack, and the enthusiasts will still be playing the basic circle-games while humming and hawing over why their horse is going through a "delicate, sensitive mental stage right now."
Your horse isn't worrying about their lack of a strong father figure, buddy... he's desperate for you to stop bouncing that huge rubber ball off of his ass for fifteen seconds so he can stop and be a horse!
That's all. I just think people are too Nazi over it, saying the "my way or the highway" deal. I don't buy that. Figure out what works for your horse... and try not to annoy the crap out of him along the way.