Thursday, June 08, 2006

Unnatural Horsemanship 6

To conclude this series, EoR presents a case study: Sylvia Scott.

Ms Scott at least provides a page to define What is Natural Horsemanship?. EoR summarises:
Communicating with the horse using body language
The art of working, training and riding with horses in a manner which works with the horse's behavior, instincts and personality, not against it
Using gentle guidance rather than force
Using pressure and release (of that pressure) to guide the horse to learn
A refined sense of timing of the release of pressure
A deep understanding of Prey Animal Psychology
Helping the horse to trust us and to do what we want out of friendliness, not fear
Giving the horse time to think
Being quiet and consistent with the horse

There's also some stuff about "inner" and "outer" horses, and various emotions as well, but they're part of the psychobabble of Natural Horsemanship. As an aside, here's a couple of principals [sic] from a different list of (you will note that the fundamental principles vary from trainer to trainer).
2-It's all about concepts and principals....not techniques
6-It's not about how much you can get, But how little it takes to get it

EoR isn't sure if Principal 6 is about horses, or cash flow from the gullible.

Here's Xenophon on training horses, which shows just how unoriginal Ms Scott's definition is:
The groom should have standing orders to take his charge through crowds, and to make him familiar with all sorts of sights and noises; and if the colt shows sign of apprehension at them,[9] he must teach him--not by cruel, but by gentle handling--that they are not really formidable.
On Horsemanship: II

The one best precept--the golden rule--in dealing with a horse is never to approach him angrily. Anger is so devoid of forethought that it will often drive a man to do things which in a calmer mood he will regret.
On Horsemanship: VI

The gods have bestowed on man, indeed, the gift of teaching man his duty by means of speech and reasoning, but the horse, it is obvious, is not open to instruction by speech and reasoning. If you would have a horse learn to perform his duty, your best plan will be, whenever he does as you wish, to show him some kindness in return, and when he is disobedient to chastise him. This principle, though capable of being stated in a few words, is one which holds good throughout the whole of horsemanship. As, for instance, a horse will more readily take the bit, if each time he accepts it some good befalls him; or, again, he will leap ditches and spring up embankments and perform all the other feats incumbent on him, if he be led to associate obedience to the word of command with relaxation.
On Horsemanship: VIII

The first point to recognise is, that temper of spirit in a horse takes the place of passion or anger in a man; and just as you may best escape exciting a man's ill-temper by avoiding harshness of speech and act, so you will best avoid enraging a spirited horse by not annoying him.
On Horsemanship: IX

To quote a dictum of Simon, what a horse does under compulsion he does blindly, and his performance is no more beautiful than would be that of a ballet-dancer taught by whip and goad. The performances of horse or man so treated would seem to be displays of clumsy gestures rather than of grace and beauty. What we need is that the horse should of his own accord exhibit his finest airs and paces at set signals.
On Horsemanship: XI

Ms Scott provides many many NH training tips (though most of them seem to involve buying her book), including how to become a NH trainer yourself and what method she recommends (out of the many variations that all claim to be Real Natural Horsemanship).
Part of the learning curve in this natural horsemanship field is the disillusionment at some point in finding out that those we initially looked up to out there, some leaders in this field, are actually doing things with horses that makes us uncomfortable or doesn't "feel" right when we dig deeper/learn more/see more firsthand. I see that a lot in this field. Follow your heart and you get good at this stuff. However, the best way to learn NH is to learn from many directions. Observe and discard what you don't like as you go along, plug in what you do feel is right from other directions. My own natural horsemanship training program is an eclectic blend of all I've learned from many, many directions, but that's because I studied from or with all the top masters in this field as I came up. But as I discarded what didn't feel right, I came up with my own more humane methods to replace what I didn't like from other directions.

In other words, Ms Scott's methods are better than all the other (more famous) NH trainers. In the same way all the other (famous and not so famous) NH trainers argue their own particular variation is the True Way. This is similar to the world of alternative therapies: once truth becomes debased, anything can be claimed (acupuncture is the best; no red light acupuncture is the best; no, etc etc). It's also the same gambit many alternatista testimonials follow: "I tried X, Y and Z therapies and nothing worked until I discovered W and I was cured!" Unfortunately, the variables are completely interchangeable depending on whether you land on an acupuncturist's site, or homeopath's, or a urine therapist's...

And some more psychobabbble:
What the owner is referring to there is, in horses (as in humans) they tend to use their left brain for logical, practical thinking (more rational thought and behavior processes) and the right brain for instinctive reactive behavior. A horse's fear flight response would be a good example of "right brain" behavior.

Even though NH is promoted as the superiour way to train horses, Ms Scott (and apparently Monty Roberts) states that stallions are to be avoided like the plague.
I personally feel that all stallions should be kept by expert breeding professionals ONLY. Incidentally, I noticed Monty Roberts recently came out with the same stance as well on this subject, so you should probably heed that warning.

At least non-"natural" methods can train stallions, otherwise they would all be feral. And does anyone recall the argument that NH is a "better", "more effective" way? Apparently, only in some cases.

Some final tips: the secret ways to get your horse to "bond" with you, including whistling in its nose, sticking a finger in its mouth and rubbing its tongue, sticking a finger right up underneath its tail and stroking it there (recommended by Ms Scott for a tense horse with a clamped down tail - EoR suggests doing this to a tense horse could elicit a kick, which is, to be fair, a "natural" response), scratching the horse's navel, "search touch", and scratching the horse's rump (EoR notices a certain predilection here). EoR doubts that any of these will get a horse to "bond" (in a true sense, or in the NH sense) though they might habituate it to handling.

EoR wishes to point out that he had a horse who was quite happy to have ropes thrown all over him, would wait to be extricated if he got his legs caught in a fence, was happy to have large physio balls rolled at and over him, who went on floats, who came off floats, who could be ridden bareback in a headcollar or in a saddle and double bridle, who opened his mouth to take the bit, who came when called in the paddock, who was able to attempt piaffe, who was also a bush hack and who permitted any form of handling including fairly intrusive veterinary treatments and investigations. He also never had a day's "natural" training in his life, only proper sensible handling as recommended by horsemen since Xenophon.

Unnatural Horsemanship 1
Unnatural Horsemanship 2
Unnatural Horsemanship 3
Unnatural Horsemanship 4
Unnatural Horsemanship 5

1 comment:

  1. wow I realy love your blog and will definatly keep reading and would love to get to know you better. I love horses and everything about them. Even the Smell!!!!


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