Anybody who is interested in taking up traditional horse breaking approaches used in the early days of American history can simply check out some western movies. Nowadays, much better methods are in place that are gentler to horses. The goal of any kind of horse training is to get the horse to a point where he becomes responsive to human commands so that he can be trained to do specific tasks and become more than just a ride.
Horse breaking, by its very name, calls for the horse’s spirit to be broken, often with the use of fear and threats of pain so that it will accept a horseman’s dominance. This is the type of horse training that is being idealised in western movies. But many have come to question the method, believing it to be inhumane and cruel. Today, there is an alternative method to train horses which believes that the use of fear and pain will not result in an ideal training situation. This horse training method is called natural horsemanship and its goal is to promote a feeling of safety for the horse during training so that the horse will willingly bond with the trainer.
In natural horsemanship, a trainer or a horseman begins by trying to understand how horses communicate with each other so that they themselves can communicate together using a language they both understand. Horses communicate through the use of body language and telepathy so in natural horsemanship, the trainer also learns to use his own body language such as hand signals, tone of voice, movement and applying gentle pressure to get the horse to understand his commands. The trainer not only learns how to communicate something to the horse, but also learns to understand the horse, his needs, his feelings and his attitude towards him and his peers.
This process is based on the observation that horses are herd animals and respond well to a herd leader who can communicate well. Natural horsemanship will try to duplicate the situation by offering a human leader who can gain the respect and trust of the horse. When this is done successfully, a relationship develops between the horse and his trainer which is similar to the relationship between horses.
The most challenging part of training horses is training the so-called green horses. These horses do not have prior training or have not been broken in yet. They are popular among buyers as they come cheap. However, they are more aggressive, harder to handle and to train which requires an experienced trainer. If you allow an inexperienced trainer to work with green horses, they might resort into using force to try to get the horse to submit to them. Bringing fear of humans into a green horse life is a recipe for disaster. Horses, like many other animals, have a fantastic memory of situations where they felt hurt (physically or emotionally). It is quite often that as the horse grows older, he will develop various strange, and sometimes dangerous behaviours which can led to the horse being put down. As an animal communicator, I deal with these horses constantly. The majority of the time, we discover that the behaviour is a derivative of a bad training or handling which occurred when the horse was originally broken in.
These behaviours can, most of the time, be corrected but it takes time, patience, perseverance and the carer’s deep desire to help the horse.
Natural horsemanship is most useful in working with green horses. The aggressiveness and aloofness of green horses are due to their fear of humans, especially if the young horse has not been handled by humans from a very young age. Using the traditional horse breaking methods could only worsen their fears. On the other hand, using the techniques in natural horsemanship will calm them down and allow a new relationship to flourish. Natural horsemanship is the best method to build a good working relationship with a horse; this is true whether you are training green horses or seasoned performers.