Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Unnatural Horsemanship 4

EoR doesn't claim that there aren't effective ideas and methods in Natural Horsemanship, only that their claim to be unique and self-discovered and new are all wrong. Natural Horsemanship is not so much a method as a reinvention of sensible horse training with a huge dose of marketing and hype.

There's nothing new under the sun, and the methods professedly used by Natural Horsemanship, such as an understanding of equine psychology, and working with horses rather than against them, has existed since at least the time of Xenophon (who wrote the earliest fully surviving treatise on horse training).

As this paper points out:
The horse is not a puppet or a machine, but an understander and only thereby a willing mover in the high school equitation. Proper training, Xenophon emphasizes, enlists the horse's understanding and will; it is thus not merely a physical but also a mental discipline for horse and rider alike.

Unfortunately, Pat Parelli also attempts to subsume Xenophon's classical methods into his particular brand (EoR uses the word advisedly) of Natural Horsemanship by mentioning him in passing in one of his books.

From the principles of Xenophon, mediated by the Renaissance, classical riding developed (its most famous and public exponent these days is the Spanish Riding School in Vienna).
Classical Riding is, at its simplest, riding your horse correctly and quietly, in harmony and in balance. This means working in partnership complementary to the laws of Nature throughout every sphere of riding. This concept is by no means innovative or new; the philosophies behind classical riding started with the Ancient Greeks

At its best classical riding utilises psychology, biomechanics and an understanding approach to training and riding horses.

It achieves everything and more that NH pretends to do but, unfortunately, without the marketing opportunities and psychobabble and merchandising that NH offers.

Of course, some people (usually trainers that have been around long enough to see the rise of this marketing juggernaut and remember how real horse training is done) hold similar opinions to EoR, but are a little more blunt.
The horse industry is almost as old profession as prostitution, yet you have no prostitutes going around telling folks that they have some new tricks. So it is with the use of horses, there are no new tricks, no new ways, but what is there a whole a lot of fools that failed to understand that which they call the old ways or the conventional ways.

Parelli is the Britney Spears of horse world, just like she is phony in her performance on stage so is Parelli's horsemanship, nothing but bullshit, but since it is highly palatable (as Britney is) everyone one wants a piece of it.

Of course as the successful business saying goes "There is a sucker born every minute", the likes of Parelli, John Lyons and such take advantage of it and sell you, the sucker, some book or tape on horsemanship, and in addition they actually reward (after a little payment) some of these fools with a certificate. This is hilarious and should I be able to go back in time to tell about it to the old horsemen of my youth they would not believe me any of it and call me a liar. Unbelievable that people can be so stupid to fall for such royal bullshit as certified natural trainers. That does not even make sense in the title it self. I guess if you fill up a donut with shit and tell people that it contains very special and exotic fruit that they have never tasted, such idiots will eat it since they've never tasted shit, providing that their sense of smell is impeded for one reason or another. People that give various demonstration and clinics on horsemanship and training resemble very much the horse traders of old days (gypsies), with some limited knowledge of horses and handful of tricks they impress the amateur public, which is in reality fairly easy. They simply prey on fools and if you cannot see it you are one of them. [...] Horse whisperers are either idiots or deceivers, or sometime even both, selling you a whole lot of crap, and the same goes for the animal psychics. As the old horseman saying goes, "It is OK to talk to horses but once when you hear them talking back to you then it's time to see a psychiatrist", or if you believe in the possibility do the same. If horses would have words they could think like us. They have been here millions of years fairly unchanged, much longer then us, would it be so that they could think like us they would have us working for them, or at least have a union. Should you be one of the unfortunate fools believing this natural horsemanship crap then you need to snap out of your animal cartoon frame of mind, really.

Or this Australian trainer:
The promotion of the various systems of NH and the creed itself has become almost evangelical and Religious in it's following and this is starting to affect the mainstream Trainers and the Horse Industry in general. Two instances of this is:

  • The break up of certain Pony Clubs because the Parelli teaching makes people think that they cannot wear bridles on their horses which has led to the a lot of Pony Club members leaving, and,

  • The effect upon Professional Trainers who may not wear the NH badge of honor, with these people now starting to lose work or be questioned about "what type of NH" system do you break a horse in with?" (my answer to that is, that non of the systems teach breaking in. They are all small parts of what is needed for a completed horse but not the full deal)

You show me an NH system that includes the full system of breaking in a horse. Yet, NH has taken the centre stage, almost to the exclusion of. let's call it, Good Horsemanship. (GH)

Or, as Richard Feynman wrote about how people can believe stuff that doesn't work:
But then I began to think, what else is there that we believe? (And I thought then about the witch doctors, and how easy it would have been to check on them by noticing that nothing really worked.) So I found things that even more people believe, such as that we have some knowledge of how to educate. There are big schools of reading methods and mathematics methods, and so forth, but if you notice, you'll see the reading scores keep going down--or hardly going up--in spite of the fact that we continually use these same people to improve the methods.

Replace "reading methods" with "natural horsemanship methods" and you get EoR's drift.

Unnatural Horsemanship 1
Unnatural Horsemanship 2
Unnatural Horsemanship 3


  1. Good points re Parelli disbanding pony clubs and Richard Feynman's "believing stuff that doesn't work". Numbers of riders actually out competing or riding their horses decrease with the amount of Natural Horsepersonship going around. It's like a disabling disease.

    Members (as yet uninfected) from my riding club won a navigation ride as the Natural Horsepersons that turned up were unable to control their horses outside of their playpens. Funnily enough the prize was a "valuable" workshop with a fancied NH guru.

  2. Liz here from I Speak of Dreams. Great series, thanks for doing the work. In snooping about technorati, the NH disease is popular in Europe too.

  3. Very Intersting how the "Australian Horse Trainer" comment was taken completely out of context..if you take the time to visit his site:
    you will also read this:

    The ground work, or the '7 Games' as it was called, is fantastic and every person in the world should know and use it. If they did, I wouldn't meet the 90% of horses that are 'pig ignorant' on the ground that I do today.

    Hmmmm.. maybe you people should check out other things that are being fed to you on here...


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