Natural Horsemanship, a much-discussed alternative training method. Literally it means training your horse through building a natural bond, taking into account the horse’s behavior. It is also popularly called horse whispering. But I think it actually comes down to horseListening. Unlike other trainers, a horsemanship trainer will not work through fear or suppression, but rather focuses on cooperation and connection. Because what you love to do, you do better and this applies to your horse as well.
Like most of us, I too started taking riding lessons. The most fun part was just going hard at a gallop. But as I started to get a little older, ambitions started to grow as well. I suddenly expected more from the horses and practiced like crazy. When I arrived and was told which pony I could ride that day, I went to the pasture in good spirits (a little faster than usual because I always wanted to be nice and on time for class). Then, with some help, I could usually get the pony the some time anyway. During class, we then tried to do as best we could what the instructor asked us to do. So there were always those ponies that gave back a lot of protest and that you were sure you were going to see the ground up close. I asked few questions about this then and just performed as any good student would because both I and the instructors just didn’t know any better.
It can also be different
When I was 12, my parents had the fantastic idea to go horseback riding on a real ranch in America for a week as a vacation. By then, I knew a little bit about how to ride a round in a tub without dying (quite a feat sometimes!). But I didn’t know anything about outdoor riding at all yet, let alone feel safe and comfortable doing so. On top of that, we started riding western saddles. Help! So urgently time for new lessons, and so we ended up at a place where they teach people western riding. Along with this they also did a lot of ground work here, a whole new concept for me because until now ground work meant braiding and taking your horse to pasture.
Groundwork soon took on a whole new meaning. I learned how a horse communicated and how you could tell from the ground what you were going to have to work on while riding. I also learned a lot about safety and everything that had been normal in my life world until now was turned upside down for a moment. I was immediately sold because the lesson horses were no longer trying to buck you off, but were trying to tell you things. I went from surviving to living because through this way of working my horse suddenly wanted to be my partner and work together as a team!
I totally had the microbe! This logical and naturally progressive way of dealing with horses was still the only way forward for me. From then on, I put all my ambition into learning about horse behavior and becoming a horse-friendly trainer. Just about all the best-known methods I then took a closer look at. From Monty Roberts, to Hempfling, to Irwin, to Hunt, to… Until I ended up with Parelli Natural Horsemanship, and this is where I have stayed with it to this day. The construction of their system, community and support was something I had not seen before and wanted to know more about. After attending several clinics and classes here in Belgium, I ended up at a master class by Pat Parelli himself. And there I was invited to come and tutor directly with him in America. A dream come true! Truly had the time of my life, learned a lot of life lessons and got to be with horses every day. I was already convinced, but all my experiences at and with Parelli were so crazy that I would love to have many more adventures together with the Parelli group worldwide!
Through Parelli I have learned that there is not 1 solution to a problem you are experiencing with your horse, but that there are several roads to Rome. I learned to act as a coach and mentor for several horses myself. And the most important thing I came away with was that fun and fun are really central to both man and horse. Horsemanship has therefore become for me much more than the way I handle horses, it has become rather a philosophy of life. I am grateful every day that I have had the opportunity to experience what Horsemanship can truly mean in the lives of humans and horses!