Sunday, August 5, 2012

Phin, Erin, and Natural Horsemanship

I started learning Natural Horsemanship with Lindsey a few years ago, and have enjoyed it ever since. When I first met Lindsey, I was at a typical riding school, where you used crops and force to get the horse to do what you wanted instead of leadership and trust.

My lessons with Lindsey were always different compared to other coaches and were based on getting your horse's trust and letting them know you are their leader, while still jumping, cantering, and learning the same things, as well as additional things like sideways and forehand and haunch turns that keep your horse interested and thinking "I wonder what we are going to do today."

I found these lessons much more fun and now I know that they were safer too, because the horse trusts you more and will listen to what you are telling them and become less unpredictable. At regular riding schools, you are constantly switching horses, so it can be difficult to build up a partnership with a horse.

With Lindsey, for a while I rode different horses, trying to find one that I really connected with and got along with. In May of 2011 Lindsey got Phin, a dark bay, 16.2h, 10 year old Thoroughbred gelding who is an ex-racehorse. At first I didn't ride him very much, just here and there, but after the summer of 2011, I started to ride him more and more. We've been in a parade, gone to shows, been swimming, and just about anything else you can imagine! I can throw a giant ball on his back or have him walk over a tarp and he could care less, or I can have him do more complex things like leg yielding (in the saddle) or have him position his feet in a certain way over a pole. I tested how much he really trusted me by taking him on a trail away from home with none of his horse friends, just two horses from another barn visiting for a clinic.

He used to be a little herd-bound (meaning he doesn't like to leave his horse buddies, and can get very upset if you take him away), but he walked along calmly without calling to his friends or even looking in their direction. How did I get this trust? Countless hours of working with a horse and them having good experiences with you and having faith in you as their leader. In the wild, horses rely on their leader to keep them safe, and if you can take that position, they will trust you and try harder for you. It's amazing what you can accomplish when you have a partnership with a horse.

When I am working with him, I feel like I can do anything. Recently, I was able to get him to stand on a pedestal, and we took off his halter and tack, and I sat underneath him on the pedestal while he calmly stood until I told him that it was ok to get down. That was a very proud moment for me as I saw what I had accomplished because of natural horsemanship and my amazing partnership with Phin. I can't imagine life without him.

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