What is Natural Horsemanship?
The term ‘Natural Horsemanship’ has almost become over-used these days because ‘going natural’ is the thing to do! While there are some true practitioners around keeping it as close to natural as they can for the horse, there are just as many professing to practice natural horsemanship but not coming close to it.
So what does it really mean?
The dictionary defines ‘Natural’ as ‘existing in or produced by nature’, and ‘Horsemanship’ as ‘the art or skill of caring for and riding horses’.
So accordingly, I define natural horsemanship as the care, training and riding of horses in harmony with their natural behaviour, diet, movement and physical being.
This means that someone truly practising natural horsemanship will be doing the following things:
- Understand and be learning about equine ethology and social needs.
- Providing a herd situation for the horse to live in – other equine company they can touch (no isolation from others), with natural breeding and weaning practices.
- Keeping the horse in as large an area as possible for most of the time, with access to shelter from all types of weather – no constant stabling, small paddocks or confinement to yards for more than a couple of hours at a time unless absolutely necessary (eg. injury).
- Feeding a varied diet of horse suitable (low sugar) grass, hay and grain (only when required) with correct mineral supplementation to balance any deficiencies – includes providing salt and roughage at all times.
- Caring for their hooves with barefoot trimming and/or enough movement to self-trim, and using hoof boots when protection is needed – no metal horseshoes!
- Providing appropriate veterinary treatment, including faecal egg counts and worming (if needed) on a regular basis for the man-made environment they must live in.
- Training/educating the horse in a compassionate, respectful way that gives them confidence and allows them to move freely as nature intended – no bits, spurs, restrictive equipment or methods that compromise the horse’s ability to perform at their best.
When natural horsemanship practitioners meet these needs for horses, they provide a good example for others to follow.