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.