A better way – Natural horsemanship explained

Our guest ranch is passionate about a technique called natural horsemanship. Never heard of it before? Let us explain what it is, and why we love it so much.

At it’s core, natural horsemanship is simple; it means working with a horse instead of against it. Trainers using natural horsemanship techniques make sure to banish their own ego, and create a partnership with the horse, building trust and understanding along the way.

Natural Horsemanship Technique

The general motto of natural horsemanship is “firm but fair,” and practitioners make use of different techniques to communicate with individual horses based on their personalities and what works for them. For example, some horses will respond to different versions of pressure and the absence of pressure to communicate, instead of pain and fear. Natural horsemanship asks humans to understand the distinct body language and gestures of a horse, allowing the rider to look at the world from the horse’s perspective. A perspective that has too often been overlooked as something that needs to be conquered with brute force.

Greek Horseman Xenophon

It’s difficult to trace natural horsemanship back to its exact origins, because as long as humans have been working with horses, there have been people who have been naturally able to understand them. These types of people are able to get horses to do their bidding, using more subtle and less confrontational handling techniques. Natural horsemanship actually dates back to ancient Greece, when a man named Xenophon described using similar methods to what we use at our guest ranch everyday. More recently, well known cowboys like Pat Parelli, Tom & Bill Dorrance, Ray Hunt and Martin Black have made the change from the old ways of the west to natural horsemanship.

The Soul of the Horse

At Campbell Hills Guest Ranch, we take natural horsemanship one step further. We believe it’s important to always let our horses be horses. Influenced by Joe Camp’s “the Soul of the Horse” We never lock them up in box stalls, or isolate them from their herd. We allow them to exist as close to how they would in the wild as possible. Our horses roam freely on 160 acres of private land, because we know that horses are extremely social creatures and need a herd for survival and safety. Even domesticated horses need this. It’s in their genes. Horses that are kept in box stalls eventually develop health issues, because they are being forced into a life that does not allow them to be exactly what they are.

Harmony with Horses

Anyone who uses natural horsemanship techniques knows that a horse is a horse, and that we can’t expect them to be anything else. Horses are a prey species and deep down they always will be. Humans on the other hand are a predatory species, but we aren’t required to act like every animal in our lives should be subservient to us. We can rise above our animal instincts and adopt a code of behavior that is more civilized. Natural horsemanship is that code. It asks us to decide what is humane, what is moral, and to apply that to our interactions with our animals.

Happy Horse, Happy Human!

So now you know what natural horsemanship is; happy humans and happy horses, working together in harmony. Check back in with our blog next time when we’ll be talking about exactly what to expect on a trail ride with the same techniques.