I’ve used your book Making not Breaking for a number of years, before natural training was invented. Now that I’ve attended some natural horsemanship clinics, it seems your book is more natural than some of what I’ve seen. Why isn’t your training called natural?
Interesting question. Here’s some information to help explain the answer.
I wrote Making Not Breaking in 1990 and it was published in 1992.
From the cover:
Making NOT Breaking
The First Year Under Saddle
A practical approach for English and Western trainers that works with not against a horse’s natural instincts.
Presenting the Real World Training System for Young Horses.
(That last line was something the publisher added as they wanted to give my training system a name for their marketing purposes.)
The buzzword “Natural” in relation to horse training and horsemanship started showing up about the mid 90’s but the principles and techniques, the good, the bad and the ugly, have all really been around for as long as man and horses have interacted.
We live in a media marketing society and the phrase Natural Horsemanship is mostly a marketing tool, a handle, a hat to wear.
By personal choice, I am not into labeling something as this or that because most things in life are not black or white, they are somewhere in between. And most people are evolving beings, they change, so may or may not be the trainer they were or will be.
Being a writer, I know the power of words. I also know the rampant misuse of words.
If something is called natural it must be natural, right? Wrong, we sure know that with food labeling.
But what is natural anyway? In terms of horses, natural would refer to a horse that is born in the wild and is free to graze, roam, socialize, procreate and basically act like a horse.
So, when we do any of these things to a horse, it is unnatural:
Confine in a pasture, pen or stall
Feed hay or grain
Yet all natural horsemanship trainers do the things above and many more “unnatural” things.
These are natural horse behaviors:
Yet if we saw a trainer kicking or biting a horse, he or she would likely be labeled as something far from a natural trainer.
Do you see my point?
So, realistically, my aim is not natural, but mindful, reasonable horse training and care. I suggest horse owners learn How to Think Like a Horse and then work with a horse’s natural behaviors to help the horse become a willing partner and fit into man’s world without fear.
Since you have read my book Making Not Breaking you already know where I am coming from. For others, my training advice is what it is. When you read a book, read the whole book – take things in context, not out of context.
Now as far as the clinics you’ve seen or participated in, there are many trainers who call themselves natural horsemanship trainers. Some are extremely talented and helpful – they know horses and know people and are good teachers. Others are into marketing and self promotion, have shaky methods or keep things just out of reach of attendees.
I hope this helps answer your question and thanks for the provocative topic !