Training Theory: Natural Horsemanship

In the early days of cowboys and vaqueros, horses were “broke” to ride. The emphasis of most horse training was on overpowering a horse or wearing him down until he accepted a rider on his back.

Natural Horsemanship has been a growing trend. There are several famous natural horse trainers who propose that the best horse training is to use a horse’s natural instincts to “partner” with your horse – to receive his understanding and cooperation in your mutual activities.

The basic tenet in most of these training methods is that horses have a set of built-in programs that make them take flight, stand and fight, look for a leader, and understand camaraderie.

If humans take a little more time to understand and employ the mechanisms by which horses communicate among themselves, your horse will choose you as his leader, giving full allegiance and cooperation even in the most difficult or stressful circumstances. His athleticism can be shaped into very complicated maneuvers that benefit the rider’s agenda with no physical abuse or pain whatsoever.

Natural Horsemanship starts with a new language: Speaking Horse. Your horse does not know what your desires are. However, he recognizes certain postures from animals in his environment and natural life experience that will cause him to move his body in predictable ways.

If you know that he moves away from things he thinks might eat him, you can cause him to move away from you by adopting a threatening posture.

If you know that he is nervous when without a leader to cue him to danger, you can become the leader he trusts to tell him what to do.

If you understand that physical activity takes energy, and that horses are basically as lazy as most humans, you can reward him with inactivity after practising difficult exercises.

If you understand that he will communicate with you using his own body postures such as the position of his rear, his ear position, his gaze, you will be able to gauge his next move. See Pasture Etiquette .

If you speak horse first, he has time to learn to speak your language as you go along.

Bonding with a horse requires an understanding of how horses bond with each other.

There are exercises of mutual respect and mutual benefit that wild horses use to communicate with each other. As you will be able to tell from the commentary I write, I am a “natural trainer” at the Kristull Ranch in Austin, Texas.

I like to think that I have a natural affinity for the horses, a basic respect that comes deep from within. (It did take some years of maturity, practising patience and controlling type A behavior on my part). I have had the privilege of working with many, many horses and studying herds as large as 100 animals in group settings.

I have learned many “tricks” of horse communication that seem to quiet and calm a nervous horse: Deep, soul-searching eye contact while rubbing and handling the face, tiny hair-tuft pulling on the neck and shoulders without threatening eye contact, moving under the neck perpendicular to the horse’s stance and allowing the horse to rest his head over my neck. (The horses below are engaging in mutual grooming and neck resting)


There are many more bonding maneuvers depending on the level of trust that is already established. Five minutes of such demonstrations before and after (or during) concentrated training sessions works wonders.

The programs of natural horsemanship have been tried and true for the past 15 years or so. Even wild mustangs have been shaped into gentled saddle horses in a very short time with no “crazy” antics or “bucking” contests.

See More details about Natural Horse Language

If Natural Horsemanship Training interests you start HERE

Noted Natural Horsemanship trainers: Clinton Anderson, Pat Parelli, Frank Bell, John Lyons, Buck Brannahan, Warwick Schiller, and Allen Poage (Imagineahorse Trick Training)

Under no circumstances should information presented here be construed as veterinary in nature. Always consult your veterinarian if problems persist. Additionally, horse training and equestrian activities in general can be dangerous. While we try to present relevant and valuable content, under no circumstances does horse-pros.com or its members or contributors take any responsibility for the well-being of any horse or person using a method outlined here.

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