Natural Horsemanship Riding School

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10 June 2017
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Hi Everyone,
I have been riding on and off for a good few years, then have spent the last 2 years also working on the ground doing Natural Horsemanship. I would like to find a riding school where I can have lessons in what I think of as Natural Horsemanship riding. That is (my definition anyway!) using your body and body posture more than reins and legs to ride the horse. Does anyone know of any in the Oxfordshire, Wiltshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Gloucestershire areas? Many Thanks!
 
Joined
3 May 2018
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57
Am not in your area so cannot recommend places, but you may find people have questions as well as answers for you before they can point you in the right direction. Off the top of my head...

- any preferences on bitless/shoeless/Western tack ? etc
- what level is your riding at, what have you been doing?
- are you on social media? there may be useful Facebook groups etc
- do you have a particular discipline in mind? (hacking, dressage, jumping etc ?)

People here will have their own (strong!) opinions on "Natural Horsemanship", it's a term that gets used by all sorts of people. Some are not really doing anything new, some claim to have "new" techniques so that they can sell things to us, some are kind and skilful but the "techniques" they teach work because they themselves are highly experienced, have superb timing, and can choose the exercise that will suit the individual horse.

Some trainers/horse behaviourists are making use of scientific training principles, and may use clicker training, for example. It's a wide field, and I'm not sure how much of this has migrated into riding school teaching, which still seems quite traditional in many places, especially if they deal mostly with children and beginners.

I feel it's the mindset not the techniques that matters. What I like is the focus on creating a better relationship with the horse, which allows it to be in a state of mind where it can learn. And then with luck, everything becomes easier, because you are in a partnership not a dictatorship, where the horse has chosen to co-operate and "methods" become less important. It may then be about becoming a better rider, to notice the subtle things we often miss, or to get out of the horse's way and not block his movement.

The "techniques" I'm interested in are the ones that show the horse "I'm listening to you" because they may then start listening back, and that's wonderful to see when it happens.

Sorry this is a bit waffly, hope it helps.
 
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Just found this: NB this is only from a web search, I know nothing about them.
http://www.passivehorsemanship.co.uk/

Kelly Marks and co are in Hungerford... Monty Roberts' name will no doubt put some people off.
But it is in the area you mentioned, and the website has a list of other trainers which might give you some other names to try. They may not keep their own horses to learn on, but you may find some courses/clinics to spectate at. Just found there is a free magazine you can download with an interview with Tim Stockdale.
https://www.intelligenthorsemanship.co.uk/


Let us know how you get on.
 

Pearlsasinger

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It was the riding with body weight and posture that made me write that!

ETA I can't see much riding happening without legs, tbh and as western horses are trained to neck rein, that doesn't fit the bill, either.
 

mule

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It was the riding with body weight and posture that made me write that!

ETA I can't see much riding happening without legs, tbh and as western horses are trained to neck rein, that doesn't fit the bill, either.
I suppose the western loose rein looks like no rein compared to english style rein contact. They tend to wear pretty impressive spurs aswell so their legs don't need to do much.

Imo western riders look more relaxed in the saddle aswell. I think it might be because they ride one handed.
 

Pearlsasinger

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I suppose the western loose rein looks like no rein compared to english style rein contact. They tend to wear pretty impressive spurs aswell so their legs don't need to do much.

Imo western riders look more relaxed in the saddle aswell. I think it might be because they ride one handed.

Have you seen western bits? They can hardly be said to be 'no reins', or 'natural horsemanship' - whatever that may be!

How can spurs be said to be 'no legs'? It seems to me aht some people haven't really thought about this!
 

mule

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Have you seen western bits? They can hardly be said to be 'no reins', or 'natural horsemanship' - whatever that may be!

How can spurs be said to be 'no legs'? It seems to me aht some people haven't really thought about this!
But, a big bit and big spurs can mean the rider *looks* like they are using very little pressure because they get a reaction from a light touch (due to the nature of the equipment)

A lot of the natural horsemanship people seem to be from a western background too. The big celebrity American horse trainers all seem to have cowboy hats 🤠
(couldn't resist a cowboy emoji);)
 
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Pearlsasinger

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But, a big bit and big spurs can mean the rider *looks* like they are using very little pressure because they get a reaction from a light touch (due to the nature of the equipment)

A lot of the natural horsemanship people seem to be from a western background too. The big celebrity American horse trainers all seem to have cowboy hats 🤠
(couldn't resist a cowboy emoji);)

Sorry your cowboy emoji came out as a small white square on my laptop.

You are quite correct that Monty Roberts et al have a cowboy background but their declared intention is not to use coercive equipment, such as spurs etc. If OP had wanted to learn to ride western, surely she would have said so. I thought that she wanted to learn to ride well from what she said.
 

mule

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Sorry your cowboy emoji came out as a small white square on my laptop.

You are quite correct that Monty Roberts et al have a cowboy background but their declared intention is not to use coercive equipment, such as spurs etc. If OP had wanted to learn to ride western, surely she would have said so. I thought that she wanted to learn to ride well from what she said.
Damn, I bet all my other emojis have been doing that too :confused:
Good point about Monty and co. For some reason the op's description brought western to mind.
 

fburton

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People here will have their own (strong!) opinions on "Natural Horsemanship", it's a term that gets used by all sorts of people. Some are not really doing anything new, some claim to have "new" techniques so that they can sell things to us, some are kind and skilful but the "techniques" they teach work because they themselves are highly experienced, have superb timing, and can choose the exercise that will suit the individual horse.
A great post.

Personally, I would avoid trainers or 'brands' of Natural Horsemanship that make a big issue of dominance and how necessary it is for the handler to be the dominant partner to give your horse "strong leadership" and obtain his "respect". This was pretty much all NH a couple of decades ago, with a few notable exceptions like Mark Rashid. My impression is that the idea has become less popular in recent times, but I think there has also been a move to describe the same idea using gentler words.

Some people can get good results quickly at the same time as espousing dominance. That doesn't mean that dominance works; it just means they are experienced, have superb timing etc. Their success is in spite of not because of their viewpoint. On the other hand, you see problems arising when dominance theory is applied blindly or it distracts people from more effective ways of dealing with horses' behaviour.

Of course, dominance is more of an issue in handling on the ground than when riding.

I guess you would count me as one of those having a strong opinion on NH! ;)
 
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fburton, I agree. There could be - I imagine there already has been - a huge thread just on this.
I saw Monty Roberts demos 2 or 3 times in the 1990s, and went "wow" with everybody else on seeing "Join-up" for the first time. I've still got a join-up course manual dated (checks) 1989; 5 sheets of A4.

My opinion of MR has changed since then, and continues to change as new information comes along.
Lucy Rees and Mark Rashid particularly have made me look again, and wonder whether EVERY horse needs to effectively be told to "go away" in a round pen.

"'Natural' training methods can produce results so spectacular as to be an exhibitionist's delight. It is not difficult to render the horse completely passive and, in order to impress, work him to the point where he is no longer actively cooperating and learning but passively allowing himself to be pushed about. This satisfies some, but increasingly those with a critical eye see a dullness, a lack of interest, in horses whose imprint, Parelli or round pen training has been overdone. In any kind of training, one of the most difficult sensibilities to acquire is that of knowing when to stop."
Lucy Rees, "De Revolutionibus"

MR is a skilled showman. As such, he is effective at drawing the public in, and join-up makes a good show. That can be a good thing if it leads people to want to find out more, as long as they don't follow slavishly. Just had a quick look at the IH magazine from Kelly Marks's site; I thought it was a good read. You don't have to take Monty's every word as gospel, or buy Dually halters, to find something useful in there somewhere. Hopefully as you say "dominance" is on its way to becoming a discredited idea.
 

mule

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A great post.

Personally, I would avoid trainers or 'brands' of Natural Horsemanship that make a big issue of dominance and how necessary it is for the handler to be the dominant partner to give your horse "strong leadership" and obtain his "respect". This was pretty much all NH a couple of decades ago, with a few notable exceptions like Mark Rashid. My impression is that the idea has become less popular in recent times, but I think there has also been a move to describe the same idea using gentler words.

Some people can get good results quickly at the same time as espousing dominance. That doesn't mean that dominance works; it just means they are experienced, have superb timing etc. Their success is in spite of not because of their viewpoint. On the other hand, you see problems arising when dominance theory is applied blindly or it distracts people from more effective ways of dealing with horses' behaviour.

Of course, dominance is more of an issue in handling on the ground than when riding.

I guess you would count me as one of those having a strong opinion on NH! ;)
Good points about dominance. It's not a good way to think about human-animal interaction. Training can easily descend into aggression with an adversarial mindset, (which I think dominance fosters).

Some high profile nh people have shown very harsh training methods that are marketed as gentle. I think escalation of pressure as well as the dominance mindset is the problem. Negative reinforcement can tip over into punishment if one isn't careful.
For the op, I think it would be a good idea to read up on behaviourism.
 

Landcruiser

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Western isn't about big spurs and harsh bits. Its all about lightness, or it should be. And neck reining means that the bits are never engaged - they are there because all of western comes from working cowboys, who needed to know they could stop if they had to. Spurs should be about finesse - the lightest touch. The OP's post said western to me, although OP may never have tried western of course.
 

Red-1

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I co- trained a Western V English clinic some years ago, and rode the other clinician's horse. I did a blog about it, and have reproduced it below, IDs removed as I have not specifically asked permission to talk about him on this site, although he agreed with the original blog and its publication.

Blog...

As a child I saw the images of the cowboys, and thought “Cowboys Are Cruel.” There were these beautiful horses, and they were ridden in big cowboy spurs and harsh curb bits. Sure looks cruel to me! Especially when you would see the cowboys on the films, and they would kick their horses into a standing start gallop, then pull them to a sliding stop with their heads in the air. Proof, they have these big bits and spurs, and the horses look to be in pain.

Then I started to go on these trips to America, and I rode horses on “horsemanship” clinics in Western Saddles, and western bridles. I found the saddles to be very heavy and solid to ride in, and I learned that if you dropped a rein, it would end up on the floor as they are split reins (in case cattle get their feet caught up in the English style reins). In these clinics though the horses I rode were in snaffle bits, and they went well in a soft contact, on the bit, did lateral work and jumped (although apparently not all of them had done this before- and the horn on the front of the Western saddle was a bit inconvenient at times!), and we even practised flying lead changes.

When I got home I was asked what it was like to “Ride Western” and I thought about it. I certainly felt like I had “Ridden Western,” the horses were quarter horses, or Mustangs, they had Western Saddles and Bridles, Heck, I had even rounded up cattle, driven them and penned them up, that’s “Riding Western” isn’t it????? So, I thought about it and all I could tell people was that “Riding Western” was very much like “Riding English” but with different tack! Oh yes, I had done more one handed riding, but other than that it was like riding obliging, well schooled English horses. They were relaxed and responsive, but not so "different" than I was used to. I guess it was like riding English, with added softness! I do know now that those horses did more, the surprise addition of a slide stop one day was the hint to that, but I just did not see it at the time.

Then I did a clinic, as in co-trained one. The other clinician was a Farrier by trade, but he was also a Bona Fide, third generation Cowboy! He and I did a two day clinic, co-training under the banner of “Good Horsemanship is Universal” to compare the similarities and differences in English and Western styles of riding. The clinician had never had a lesson in his life, he has learned Western Riding from the generations of Ranch Workers and their families that he has worked with. I, on the other hand have come from a background of no Equestrianism, and so have been schooled in a more formal way, until I had enough knowledge to go out and experiment for myself. The clinic format was a GOOD idea, He provided the Western input, and me with the English input.

I was, however, just a little worried when I met him. I know that my friend really rated him, and she values and loves her horses, she is knowledgeable, so I guess that anyone who she recommends would be OK, BUT he was a COWBOY! And, from a young age I had formed the opinion that “Cowboys are Cruel!!!”

It was so funny when I first spoke to him, it was more like speaking to a brother, we had so many of the same ideas with horses. We put it different ways, but I was relieved that our philosophies on horses and training were so similar. Hmmm, I thought, this might just be OK. Big spurs and curb bits notwithstanding!

The morning of the clinic arrived, and he brought two horses. Clinicians in America do seem to do most of their teaching from horseback, and he was loaning me one of his horses so we could teach the group in the pasture. Both of his horses were big, over 16hands, and they looked spirited. He hoisted on the Western saddles, his other horse was tacked up in the usual long shank curb bit, but on my horse “Jack” I asked if I could use my own Western Bridle that he and my friend had given to me as a fantastic present the night before. This bridle was fitted up with a snaffle bit ready for my horse. He said that Jack had not been ridden in a snaffle bit for many years, but that does not mean that he will not be OK with it, and yes, I could use whatever bridle I liked.

I went to get on, and he asked if I was not wearing spurs. No, I don’t tend to use them as a matter of course. He looked surprised, but was fine with everything, so I had 20 minutes before the clinic to start, to get a feel for Jack.

We rode out onto the pasture, just on a loose rein at first, and I started circles and bends to loosen up and get Jack’s attention on me and not the other horses who were still being tacked up by the barn. The sun was hot already, the western saddle hard and unyielding compared to an English one. I had a water bottle hung from the horn, the heat and an altitude of over 8,000 feet takes its toll, particularly if you are not well hydrated.

We moved into trot, Jack stepped forwards willingly, and I took up a contact. Jack stopped again. Again to trot, contact and stop again. The clinician calls over, tells me that Jack has NEVER been ridden on a contact. Not that he doesn’t want me to try, just so I am aware of where Jack is coming from. I think, “What? Never ridden on a contact in his LIFE???” Now THAT is different to what I have experienced when I have “Ridden Western” before!

Well Jack, on this trip I am primarily here to teach. We are doing a combined clinic and I am here to provide the English input. So, it would help me if you could learn to “Go English” Jack, quicksticks, for when I have to demonstrate something. Now, we need to go forwards. We go back to trot, and on the circles, bit by bit, I pick Jack up, using the bends and curves to explain what I want. Jack tries everything he can think of to provide a full release from the contact. Above the bridle, behind the bridle, slow down. He is confused. But at the same time he is telling me more about “Riding Western” than anyone could have explained to me. You see Jack did not once offer to harden himself to the bit. No “grabbing” or tensing, none of his strength or force used against me.

Well, maybe he wouldn’t use his force against me if he was scared of a big curb bit in his mouth? No, it did not feel like that at all. Jack was not scared. If a horse is scared he may be light in the bit, but he will also be tense in his back and unable to think. Jack was free in his mind, calm and confident to try various solutions. Soon Jack found it pleased me to take the contact forwards in a soft way. Within 15 minutes we had achieved “Long and Low.” Now he had found the correct response and he would hold a soft contact so I could start to ride him up into it.

You know within half an hour of getting on, this magnificent horse had changed himself from a horse ridden in no contact to a horse which could win Dressage competitions! We were just completing a credible Shoulder-in, three tracks, relaxed, bending through the body, when the clinician rode up. It was nearly time for the clinic to start, the participants had started to walk their horses out to the pasture. Before we turned the microphones on though, he watched the Shoulder-in, and said they did something sort of similar, but he had never seen Jack do anything like THAT before! I asked to see what they did, and one handed, no pressure, he had his horse walking on the angle up the pasture. It was not a “Shoulder-in” but it was sideways, soft, active.

And then we started the clinic! Microphones on! The clinic was fantastic, fun in the sun, learning and laughter.

On the second day I got to play some with Jack while the participants were tacking up. Sliding stops from a hand gallop to halt, no pulling. If Jack lifted his head some it was just to balance himself as his bum slid under. Mostly he did not lift his head at all! On the second day we all went for a ride in the forest. We did a flat out gallop through the trees, roots and stumps all around, the ground was uneven. By now I trusted Jack and his training, and I rode on and had a ball! A big beautiful, athletic horse doing well what he was trained to do. I felt very privileged. Galloping on this rough ground on a horse that could find his own balance, with no contact.

I watched the clinician during this clinic, a real life cowboy with big spurs and a big curb bit on his horse. There was no cruelty, it was a picture of two souls working together to get the job done. It was energy and softness. But no contact! I also saw in him the pride for his horses. I guess I would also say I saw love for his horses, although I bet he would deny that! The entire time his horses were confident and relaxed.

In English riding there are good riders and bad, so the same must be true of Cowboys. I also know that I thought that I had “Ridden Western,” but that I had not. Nor have I still. There is a whole something, a big lot of something, that he had put into his horses that I do not yet understand.
 

mule

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I co- trained a Western V English clinic some years ago, and rode the other clinician's horse. I did a blog about it, and have reproduced it below, IDs removed as I have not specifically asked permission to talk about him on this site, although he agreed with the original blog and its publication.

Blog...

As a child I saw the images of the cowboys, and thought “Cowboys Are Cruel.” There were these beautiful horses, and they were ridden in big cowboy spurs and harsh curb bits. Sure looks cruel to me! Especially when you would see the cowboys on the films, and they would kick their horses into a standing start gallop, then pull them to a sliding stop with their heads in the air. Proof, they have these big bits and spurs, and the horses look to be in pain.

Then I started to go on these trips to America, and I rode horses on “horsemanship” clinics in Western Saddles, and western bridles. I found the saddles to be very heavy and solid to ride in, and I learned that if you dropped a rein, it would end up on the floor as they are split reins (in case cattle get their feet caught up in the English style reins). In these clinics though the horses I rode were in snaffle bits, and they went well in a soft contact, on the bit, did lateral work and jumped (although apparently not all of them had done this before- and the horn on the front of the Western saddle was a bit inconvenient at times!), and we even practised flying lead changes.

When I got home I was asked what it was like to “Ride Western” and I thought about it. I certainly felt like I had “Ridden Western,” the horses were quarter horses, or Mustangs, they had Western Saddles and Bridles, Heck, I had even rounded up cattle, driven them and penned them up, that’s “Riding Western” isn’t it????? So, I thought about it and all I could tell people was that “Riding Western” was very much like “Riding English” but with different tack! Oh yes, I had done more one handed riding, but other than that it was like riding obliging, well schooled English horses. They were relaxed and responsive, but not so "different" than I was used to. I guess it was like riding English, with added softness! I do know now that those horses did more, the surprise addition of a slide stop one day was the hint to that, but I just did not see it at the time.

Then I did a clinic, as in co-trained one. The other clinician was a Farrier by trade, but he was also a Bona Fide, third generation Cowboy! He and I did a two day clinic, co-training under the banner of “Good Horsemanship is Universal” to compare the similarities and differences in English and Western styles of riding. The clinician had never had a lesson in his life, he has learned Western Riding from the generations of Ranch Workers and their families that he has worked with. I, on the other hand have come from a background of no Equestrianism, and so have been schooled in a more formal way, until I had enough knowledge to go out and experiment for myself. The clinic format was a GOOD idea, He provided the Western input, and me with the English input.

I was, however, just a little worried when I met him. I know that my friend really rated him, and she values and loves her horses, she is knowledgeable, so I guess that anyone who she recommends would be OK, BUT he was a COWBOY! And, from a young age I had formed the opinion that “Cowboys are Cruel!!!”

It was so funny when I first spoke to him, it was more like speaking to a brother, we had so many of the same ideas with horses. We put it different ways, but I was relieved that our philosophies on horses and training were so similar. Hmmm, I thought, this might just be OK. Big spurs and curb bits notwithstanding!

The morning of the clinic arrived, and he brought two horses. Clinicians in America do seem to do most of their teaching from horseback, and he was loaning me one of his horses so we could teach the group in the pasture. Both of his horses were big, over 16hands, and they looked spirited. He hoisted on the Western saddles, his other horse was tacked up in the usual long shank curb bit, but on my horse “Jack” I asked if I could use my own Western Bridle that he and my friend had given to me as a fantastic present the night before. This bridle was fitted up with a snaffle bit ready for my horse. He said that Jack had not been ridden in a snaffle bit for many years, but that does not mean that he will not be OK with it, and yes, I could use whatever bridle I liked.

I went to get on, and he asked if I was not wearing spurs. No, I don’t tend to use them as a matter of course. He looked surprised, but was fine with everything, so I had 20 minutes before the clinic to start, to get a feel for Jack.

We rode out onto the pasture, just on a loose rein at first, and I started circles and bends to loosen up and get Jack’s attention on me and not the other horses who were still being tacked up by the barn. The sun was hot already, the western saddle hard and unyielding compared to an English one. I had a water bottle hung from the horn, the heat and an altitude of over 8,000 feet takes its toll, particularly if you are not well hydrated.

We moved into trot, Jack stepped forwards willingly, and I took up a contact. Jack stopped again. Again to trot, contact and stop again. The clinician calls over, tells me that Jack has NEVER been ridden on a contact. Not that he doesn’t want me to try, just so I am aware of where Jack is coming from. I think, “What? Never ridden on a contact in his LIFE???” Now THAT is different to what I have experienced when I have “Ridden Western” before!

Well Jack, on this trip I am primarily here to teach. We are doing a combined clinic and I am here to provide the English input. So, it would help me if you could learn to “Go English” Jack, quicksticks, for when I have to demonstrate something. Now, we need to go forwards. We go back to trot, and on the circles, bit by bit, I pick Jack up, using the bends and curves to explain what I want. Jack tries everything he can think of to provide a full release from the contact. Above the bridle, behind the bridle, slow down. He is confused. But at the same time he is telling me more about “Riding Western” than anyone could have explained to me. You see Jack did not once offer to harden himself to the bit. No “grabbing” or tensing, none of his strength or force used against me.

Well, maybe he wouldn’t use his force against me if he was scared of a big curb bit in his mouth? No, it did not feel like that at all. Jack was not scared. If a horse is scared he may be light in the bit, but he will also be tense in his back and unable to think. Jack was free in his mind, calm and confident to try various solutions. Soon Jack found it pleased me to take the contact forwards in a soft way. Within 15 minutes we had achieved “Long and Low.” Now he had found the correct response and he would hold a soft contact so I could start to ride him up into it.

You know within half an hour of getting on, this magnificent horse had changed himself from a horse ridden in no contact to a horse which could win Dressage competitions! We were just completing a credible Shoulder-in, three tracks, relaxed, bending through the body, when the clinician rode up. It was nearly time for the clinic to start, the participants had started to walk their horses out to the pasture. Before we turned the microphones on though, he watched the Shoulder-in, and said they did something sort of similar, but he had never seen Jack do anything like THAT before! I asked to see what they did, and one handed, no pressure, he had his horse walking on the angle up the pasture. It was not a “Shoulder-in” but it was sideways, soft, active.

And then we started the clinic! Microphones on! The clinic was fantastic, fun in the sun, learning and laughter.

On the second day I got to play some with Jack while the participants were tacking up. Sliding stops from a hand gallop to halt, no pulling. If Jack lifted his head some it was just to balance himself as his bum slid under. Mostly he did not lift his head at all! On the second day we all went for a ride in the forest. We did a flat out gallop through the trees, roots and stumps all around, the ground was uneven. By now I trusted Jack and his training, and I rode on and had a ball! A big beautiful, athletic horse doing well what he was trained to do. I felt very privileged. Galloping on this rough ground on a horse that could find his own balance, with no contact.

I watched the clinician during this clinic, a real life cowboy with big spurs and a big curb bit on his horse. There was no cruelty, it was a picture of two souls working together to get the job done. It was energy and softness. But no contact! I also saw in him the pride for his horses. I guess I would also say I saw love for his horses, although I bet he would deny that! The entire time his horses were confident and relaxed.

In English riding there are good riders and bad, so the same must be true of Cowboys. I also know that I thought that I had “Ridden Western,” but that I had not. Nor have I still. There is a whole something, a big lot of something, that he had put into his horses that I do not yet understand.
Did you get the impression that western horses are generally softer than english ones?
 

Red-1

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Did you get the impression that western horses are generally softer than english ones?
The ones I rode were! But then, you could not generalise "English Horses" either could you? I mean, Valegro is going beautifully for that 11 year old girl, but then he is not representative of the main, just look at the other thread about a dressage competition.

The first horses that I spoke about, the ones in the snaffles that I had ridden the year before, who could do lateral work and jumping as well as cattle, the ones I said were "like English ones but softer"... they "happened" to belong to Mark Rashid, so I guess you would expect those to be softer than the main of English horses. :p

The working cowboy horse "Jack" that featured in the blog, he was the property of the trainer I co-trained with. That horse was soft in the mind and body even though he was always ridden in a big curb bit and spurs. I co-trained with this man the year after too, on the young horse he rode on the clinic the year before, that was also incredibly soft, and I used its curb bit. It was a non issue. I dare say that both were an exemplary example of a working cow horse belonging to a talented trainer/ farrier / cowboy, and so not representative of a general "Western" horse.

My point was that cowboys / curb bits / big spurs do not have to be cruel or harsh. It is not about the tools used, it is about the hands and minds that ride the horse. Rather like English horses really. Riding them did increase my awareness of how it could be, and helped me strive for a better feel in my own horses. It helped me lose some misconceptions.
 

mule

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The ones I rode were! But then, you could not generalise "English Horses" either could you? I mean, Valegro is going beautifully for that 11 year old girl, but then he is not representative of the main, just look at the other thread about a dressage competition.

The first horses that I spoke about, the ones in the snaffles that I had ridden the year before, who could do lateral work and jumping as well as cattle, the ones I said were "like English ones but softer"... they "happened" to belong to Mark Rashid, so I guess you would expect those to be softer than the main of English horses. :p

The working cowboy horse "Jack" that featured in the blog, he was the property of the trainer I co-trained with. That horse was soft in the mind and body even though he was always ridden in a big curb bit and spurs. I co-trained with this man the year after too, on the young horse he rode on the clinic the year before, that was also incredibly soft, and I used its curb bit. It was a non issue. I dare say that both were an exemplary example of a working cow horse belonging to a talented trainer/ farrier / cowboy, and so not representative of a general "Western" horse.

My point was that cowboys / curb bits / big spurs do not have to be cruel or harsh. It is not about the tools used, it is about the hands and minds that ride the horse. Rather like English horses really. Riding them did increase my awareness of how it could be, and helped me strive for a better feel in my own horses. It helped me lose some misconceptions.
I can imagine Mark Rashid's horses would be nice to ride!
I've read the term softness of the mind from some of the natural horsemanship people. Does it mean the horse is willing or does it mean relaxed/ lack of tension?
 

Red-1

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I can imagine Mark Rashid's horses would be nice to ride!
I've read the term softness of the mind from some of the natural horsemanship people. Does it mean the horse is willing or does it mean relaxed/ lack of tension?
I would not presume to know what s in the minds of others (as I often misunderstand stuff) but to me it means without the need to be defensive. So, as with "Jack" he did not understand, so he tried a range of possible options. When one was not correct he tried something else. He did not shut down, block me, tense up...

If a horse is being soft he is pliable in mind and body.

I was lucky enough to ride a couple of Mark's personal horses for a short time, their feel was something else. Like treacle, but of energy, moving energy and focus. A "we" thing. I have not managed to replicate that in my own schooling, yet.
 

Landcruiser

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Red Nose, this is exactly what I meant in my post. What a fabulous experience.
One more thing - we don't all wear spurs (I don't) - and those heavy saddles are functional, comfortable, especially when covered on a good sheepskin pad - and spread the rider's weight over a much bigger area.
 

Red-1

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Red Nose, this is exactly what I meant in my post. What a fabulous experience.
One more thing - we don't all wear spurs (I don't) - and those heavy saddles are functional, comfortable, especially when covered on a good sheepskin pad - and spread the rider's weight over a much bigger area.
I went back the year after and did some competition cutting. That was an experience. Not so much about the softness, but all about the focus. Still no contact!



I do feel blessed. I also now feel very old! I am glad that I did the stuff I did when I did, as now I have a lovely young horse, but due to being limited physically, we do very little.

I always wanted to have a go at racing, but did not, and a horseback safari, but again did not. I feel it is too late now, but am happy to have explored horsemanship as much as I have. Rcutting competition 216.jpg Rcutting competition 217.jpg Rcutting competition 236.jpg Rcutting competition 239.jpg

Sorry to anyone upset at my position, I only had 2 cutting lessons and then did the competition. It was a case of survival!

Also sorry for the overindulgent photo post. I do feel old, and in need of remembering the fun!
 
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Red-1

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To the OP, I believe Mark Rashid still does horsemanship clinics in Colorado where you don't have to take your own horse. Look for the ones at Happy Dog Ranch. It was not as expensive as I expected when I went, I think I did 4 summer clinics in Colorado with him, then went teaching in Arizona for 3 years where I rode more "Cowboy Western" horses as opposed to "Natural Horsemanship" horses.

We just had the flight, the clinic cost, a cheap B and B and car hire.

I don't think Mark Rashid says he does "Natural Horsemanship" he just does "horsemanship" or at least that is how it was when I went there.
 
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