What is Natural Horsemanship?


Riding on the beach would be a fun ride.

Everybody has a different point of view on this subject, I’m sure. I’ve read some don’t like the term, that it’s not anything new. Is it a new package wrapped hiding good old fashion bonding with an animal?

If natural horsemanship can be traced back to Xenophon an ancient Greek military man (more on him in a bit) then it’s definitely nothing new.

A Definition

According to Google natural horsemanship is a philosophy. A trainer or person who is working with the horse bases the training on the horse’s natural instincts. This method uses the fact that horses don’t learn from pain, force, or fear. They learn better through a pressure applied and released at the moment of the desired performance.

My way of looking at it, is natural horsemanship is like it sounds; as close to the way the horse thinks. The horse is a prey animal, runs at the first sign of danger. This is his occupation when he is in his natural element, to stay safe. Even when he’s not in his natural habitat, he’s still a horse. He is what he is.

I like to watch people ride their horses bareback without a bridle. They are using their legs, seat, their bodies to communicate to the horse what they want him to do. He has been so well trained and been allowed to be a horse that the rider, using certain cues the horse understands performs in perfect harmony.

The human had to know about the horse’s way of learning first then was able to tell the horse what he wanted him to do. When it all comes together it is a fluid motion of horse and rider. It is truly one of the most lovely scenes to watch.

I would so like to be one of those riders, so in tune with my horse that you can’t tell where the rider leaves off and the horse begins, they are just one. They are one flowing motion.

The following video shows what I’m talking about. This is my idea of natural horsemanship, of being one with your horse.  Enjoy.

From the Horse’s Point of View

When watching horses in a herd they show how they are feeling with their ears, the position of their heads, maybe showing some teeth if the situation calls for it. They swish their hindquarters around too and can get a well aimed kick off with no problem.

When a handler uses body language and apply the pressure and release at the right moments, the horse is going to respond in a favorable manner. It’s also noted the horse and person will ultimately enjoy a remarkable relationship when this type of training is used.

Ancient History

In my research on this subject I found that natural horsemanship probably dates back to the Greek philosopher, historian, Xenophon whom I mentioned above. He was raised on a horse facility, his parents being quite a wealthy equestian family. He had on the spot, first hand knowledge of the horse.

He wrote a lot about horsemanship. He covered subjects such as how to choose a horse, take care of it, grooming, bridling, and riding. He also included advanced horsemanship and how to make a horse look fancy.

One of his quotes, “A horse is a thing of beauty… none will tire of looking at him as long as he displays himself in his splendor.”

Sounds to me like he loved horses and wanted the best for them because he took the time to write about them so others could benefit and learn from his beliefs and practice.

In More Recent History

I didn’t realize the Dorrance brothers, Tom and Bill lived in the Pacific Northwest, my neck of the woods. They are famous for carrying the natural horsemanship philosophy into modern days. Ray Hunt is another one who studied the horse and worked with them using “feel”. They all embrace the more quiet, calm way to help a horse learn and put horse and owner together on the same saddle page.

I like this quiet way as well. I can’t stand to see a horse mistreated. As much as I admire the cowboy of the old west, some of their ways were harsh. But even some of them took more time to train their horse and have a trustful relationship. They needed their horse friend to be there for them. Life was hard out on the range and sometimes the only one who could help was his trusted horse.

Concluding Thoughts

As I’ve mentioned I like to watch people ride without saddle or bridle. There are a lot of places on line like YouTube and horse sites where you can watch riders and horses showing off this wonderful togetherness.

Other places are movies. In a Disney movie an Indian boy made friends with a wild horse. It wasn’t long before they were galloping through the sagebrush, no saddle, no bridle, but the horse relied on his rider to show him what direction they were going. The trust had been established.

What are your thoughts on natural horsemanship? Let me know in the comments. I’ll answer any questions best as I can. Thank you for stopping by.

Top image courtesy of Pixabay.

2 thoughts on “What is Natural Horsemanship?

  1. Judy, you found an evocative image of the beach horses. We didn’t have a beach but a creek. It was pretty deep in places and had lovely boulders. We often rode the horses in (bareback of course) with just a simple ‘steering’ rope and swam them around. Diving off their backs as the mood took us.

    Now that was pretty natural and they seemed to love it.


    1. Hi Helen,
      Sounds fun to swim with your horse. I never did that, but would sure be up for it. Yes, that’s natural to my way of thinking too. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by. 🙂

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