Why Natural Horsemanship is the Key to Successful Horse–Human Relationships
At Tally-Ho, the relationships between our humans and our horses are very important. We believe mutual trust and respect is the key to good communication and safety, and that’s why we utilize the methods of natural horsemanship when training and caring for our herd.
Horsemanship is an overarching term for the care, handling and training of horses within various equine pursuits. There are many different methods and techniques for horsemanship that have been used throughout history. What makes the natural horsemanship technique different is that it prioritizes understanding a horse’s natural tendencies to learn and teaches with firm kindness rather than force.
Tally-Ho’s carriage horses need the confidence to manage a range of situations, sometimes unexpected ones, when working in Victoria, BC. Our horse development program, based on natural horsemanship principles, is designed to enhance the relationships between horses and humans to give our herd the confidence and skills they need to be safe when working.
Interested in learning more about natural horsemanship and how we use it to respectfully train our working horses? Read on!
What is Natural Horsemanship?
Natural horsemanship is the overarching term given to various styles of horse training that promote working in cooperation with a horse’s natural behaviours and oppose forceful or fear-led methods.
The main idea behind this approach is that a human-equine relationship built on mutual trust and positive reinforcement can result in a connection that is equally satisfactory for both the horse and its owner or rider.
There is evidence that less violent training methods have been used since as far back as 400 BC, however, more forceful, fear-led training became normalized as horse handlers looked for faster results.
The current natural horsemanship way of thinking is said to have originated in the Pacific Northwest in the early 1900s when brothers Tom and Bill Dorrance promoted gentler training methods that emphasized the responses of the horse.
Now, the most well-known advocate of natural horsemanship is considered to be Pat Parelli, who believes ‘horsemanship can be obtained naturally through communication, understanding and psychology.’
Parelli’s approaches to natural horsemanship have been used, built upon or adapted by many horse trainers. While this has led to multiple variations of the learning style, some consistent principles and training methods are usually seen. These include:
Principles of Natural Horsemanship
- The connection between horse and human should be mutually rewarding.
- Training and handling should be kind and gentle – fear and pain do not lead to a good equine-human relationship.
- Trust happens when you listen to and communicate with your horse.
- Understanding and working with your horse’s natural tendencies will get better results.
- Consider the horse’s point of view first.
- A confident and secure horse will respond positively to what is being asked of them.
Natural Horsemanship Training Methods
- Pressure and release – using gentle pressure, such as pulling on a lead rope or a hand on the horse’s shoulder, to direct the horse into the required action. The pressure is released as soon as the horse carries out or attempts to act.
- Positive reinforcement – letting the horse know when it has done something correctly.
- Desensitization training – enabling the horse to cope with unexpected or challenging stimuli.
- Hands-on foundational training such as walking in hand, long rope walking, obstacle avoidance and communication – to help build a bond and allow the rider to understand the natural preferences of the horse.
- Fair but firm force is only used when the safety of the horse or rider is at risk.
Of course, each horse trainer may incorporate some or all of these principles and techniques into their teaching as appropriate.
Using Natural Horsemanship to Shape Our Horse Training at Tally-Ho
At Tally-Ho, we always put the well-being of our horses first, and as such, the principles of natural horsemanship are a perfect fit for how we want to train and work with our herd.
To support this, in 2016, we worked with experienced horse trainer and proponent of natural horsemanship Glenn Stewart, to create our horse development program based on the Parelli principles. We use this program to train skills and build mutually respectful partnerships with all of our horses from the first day they arrive with us.
Our horse development program takes all the principles of natural horsemanship into account, allowing our horses to bond with us and the other horses, develop confidence and trust, and eventually learn the skills required to pull carriages safely.
Tally-Ho’s Horse Development Program – An Overview
Our natural horsemanship-based training program is about building confidence and setting our horses up for success. We consider the horse’s point of view first, working with their natural tendencies and letting them go at their own pace. Gentle direction is given via communication or operant conditioning – which is positive reinforcement using pressure and release techniques.
Every Tally-Ho horse and human staff member will go through our development program, which covers the following phases:
- Development Program Phase 1 – When a new horse arrives with us, we start working with them to build basic skills and the good foundations of a trusting relationship. This involves lots of observation of the horse and building successful communication methods.
- Development Program Phase 2 – We continue to work closely with our horses, teaching required skills with behavioural training methods, including walking in hand, obstacle awareness, voice commands and desensitization. Once the horse is ready, we introduce them to the harnesses and carriages they will eventually work with and pair them with their full-time driver. Together, the horse and driver begin carriage training in our farming community of Central Saanich.
- Development Program Phase 3 – Only when we are confident that a strong partnership has developed between the horse and its driver we begin on-site training in downtown Victoria. The strong bond and mutual trust built up between human and horse during our program allows the driver to quickly notice when a horse’s behaviour or action needs gentle correction.
This program allows us to provide our horses with the skills necessary to be safe, successful and happy in their work.
Putting the Horses First at Tally Ho
At Tally-Ho Carriage Tours, we always put the needs, safety and health of our horses first. This includes ensuring they are confident and have a good relationship with their driver before they take customers on a carriage ride.
Our herd of draft horses live out their days with their equine and human family members at our Hidden Acres Farm in Central Saanich. To find out more about how we work with our horses and the top-notch care we provide for them, check out our ‘Behind the Scenes’ experiences.
We hope to see you soon at Hidden Acres or on a sightseeing carriage tour in downtown Victoria. Contact us to book a tour today.