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Natural Horsemanship Training Explained: The history and philosophy behind natural horsemanship and what it means for you and your horse

Where did "natural horsemanship" come from?

Natural Horsemanship Training Explained

Learn about the history and philopsophy of natural horsemanship and how it can work for your horse when you download our FREE guide Natural Horsemanship Training Explained: The history and philosophy behind natural horsemanship and what it means for you and your horse.

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Download your FREE report on natural horsemanship training & learn about natural horsemanship trainers like Buck Brannaman that are influencing the future of horse training.

MyHorse Daily Managing Editor Amy Herdy

MyHorse Daily Managing Editor Amy Herdy

What Exactly is Natural Horsemanship Training?

Groundwork and desensitization is an important part of Natural Horsemanship

Groundwork and desensitization is an important part of Natural Horsemanship | Photo courtesy of Downunder Horsemanship

If you rode horses as a kid and are just now picking up horse training again after a nice long break, or entering the horse world for the first time, you’ve no doubt heard the term “natural horsemanship training.”

And you may have wondered, “Who thought up this natural horsemanship training, and what’s this method of horse training all about?”

In answer to that question, we take a look at some of some of the founders of natural horsemanship training and the methods behind it, in this piece from Practical Horseman.

Natural Horsemanship
By Jayne D. Wilson

Horses and riders alike can benefit from the mutual respect and understanding that natural horsemanship training fosters.

The phrases “natural horsemanship,” “horse whispering” and “resistance-free training” have become fashionable, brought into the public eye by the documentary “Buck” about Buck Brannaman, and before that, the Robert Redford movie, “The Horse Whisperer.”

But these philosophies of a kinder, gentler type of horse training that are natural horsemanship training have been around quite a bit longer than most people realize.

Natural horsemanship training, in it’s purest form, is the understanding of the horse’s natural instincts and body language and communicating with the horse in his own language, so that he willingly performs his handler’s wishes without use of force or cruelty.

The horse is presented with situations in which he makes a choice. If he does the “right” thing, pressure on his side, or on his bit or whatever, is relieved and he rewards himself.

By doing the “wrong” thing he makes the pressure firmer, with no one to blame but himself. The horse can be said to have trained himself, and this leads to less resistance than conventional methods of horse training.

There are a number of proponents of natural horsemanship training, past and present. We can’t mention them all here, but they include:

Tom Dorrance

Tom Dorrance, May 11, 1910 – June 11, 2003, was the author of “True Unity: Willing Communication Between Horse and Human.” Tom Dorrance is recognized by many as the father of resistance-free training, or natural horsemanship training, although he was always careful not to give it a name.

The foundation of Tom Dorrance’s teaching was to let the horse come up on his own pressure, because it is a language a horse can understand since it matches what the horse experiences in a natural setting of herd life.

Tom’s brother Bill Dorrance (January 19, 1906-July 20, 1999) was also considered among the founders of natural horsemanship training. Bill was the author of True Horsemanship Through Feel.

Ray Hunt

Ray Hunt (August 31, 1929 – March 12, 2009) was a living example of natural horsemanship, as he embodied the attitude that the human was no better than the horse, just different. Ray was known for starting each clinic with saying, “I’m here for the horse, to help him get a better deal.”

Ray Hunt started over 10,000 colts and held clinics for decades, both in the U.S. and internationally, teaching natural horsemanship training to thousands.

He was known as one of Tom Dorrance’s students, and Ray in turn is said to have helped teach Buck Brannaman the ways of natural horsemanship training.

Looking for a new training method? Try natural horsemanship!

Natural Horsemanship Training Explained

Would you like to know more about natural horsemanship training methods, and how you can use them with your horse? Download our FREE guide Natural Horsemanship Training Explained: The history and philosophy behind natural horsemanship and what it means for you and your horse.

Click the button below and we'll send you a download link to your copy of this FREE guide and we'll also notify you by email whenever we post new tips!

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Buck Brannaman

Buck Brannaman was retained by Disney and Robert Redford as a technical advisor on the movie “The Horse Whisperer,” in which the main character, Tom Booker, is said to be based on Brannaman.

He has been helping people with their problem horses since the mid-eighties and now gives demonstrations of his natural horsemanship training techniques around the U.S. and Australia.

Buck is the author of The Faraway Horses and Believe.

Most recently, a documentary about his life, “Buck,” helped bring awareness to the issue of natural horsemanship training. In addition to detailing his life story, the film documents Buck patiently teaching at clinics, or as he puts it, “Rather than helping people with horse problems, I’m helping horses with people problems.”

Jessica Jahiel

Jessica Jahiel, author of Riding for the Rest of Us, teaches what she calls Holistic Horsemanship, encouraging riders to consider the whole horse and their total environment, not just for the 45 minutes that they are in the saddle for a lesson. Holistic Horsemanship teaches the rider to consider every aspect of the horse’s life.

Jessica gives clinics around the country and sends out the popular Horse Sense email newsletter.

John Lyons

John Lyons, known as “America’s Most Trusted Horseman,” works to help horse owners attain a better understanding and communication with their horses.

John, along with his son Josh, gives symposiums around the country and he offers video and audio tapes which explain his natural horsemanship training methods and philosophy.

Tom Dorrance, The Father of Resistance-Free Training

Natural Horsemanship Training Explained

What do Clinton Anderson, Pat Parelli and John Lyons all have in common? A natural approach to training horses started by cowboy Tom Dorrance. Learn more about natural horsemanship and Tom Dorrance when you download our FREE guide Natural Horsemanship Training Explained: The history and philosophy behind natural horsemanship and what it means for you and your horse.

Click the button below and we'll send you a download link to your copy of this FREE guide and we'll also notify you by email whenever we post new tips!

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Pat Parelli

“Horsemanship can be obtained naturally through psychology, communication, and understanding,versus mechanics, fear and intimidation.”– Pat Parelli.

Pat Parelli opened his first ever clinic with that sentence, 20 years ago. He now makes a living out of teaching people to teach horses using Parelli Natural Horsemanship, or PNH, and his Web site has details on the PNH programs, education and photographs, as well as information about seminars and workshops.

Monty Roberts

Monty Roberts, author of The Man Who Listens to Horses, is another “natural” horse trainer. He uses the horse’s own language, that he calls “Equus,” to communicate with the horse. Monty’s Web site includes information on his latest “Join-Up” tour, where he gives demonstrations of his methods. In fact, Monty owned my horse Annapolis, when he was a yearling and to this day, Annapolis (now 20-something) still remembers his “join-up” training.

In addition to the above clinicians, other top horse trainers who are well known for their natural horsemanship training include Clinton Anderson, Julie Goodnight, Chris Cox and Stacy Westfall—to name just a few!

Amy Herdy
Amy Herdy
MyHorse Daily Managing Editor

Horse Training: Traditional vs. 'Natural'

Natural Horsemanship Training Explained

Are you looking for a gentler approach to training your horse? When you download our FREE guide Natural Horsemanship Training Explained: The history and philosophy behind natural horsemanship and what it means for you and your horse you'll learn about the history and theories behind natural horsemanship and if it can work for your horse.

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