Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Natural Horsemanship - Our first initial steps

The more I read and study Natural Horsemanship, the more I believe it is the safest approach to handling any horse in any discipline.  There are a number of famous names out there and I have a few of their books, but for day to day learning, I am lucky to have a wonderful trainer (and manager) at my barn by the name of James Cooler of Cooler Horsemanship.  His wife, Kate, is also a partner and a wonderful trainer and another voice of reason as my kids and I start our  journey.

One thing I have come to learn is that horses move easily for the leader, and I suggest that if when one gets on a horses back, the human should be leader!  Watch horses together in a group setting.  It is easy to pick out the leader as everyone moves quickly when "asked".   My girls and I are learning to establish our leadership on the ground before mounting our horse.  How?  By asking him to respond to a very light touch (aka "pressure") from us and move in the direction we ask.  Knowing when to "release" is very important and serves as the horses "reward".

The first one (above) is what will keep us safe if he ever bolts.  To turn his neck to his shoulder.   The one below is to ask him to lower his head at the slightest touch (her hand might be a bit back too far, but he still lowered his head).  The initial sequence was to also put our fingers gently on pressure points on his nose.  But all we had to do this time was press gently between his ears.  (He's a good boy!)

Above we asked him to back up gently by putting our fingers on his nose and pressing alternately as he moved his legs.  One can also "march" in place or even swing the rope a bit to create energy.   Below Oberon is asked to move his hind quarters with a very light touch.

...and again another touch on his cheek and shoulder should swing his front legs around.

1)  Bend his neck
2)  Lower his head
3)  Back up
4)  Move hind quarters
5)  Move front quartes

I believe our next lesson will be with a bit of "lunging".  But it is not the traditional "zoning" out method.  But, maybe our lesson will consist of something else...Stay tuned!

And do you ask who is James Cooler?  Well, a post on Galloping Mind highlights James' standing in our area as a natural horseman as he has been singled out and narrowed down to one of three competitors in the SEFHA (Southeastern Farriers & Horseowners Association) Colt Starting Competiion (click on Galloping Mind to go to the post) which will be taking place in Virginia this November 12th.

Of course, as in all things, there are different approaches to training horses.  If you have other ways, I'd love to hear of them and also love to hear what you think of what I said here.  I welcome your comments and conversation.


Shirley said...

Oberon is a lovely boy, and he sure seems to be good minded. Have fun on you natural horsemanship journey!

Story said...

Some people get this knee jerk reaction to "Natural Horsemanship", probably in part to over commercialization of it by the likes of Parelli. But I think the real catch is that you need to have a good feel for what's going on with your horse and good timing with the exercises to make it work. I don't think that will be a problem for you. I think it can be a great way to get to know your horse. I did a lot of NH type exercises with Dee last winter and it helped us so much. She has just become so darn easy to work with!

Your boy is gorgeous!

Grey Horse Matters said...

Oberon is gorgeous. I think he looks as if he'll be a willing partner and easy to train. He looks very laid back and safe.

I'm not big into natural horsemanship but I think it will be interesting to read how you and the girls are making it work for you and your horse.

Edward said...

Natural horsemanship is ok not to big on it myself I think Monty Roberts is the best at it, I have never heard of James Cooler before I checked the website out with the link you posted, it was an interesting approach to training. I hope you and your children can learn a lot good luck with your lesson.

in2paints said...

Oberon is stunning! Wow!

I try to stay away from the commercialized versions of NH and resist calling what I do with Lilly NH for that reason. I do a lot of it with Lilly, but it isn't so much the games and things as it is just trying to get inside Lilly's head. She's been a real challenge to train and finding ways to motivate her have been difficult. Some of the NH methods have really made a difference for her and I hope they work as well for you and Oberon. :)

Margaret said...

Shirley - Oberon turned six this past June and one would never know as he is a "steady eddy". I never really thought twice about a QH as I grew up around them and they were a bit "common" compared to the Morgans, Arabs and Thoroughbreds I longed to own. But ya know what... I'm in "love" with him and feel blessed! :)

Story - Believe it or not, the first I ever heard of Parelli was about 3 months ago...and I haven't even finished his book... :) As all things, balance is needed, I'm sure. But I'm learning SO much and having fun. And I'm remaining open to hearing all sides of issues... I loved reading about your success with Dee in the show ring!

Grey Horse Matters - Oberon is laid back and as a mom I am so thankful we found him. NH is new to me and I'm sure that some of what I'm learning is also applicable to training methods used by others.

Edward - I realize there are many methods of training horses and many horse personalities to accommodate. I enjoy following your blog and appreciate the topics you cover as I am just getting back into horses and my mom took care of most of the maintenance...

in2paints - Commercialized... do you mean egos? LOL Borrowing from here and there works for lots of things in life. I'm pleased to read everyone's "horse" journey as I realize there is something to learn from every point of view.

duchess_declutter said...

I'm watching all with interest from afar. I'd just like to add ..... I totally love Oberon's dapples!

Deanna said...

I just replied to a comment you left on my blog with this - (I thought I would leave it on your blog too)
Margaret, I saw you had a blog on Natural Horsemanship today- have you heard of Frank Bell? Today, when I realized that Hawk wasn't going to the Trainer, I looked up Natural Horsemanship online and he's one of the trainer's who I found. I can get some DVDs for a fraction of the cost of a trainer, as you know - I want to be very careful about who I "buy" into though, as Hawk has already been poorly handled/"trained" in his short life. This is why I don't trust myself to continue his training without some direction from a Professional.
So having seen your blog today - I thought I would ask you! ;-) The DVDs I'm looking at of Frank Bells really look appropriate for what I need for my horse. Since he came up with a "Natural Horsemanship" google search, I was wondering if you'd heard of him? ~Deanna

Ginnie said...

This is so fascinating, Margaret. It makes sense that there are things to learn from others about how to lead a horse. WOW. Thanks for leading US! :)

Margaret said...

Deanna - I have never heard of Frank Bells, but that doesn't mean anything. I mean, I just heard of Natural Horsemanship itself a few months ago, let alone the big name "Parelli"! As I said the barn I board at is managed by a trainer by the name of James Cooler. http://coolerhorsemanship.com He has different "subscription" price - on of them is a month for I think $15 or something like that. You have access to his entire library and you can e-mail him questions. He will be training my 3-1/2 year old that I just bought. His library has video which I really like.

I am only mentioning the above as that is really the only contact I have had with NH other than one book by Parelli (which I haven't finished yet). Hawk need careful handling and I think you are wise to seek professional help. As you know, most of the actions you don't want are probably based on fear and that can be dangerous. But understanding his mind and helping him understand you is very important.

I look forward to following your journey!

allhorsestuff said...

Oh look at them together! Oberson is really neat and your daughter is so precious, learning with him.

I grew up classical "Pony club of America". Invaluable for all the stable management, feeding, vetting, and a well rounded view of jumping , flat and dressage. I love Classic dressage.

I was intorduced to N.H. by a gal who did not use one instructor, but used commen sense for her mare. She could do anything with her...litterally. Load her into a trailer from an acre away, by pointing at it! I learned that it was not the method taught, but the communication used..respectful and bent towards the individual horses learning curve.

I used the one rein on Wa mare... She fell on me. It does not work the same on all horses..her being TB, very hot. Not always there withg you. One training thing will work for her, ONCE...she is QUICK and anything I use on her, only works once. But that is my point...individual horses need specifics for them. A blanket training won't work. I would flunk at NH because, my mare gets bored so easily..once she has it...you better not repeat it, or you will make another problem! She does not like vague...the liberty makes her extrmely upset..she likes to- KNOW- where she fits and what she is to do!

I lunge, but I ask for correct bending,contact and correct work..it is not easy and she can't check out--- at all!
It is on-on and I love to long line her too.

So every dicipline can be abused..even NH. I've seen terrible things from the BIGGER names on tape. Balance...discretion.

You are wise, and you will be very good at training because of that!


Margaret said...

KK - Oh, you amazing. I looked for breeds without Arab or TB because I just would be so afraid of a "hot" horse. I need steady and slow. But their beauty, alertness, and intelligence can't be beaten. It really is a shame (almost) that NH has a "title" as isn't it REALLY horse psychology. Finding what works for YOUR specific horse. I agree, not one method works for each horse.

Your horse fell on you - wow. I read about that happening before. What is the solution? Bend the neck more slowly? Or is there another way to stop a bolting horse? I'd LOVE to know.

Kim said...

Natural Horsemanship has been great for our family! We wouldn't own horses today without the NH training. One year ago, I brought my first horse home and couldn't get her to stand still for anything, couldn't ride her, couldn't get her to come to me in the pasture. 9 months later ~ Tonight I rode her bareback in the round pen for the first time. Mecate reins, no bit, no saddle, no problems. It was wonderful!!!

Val said...

Oohh. You have a buckyskin (or is he a dun? I see the dorsal stripe.).

Daniela Brown said...

Really interesting approach on horse training. Learning to read your horse is so important in this – and one way to learn to read the can’ts is to do ground work that asks your horse to do difficult things – and watch what they do when this happens.