Volunteer/staff expectations and Horse training / handling challenges
Every year we start the season with new Volunteers and Staff at Campbell Hills Guest Ranch.
When we first opened the ranch and started the volunteers and staff program, we did not foresee the impact of ever changing handlers in regards to the consequences for our herd of horses. All our volunteers and staff come from different backgrounds, have different expectations and levels of horse knowledge and/or lack of the philosophy of Natural Horsemanship. The daily handling of new volunteers/staff can easily create undesirable habits in horses and create an unsafe environment for both human and horse.
Safety, Feel, Timing, Consistency and Reason are the pillars in our Volunteer and Staff program. It is our responsibility to preserve the daily routines and safety in our herd and at the same time, allow the volunteers to be safe and immerse in Natural Horsemanship.
Every foal that was born started as a perfect horse
So called ‘problem’ horses only exist in the Human world!
Horses are social herd animals, evolved for social interaction and the ability to escape predators. The horse has a highly developed communication system practiced primarily through body language. It is possible for humans to learn to use body language to communicate with the horse.
Horses use ear position, head position, speed of movement, threatening gestures, showing of teeth and swinging of hips, and many other gestures to communicate. They are quick to escalate a behaviour if early warnings are not heeded.
Learning better Horsemanship at a Guest Ranch
The domesticated horse lives in our world, which exposes him to many obstacles, thresholds etc. so it is our responsibility to keep the horse safe and see our world through their eyes! The first way is to become a student of the horse; when in Horse Ville you have to act like a horse (observe, remember and compare, wise words from Tom Dorrance).
We must understand their thought process, comprehend their social structure in nature and learn what language they use.
Insights in Human behaviour
When you start learning a non-predatory way of handling horses, you will have to develop the mental self-control that enables you to control a horse and get your message to the feet. Always listen to the horse – We don’t seek awards/levels at the horse’s expense – Always keep the dignity of the Horse intact! “horses are so intuitive they can read your intentions” Awareness of body language and ourselves will help the horse to understand us, and feel good being in our company.
While learning to connect with a horse, who is a purely intuitive being, we will use not only soft eyes versus hard eyes (bracing or non-bracing), rhythm and relaxation in the present moment, but we will have to be authentic in our communication at the same time! Luckily for us, horses are extremely tolerant of our human clumsiness, which allows us to learn from them along the way if we pay attention to the feedback. The horse has no hidden agenda so it is back to us to take total responsibility.
The language we use is based on Rhythm and Relaxation, whereas the training is based on Pressure and Release=Reward. “It is who we are in life that has a direct impact on how we are with horses”
This Human & Horsemanship journey spent at our ranch is part of a unique experiential learning experience.
By altering your perspective and expectations, “looking at things in a different light”
Natural Horsemanship gives anyone a greater understanding of himself or herself.
Volunteer & Staff Challenge
Ultimately the personal challenges for the volunteers and staff will be, which choices they will make so they can work and learn towards their own expectations in the end.
We love to follow the progress some of the volunteers and staff made and the career paths with horses, they chose! For example, Franzi Schmidbauer who stayed at our Ranch for two seasons, initially applied for nursing school, then followed her heart and is now a self employed Holistic Horse Therapist.
Our program has shown us to be on the right track and will allow for discovering our volunteers & staff ‘who you are and what you want to achieve in your own life’.