Monday, June 05, 2006

Unnatural Horsemanship 3

What Natural Horsemanship is really about is putting people on the Self-Help improvement treadmill, and also about the merchandise.

Steve Salerno points out in SHAM: How the Gurus of the Self-Help Movement Make Us Helpless the absurdity of the self-help movement. Even as the movement becomes more popular, and more books and seminars appear, more people are seeking self-help. If it worked surely there would be less market as its successes eliminated the market?
Failure and stagnation are central to all of SHAM. The self-help guru has a compelling interest in not helping people. Put bluntly, he has a potent incentive to play his most loyal customers for suckers. Yet it's even worse than that. Much of SHAM actively fans the fires of discontent, making people feel impaired or somehow deficient as a prelude to (supposedly) curing them. [...] They also featured a formidable, at times almost overwhelming, menu of ancillary products. Ah, the ancillaries. All major seminarists reap a substantial added windfall from their so-called ancillary products: the $10 workbooks, the $19 videos and DVDs, the $49 series of CDs and cassettes for the car, to give you that all-important motivational jolt during the commute to work. To keep the good vibes flowing once you're ensconced at your desk with your misanthropic boss hovering over you, there are the inspirational trinkets, like those $29 paperweights engraved with uplifting slogans. [...] Much the same could be said of SHAM. To a disconcerting degree, it is an $8.56 billion social crusade about nothing. It is a religion whose clerics get very, very rich by stating the obvious in a laughably pontifical fashion.

Just as the marketing aspect is overwhelming in the self help movement, so Natural Horsemanship demands constant and ongoing purchase of books, DVDs, seminars, training courses, improvement in levels and certifications, horse gear, belt buckles and all sorts of merchandising. Newspeak is also important here. Instead of a whip we have a "carrot stick". Whips have become "extensions of arms not whips". Of course, whips are associated with violence and cruelty (EoR points out that, used properly, they are never employed in a violent manner in training or riding, but simply as a reinforcement to apply cues more subtly or at a distance), and such things have no place in Natural Horsemanship. So whips are still sold, they're just coloured orange and given a funky name. "Carrot stick" means nothing different than "whip" to a horse. The name is simply designed to make the (human) buyer feel nicer.

Instead of lungeing reins, there are "savvy strings". These are a real marketing coup. As Natural Horsemanship devotees rise up through the ranks of their chosen church (make no mistake, just like religion, there are sects, breakway sects, and fanatical devotees in Natural Horsemanship) they're allowed to move further away from their horse on the long line. Rather than starting out holding the line at a shorter distance, you have to buy a longer rope every time you move up a level! Pat Parelli gets to sell the suckers a long line three times! And the suckers love it!

Monty Roberts, on the other hand, has foregone all the tedious work of actually selling overpriced stuff (though you can still buy his overpriced stuff if you want to) and is openly soliciting donations.

And, of course, if it works for horses surely it can work for dogs, school children, managers, or for behaviour management in humans. Even if it doesn't, it's a marketing opportunity.

Even in Natural Horsemanship, there are disquieting rumours about just how "gentle" such methods are. Monty Roberts has long been the subject of acrimonious accusations that his life story and achievements are not what they seem. Certainly, his method of stopping horses bucking (pass a string underneath the upper lip, attached to the saddle, so that it applies pain every time the horse lowers its head to buck) may be effective, but it is hardly "gentle" nor "nonviolent" nor "natural".

EoR has also heard people recommend, and seen demonstrated by a "natural" trainer what seems to be a standard turning aid: the rider's cupped hand is hit across the horse's eye to send him off in the opposite direction. EoR hates to think what would happen if the rider missed, but does not believe that this can be seen as in any way "natural" or "gentle".

And, if Natural Horsemanship is The New Way and so enlightened, why is it not Natural Horsepersonship?

Unnatural Horsemanship 1
Unnatural Horsemanship 2


  1. Hello,

    I am wondering if you have ever tried Parelli Natural HorseManShip? It sounds to me as if you have not tried it, and are attempting to "save" unknowledgeable people from buying the Parelli supplies. Do you really think the Carrot stick is a whip? In the wild, horses have tails, and necks. The carrot stick is used to replicate the long neck and tail of a horse. When a person uses Parelli Natural HorseManShip, they pay at least 50% less money than people who practice "normal" horsemanship. There are only six necessary tools (halter, three lines, carrot stick, savvy string) compared to 'normal' horsemanship, where you need to have a bridle, bit, saddle, saddle pad, lunge line, head bumper for trailering, numerous leg wraps and covers, a crupper perhaps, cavesson, and many many other items. With normal horsmanship, people act like predators, which they are. The horses act like Prey animals, and although some people succeed, there are many who do not. With Parelli Natural Horsemanship, most of the people starting succeed, if they give it a chance. I hope that you will re-think your comments, because they are hurtful to some, and also untrue. I suggest that you learn a little bit more about Parelli Natural HorseManShip before you are so negative. It is very obvious to many that you are ignorant about this subject.

    "You can lead an ignorant person to knowledge, but you can't make them think"

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  3. You suck buddy! Get a life and get knowledgeable.

  4. If you have never tried Parelli, I can understand why you feel that way. Parelli is in NO WAY cruel, and the carrot stick is meant to be an extension of your arm, NOT A WHIP. People who whip horses are not in control of their natural emotions, and the emotions behind it can be anger, frustration or in some cases simply to "show the horse who is boss". Parelli students use it fairly, without any negative emotion. You don't see horses running from people who are carrying carrot sticks, do you? So, before you start bashing something you are not knowledgeable about, think twice.

  5. anonymous: EoR prefers normal horsemanship to abnormal horsemanship. Especially overhyped overmarketed doublespeak horsemanship.

    From your description of "normal" horsemanship it sounds like you're about to lunge a horse in a float (trailer). This sounds more like one of the tricks "natural" horse.person.shippers would perform.

    You don't see horses running from people who know how to use a whip either.

    PS: EoR has deleted your duplicate post.

  6. Parelli Natural HorseManShip changed my life and my relationship with my horse. I was badly injured in a fall when he spooked several years ago and I gave up riding, forever I thought. When I found PNH, I gained the skills to overcome my fears, to start fresh with my dear Arabian who is now a better companion than I ever thought possible!

    It's easy to criticize what you don't understand. Sure there is some slick marketing involved but when did that become a crime? Pat Parelli and his organization have made horse ownership safer and more enjoyable for multitudes. There are lots of very happy PNH horses too!

    So it's not for you. Fine. But who are you to say we are foolish for being devotees?

    BTW, we do not perform tricks. We are learning to communicate with our horses. With proper communication, we get amazing results. We aren't magicians, just people who truly love and respect our horses and are searching for a better way.

  7. EoR finds your almost religious wording quite interesting ("changed my life", "searching for a better way", Pat has helped "multitudes"). As EoR has pointed out, natural horsepersonship is analagous to religious sects, each with their own particular view of the "truth" (and each convinced that their "truth" is the real one). What exactly happened in the UK, for example? Why did Parelli UK suddenly disown the name and become Equine Ethology? Was it a case of a sect breaking away to form its own cult?

    Slick marketing? EoR tried to view the Parelli forum posting that led you to this site, but was unable to without first giving Mr Parelli money, which he chose not to do. EoR is fascinated; he's never encountered an equine forum on the net before that was not available to public viewing. It strikes him a little bit like the Microsoft vs Open Source situation: Microsoft want your money, they want you to keep buying and upgrading their software, they won't tell you how it works or runs; Open Source, on the other hand, is built on a basis of openness and freedom.

    A trick, in the behavioural sense, is a performance of certain behaviours in response to certain stimuli. It might be getting a horse to lower its head and open its mouth for the bridle (something EoR's horse did without having done natural horsepersonship). It might be standing on a drum. The principles of horse training are the same, but natural horsepersonship marketing surrounds it with an air of showmanship and spectacle as if it was unachievable without their special amazing methods. This is not true.

  8. My horses know that the carrot stick does not mean whip. Maybe you need to watch some of Pat's DVD to see exactly how the carrot stick is used. It is not used violently. The difference in Natual opposed to normal horsemanship is that there is no anger or aggression. We use communication with our horses and build a language and relationship. Educate yourself before you comment about something so important to many passionate people who only care for they're horses mental and emotional health.

  9. Did EoR say a carrot stick was used violently (incidentally, your first comment fails to explain why, if a carrot stick represents the neck and tail of a horse, is it orange and called a 'carrot' stick?).

    Have you read all of EoR's posts on 'natural' horsemanship? A major point is that 'natural' horsemanship does not have a prerogative or copyright on communication (much as the purveyors of 'natural' horsemanship would relish the opportunity to sell something else), nor is 'normal' horsemanship the equivalent of 'violent' or 'aggressive' (EoR is almost tempted to say "Educate yourself before you comment about something so important to many passionate people who only care for their horses mental and emotional health", but he wouldn't dare).

  10. Natural Horsepersons spend a lot of time on the ground fiddling with their sticks and ropes but not much time in the saddle. I understand just being around horses is delightful, but they are expensive - both to maintain properly and on the environment - and are strong and athletic. As such, Natural Horsepeople who prefer to watch would be better off playing with other people's horses.

  11. You have said everything that I have been thinking. A carrot stick is an orange whip with a silly name, the horse does not see it as a neck or tail, he sees it as a whip. Roundpens have their place, but they are overated and over used in NH. I practice horsemanship, just plain good horsemanship.My horse and everyone of the horses I have trained (from green 2yos to exprianced jumpers) understands the way I speak to them (no matter theibreed, diciple or past),and each needs to be taught in differnat way. The last resort for me is physical reprimands but I will not hesitate to smack a horse if they try bite\kick\ect. That is natural because it is how a horse asserts their posion in the herd as a last resort. My horse does not live in horror of me. She loves, respects, and seeks me, and is allowed to be a horse and be herself.I train and ride using FEEL (both for the horses mental state and physically when mounted)and that feel guides me in what actions,words or lack thereof are needed. Im not a cruel trainer, I just see the marketedversion of NH as a marketing scam t DOESNT consider the horse. Im sure that my horse has a far better relashionship with me then many NH people can say they have with their poor misunderstood horses.

  12. My wife and I watched watched our first Parelli 'clinic' on RFD-TV a couple of days ago. We were astonished at how his techniques for communicating with the crowd were so VERY similar to Evangelical preaching. He was the 'guru' and the audience was a mob of compliant, wide eyed, naive, suckers. It was very short on useful information, and more of an exposition of the obvious. The fact is that Parelli, and his various NH splinter groups (Anderson,Lyons etc.) are excellent communicators. I imagine that good horsemen of times past lacked the technology, communication skills, marketing ability, and audacity to take the knowledge from thousands of years of horsemanship, call it their own, and make a zillion dollars doing it.

  13. I have always been sceptical of the whole natural horsemanship thing but always thought that if it help some people and horses then let them get on with it. I have been working in the equine industry for 11 years, have BHS AI and a BA in Equine Studies so have had lots of practise with all disciplines and a huge variation of horses. I got a new horse a week ago and he is great I hope to have a lot of fun the only thing I cant do is to lead from the ground. He has bolted with both head collars and bridles so I have had to resort to a chiffeny something that I only associate with really naughty horses, one of my friend had the opportunity to work for a year with Gary Witheford, a trainer who uses natural horsemanship methods to help train race horses. Within 5 minute she had the respect of my horse, had him under control and happy to walk out without running off at the first opportunity, this was done with no pain or unpleasantness and I was able to do the same. I am hoping that she will come and help me to get the horse loading easily as he hates travelling (had to be sedated and use a chiffeny to get him to me) if this works I dont care how or why just that it makes life easier for me and less stressful for my horse how can that be wrong?? I wont say that I will devote my life or my training methods to natural horsemanship but if it works then why knock it, maybe you just need to be little more open minded and realise that in the horse industry there is something out there for everyone. I have no problem in using any method that helps me and therefore gain the best from all my experiences over the years why dont you try the same?

  14. I was brought to this site by a series of comical events. I am a student of Parelli Natural Horsemanship® as are many people at the barn where I board my horses. The knowledge I have gained through Parelli has enabled me to better understand my horse, my role for my horse as well as the many facets of equine psychology. By simply working with my horse, many people have seen the transformations and have also inquired about the methods used. I guess one could say that “the proof is in the pudding”.

    A particular person at my barn (much like EoR), does not believe in Natural Horsemanship. I am fine with that. However, because this person is also lacking something in her personal life, she is constantly looking for ways to “stir the pot” in an attempt to degrade others for their beliefs and/or methods. Her latest attempt was to post excerpts from this blog for all to see. Rather than getting people angry (which was her intention) we once again simply laugh. For some people, that is all you can do.

    I have to say that I was almost impressed because I was led to believe that this person had actually put together her own thoughts on the subject. However, I now find that she simply copied and pasted the thoughts of another person who is equally as ignorant as she is. Copy and paste is a wonderful tool for avoiding intelligence isn’t it?

    I was also curious to see who her source for information was. This is what led me to this sight. What I find is that her source for information is a self proclaimed anti-self help fanatic. I find someone who refers to himself in the third person. This in itself is a blatant indication of a mind that isn’t firing on all cylinders. Much like the woman at my barn, EoR is ignorant to all of the facts of natural horsemanship. Therefore, rather than becoming educated and making a decision on what is best for him and his horse, it’s much easier to simply degrade those who choose to follow a particular method.

    One of the things that make this country great is that we are all entitled to our own opinions, beliefs, ethics, morals and yes, even horsemanship methods. On the flip side of that freedom come people like EoR and the woman at my barn. They are the ones who are lacking fulfillment in their personal lives. They are self loathing, lonely and isolated people who need attention and even negative attention will suffice for people like this. These are people who degrade people in all aspects. You see, this isn’t just about Natural Horsemanship. People like EoR and the woman at my barn have issues that delve into every aspect of life in general. Whether it is horsemanship, religion, politics, ethics etc their ignorance is the axis for which they base their most derogatory and degrading claims. So if ignorance is in fact bliss, EoR and the woman at my barn should be quite happy people! Rather than feeding the vacant souls of people like EoR and the woman at my barn, I simply chose to laugh and carry on. Because I am an educated adult, I do not have to degrade what I do not understand or believe in.

    Because I live a fulfilling life, it is difficult for me to understand people like EoR and the woman at my barn. I find it difficult to understand how a person can spend so much time searching for ways to undermine the success of others and to thrive on their failures. My suggestion to you EoR and people like the woman at my barn is to get educated. In fact, get therapy; unless of course, you are also against the marketing of “self help” medications. Pat Parelli is a marketing genius. That much I will agree to. He is successful because his program (as well as many others) works. He has countless people who attend his venues, buy his books, DVD’s, and training materials because it works! Perhaps if you and others like you would find something useful that helped others, you too could enjoy the fruits of success rather than the abyss of self loathing lowliness that consumes your daily lives now.

    I know what Parelli has done for me and my horse and frankly, that is all I need to know. I pity people like you. I avoid people who relish in ignorance rather than seeking education and understanding. Fortunately, people like you and the woman at my barn are a small minority. The majority being accepting, open-minded, and educated adults who do not need to degrade others in order to feel better about their selves. For you see EoR, when you judge someone, you do not define them. You simply define yourself as someone who needs to judge.

    Happy Trails!

  15. Mistie: thanks for that, EoR really enjoyed your comment. "when you judge someone, you do not define them. You simply define yourself as someone who needs to judge." Given your lengthy cod psychoanalysis of EoR, he couldn't have said it better.

    And yes, EoR has had a lot of exposure to "natural" horsemanship.

    File under: Lack of Self Insight.

  16. EoR

    Please don't make the mistake of thinking that I am "judging" you. I certainly am not. I am simply giving my opinion of your nescient thought process.

    To judge you as a person is not my job. I believe there is a higher power for that. I'm sure you're a nice enough person. However, your intentions are derived only from a need to be closed-minded and negative towards the Natural Horsemanship Industry and those who choose to participate in it's teachings.

    So you don't agree with it...why not accept that there are people who do believe in it and leave it be? Why must you and others like you spend your days filling up any medium possible with "101 Reasons why this or that sucks?"

    Life will go on. It will go on with natural horsemanship, religion, politics, wars, and everything else on the planet that people disagree on. Move On...

    You clearly have some deep seeded issues with people/industries that are successful. I am willing to place money on the fact that if the natural horsemanship industry was not as prevelant as it is, you wouldn't be here blogging on about it, and why is it successful? Because it works!

  17. You've made an awful lot of judgemental statements for someone who professes to be non-judging.

    And an awful lot of negative comments for someone who believes people shouldn't comment on things they don't agree with.

    File under: Fascinating.

  18. Enjoyed this tremendously. A very good read and very interesting. I am a student of the parelli program, although I am not what would be considered to be a "purist" by many of the born-again converts. I am capable of independant thought and I too am constantly amazed at how brain washed some people become by the person and the touchy-feely stuff rather than the bigger picture which is the horsemanship. I whole-heartedly agree that many of the public performances do comprise little more than a series of tricks designed more for entertainment value than for educational purposes and they are definately designed to sell more merchandise and get more people into the program. Still if it inspires people go home and get off their couch and go do something with their horse than it can't all be bad and my hat is off to anyone that can generate that much money in the horse industry these days! When Good Horsemanship is employed there is no clearly defined lines between what might be considered normal and what might be considered natural and I have seen as many ugly instances in the "natural horse world" as I have in the "normal horse world".
    Everyone has different goals with their horses and the most important thing is that people enjoy their time with their horse, regardless of what particuar brand or style of horsemanship they choose to follow.

  19. I believe that you have no idea what you are talking about, because if you did you would see the difference between Natural Horsemanship and Traditional. You obviously have not done your homework on any of your comments because Xenophon was the first real Natural Horseman. Things like bigger bits, twitches, hobbles, and over and under are not meant to be use on any living thing. I use to do Traditional horsemanship and I have switched to NH because of the results I received using Traditional. Which were a lack of trust, love, and wiliness. If you make a prey animal fight for their life to the point of tiredness you just might as well kill them because that is how they feel. To update your information Monty Roberts is no longer recognized as a Natural Horseman because of his lack to inform his students of already trained wild horses that he was working with. Try Natural Horsemanship your self they tell me what you think about it and just so you know it doesn’t cost that much if read instead of buying the DVD sets.


  20. I guess my main question about NH is this: How come none of you people can actually RIDE?

    I have yet to meet a single NH Person able to ride truly well -- with tact, grace and empathy for the horse. (This applies to riders in any recognized discipline you could name: Dressage, Jumping, Hunting, Eventing, Steeplechase, Polo, Endurance, Reining and even Western Pleasure.)

    Could it be that competent riders simply have better things to do than make beautiful, powerful, supremely athletic animals perform Stupid Pet Tricks like a bunch of fawning Pekinese?

  21. I would like to inform you that natural horsemanship dose teach you to ride better. I have a great wall of ribbons and mettles competing against people. I have been to play days and have out rode people, who have ridden their whole lives. For the people who think that you have to spend lots of money on Natural horsemanship here is why those people do it so they can become certified Parelli trainers. I am not looking to become a trainer just a better way to train my horses. I use to do nothing but Traditional and it was curl to the animal tell me what dose a horse learn from you making them run till they cant run any more? There are better ways to develop dominance. So why don’t all of us just except that we are all different. This is really turning in to a racism thing NH against TH.

  22. Good on you Anonymous with your "great wall of ribbons". Many NH followers I see are too scared to get out of their round yards. Others don't even get off the ground.

    At my adult riding club we occasionally dabble in Natural Horsepersonship. That is when I start to worry about cruelty. Never have I seen such a tangle of ropes and waving of arms and whips (sorry - carrotsticks). "Dominate your horse" is the catch cry. Funny, because horses don't actually think like humans and you needn't delude yourself that you're its "dominant horse". They just need to be taught good habits by gentle reinforcement, patience and consistence.

    NH instructors enjoy showing off with a horse of quiet disposition (like a quarter horse) that has been taught to stand on a barrel or such. This is a shame as tricks are not a standard competition event, and so redundant in general use of your horse. Maybe it will become an Olympic discipline one day. In the meantime I'm happy with the Traditional Method (aka riding the horse).

  23. "what dose a horse learn from you making them run till they cant run any more?"

    EoR doesn't know the answer to that. How does Monty explain it?

  24. Just so you know I ride every chance I can get and all the ribbons I have won were with me on the back of my horse. So tell me this if your horse is trying to buck you off is it their fault or yours? If you see people not riding their horse it is usually because they are don’t have the ground work done and don’t feel comfortable on the back of their horse yet. I think that you would be stupid to get on the back of a thousand pound animal when you are not confident. That is how people get hurt. Or horses get killed in a human caused accident.

  25. I've been to several of these NH clinics now, have a few books on the topic, and do a bit of ground work with my young horses before I get on...I find you take from these sources what works for you and your horses. I don't think any one program swallowed whole will be successful all of the time with every horse. Learn about new methods and equipment, add them to your skills "toolbox," but use what works!


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