When I went to the Parelli demo, I learned the new philosophy of horse training based on the horse’s psychological makeup. Horses are prey. We are predators. Allowing a human to leap onto its back goes counter to a horse’s survival instincts. Using your human brain to encourage cooperation from a horse works much better than physical coercion of an animal 5 to 10 times our size.
The new philosophy is humane, with an emphasis on equine and human safety. A scared, angry, or frustrated horse is dangerous. As a kid, I was influenced by farmers and cowboys who insisted that if a horse didn’t do what you wanted, you had to make it behave. Not easy for a skinny little girl, so I liked hearing about this new philosophy of horse training. But how new is it?
We tend to believe that our generation (choose whichever applies) is the innovator of all that is good and beautiful. News Flash. According to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals International, the first Society “was organized in England in 1824, primarily to prevent the abuse of carriage horses in the days before automobiles.” (http://www.spcai.org/about/our-history.html) The first US SPCA was founded in 1866.
From Black Beauty (by Anna Sewall, published in 1877) to the War Horse (by Michael Morpurgo, published in 1982), fiction writers have documented the potential positive and negative aspects of the human-horse relationship.
Kind treatment of horses is not new. There have always been “horse whisperers.” Even so, the “new” philosophy of Natural Horsemanship is a wonderful development. The best way to gain the cooperation of a skittish animal capable of stomping you to bits is through firmness tempered with kindness. Always has been – always will be. But now we have websites, dvds, and events galore to guide us.