Sunday, January 4, 2009

Is natural horsemanship a myth?

Dear friends,

Just wanted to climb on the old soapbox for a few minutes. I came across a well-written article online that put forth the argument that natural horsemanship is a myth. I won’t say who wrote it, but I was surprised. I expected him to know better.

A myth is a story that can’t be proven true. Natural horsemanship is a protocol, a system of foundation training and relationship building that is based on a particular mindset: a commitment to understanding the nature of the horse, using that nature instead of fighting it, and making every situation a win for the horse as well as for the human.

Natural horsemanship is not a story, so it can’t be a myth.

But that is nitpicking. My real problem was the way this article characterized modern clinicians of this ilk, especially the more successful and visible ones, as charlatans intent on selling gullible people things they don’t need. No names were used, of course, but the writer obviously thought we’d know whom he meant.

I don’t. The fact is, I know most of the clinicians. It’s my job to interview them, write about them, analyze their ideas and help my listeners, viewers, and readers make sense of it all. I’ll admit, some are better teachers than others, but I honestly know of none that deserves this sort of slapping about. They, like all of us, are simply trying to make a living providing something of value for the marketplace. The good ones succeed. The not-so-good ones go on to something else. None that I’ve met are charlatans.

The article, as it turned out, was really an excerpt from a book about a “real” horseman, one who wasn’t so well known but who had really special talents and had taken the moral high road with them. He worked very hard and helped many people. But he wasn’t a national phenomenon, and, presumably, he didn’t make a lot of money doing it. I knew of this horseman and considered him the real deal, every bit a natural horseman, whether he used the term or not. The writer was a relative newcomer to horses.

It was more than a little dishonest, I thought, for a writer to be promoting the sale of a book by lambasting horsemen who promote themselves. Fortunately, the public is smart enough to see through this. In my experience, they look at what’s being offered. If they find value in it, they buy. If not, they don’t. Period. They aren’t swayed all that much by what some writer says from the sidelines.

One last point. The article also called these natural horsemanship clinicians “horse whisperers” and didn’t mean that as a compliment. I guess the writer thought it sufficient indictment of the term that it was associated with a successful book and a successful movie. (What does he have against success, anyway?) The horse whisperer term has a rich history going back more than two hundred years. I can recommend a good reference if the writer would like to learn more ...

You know, my friends, everyone is selling something and I for one do not consider that a bad thing. I’m glad the grocer sells me bread, the airline sells me tickets to the places I need to go, and clinicians sell the fruits of their labors. But I can’t stand it when someone adopts this holier-than-thou attitude about free enterprise at the same time they’re trying to sell me something.

Don’t let anyone tell you that natural horsemanship is a myth or that the teachers of it are crooks. Let the work speak for itself.



Arispartner said...

I recently attended a clinic by a relatively new clinician. She objected to the term "Natural" horsemanship during the clinic. Her reasoning was that there is nothing natural about our interaction with horses, so how can we talk about natural horsemanship? I didn't argue with her. She was doing a great job and using natural horsemanship techniques (phases of pressure, pressure and release, looking at problems from a horse's viewpoint, etc.). She also railed against the prominent clinicians and their capitalistic approach. I like your ending (let the work speak for itself). At least one other clinician also says not to argue. But, boy it can be difficult at times!

bob sanders said...

Hi folks,
I have to remember when I'm watching or attending clinics, I'm looking for how I can be better with my horse. So I watch to see if the clinician is speaking "TO" his/her audience or explaining how to work "WITH" the horse. I want to know ways to work with my horse that is safer and easier and still get the job done. I like to ride with the clinician, not sit in the stands while he/she works with that special horse. It does make a difference. boB

Lisa Courtney said...

I googled "natural horsemanship myth" and came up with several articles. I have been using this method or style of horsemanship for over 20 years. I can only imagine the author of the article has never had a horse let down or join up with them in the round pen, dropping their head, licking their lips and looking directly into to you instead of at you or past you. I can guess they've never experienced the flowing oneness we "natural horseman" feel when we ride. Some people's minds and souls are too busy trying to make happen what they will by forcing their will on others. I don't worry to much about those. I am at my very best when I am being a natural horseman-horsewoman. I don't practice natural horsemanship or use it as a method. It is a state of being. I believe the best state of being there is.

jane augenstein said...

People can say what they want about Natural Horsemanship.....I know it works and works well for me! I have a much better horse for it.
When I'm in the round pen with my horse and he is looking at me asking, "what are we going to do next" and is happy about it I know this is a good thing. He does this with no halter or lead on and he does it of his own free will.
I am so grateful to all the natural horseman that I have learned from; there is nothing finer than being "one" with my horse!

karen rohlf said...

Well said, Rick.
Humans get so tied up with labels and putting things in little categories,so we can define them. Natural Horsemanship is a title that makes an attempt to define a system. There will be variety between different systems, there will be people who say they are doing natural horsemanship who are not really adhering to the principles, and there will people from any discipline, who would never describe themselves as natural horsemen, who ARE indeed the most natural and principled horsemen (the ones who even the horses respect!).

The point is to know the intention of the information and the desire to do our best to be with these horses as best we can.

This is a skill. Marketing is a skill. Business is a skill. Sometimes there are humans who have several of these skills and more power to them! What a shame if the best horsemen or skilled teachers in any field practiced alone in poverty and never shared their knowledge! I certainly don't think it makes them a better horseman if they die poor. I don't respect them more as a horseman if they make their money doing something else.

Again, it comes down to the intention. If some one is born to teach and share information, or create a product then I hope they do it well, and yes, I am grateful to be able to have it made available to me!

I guess it can be confusing because people think that to market yourself you need to be highly ego driven and that is the only motivation. But may people are not so shallow as that. They can be ego-less horsemen and have a really good team behind them that helps spread the message.

But this issue can happen in any 'art' or discipline. it is not isolated to just horses and natural horsemanship. It is just humans being silly humans! ;-)

The more we all get out of our separate corners, enjoy the sharing of knowledge, turn away from people who seem to be cheating and just follow our hearts, our horses will tell us what works.
And hopefully the charlatans will fall away.

Kate said...

"natural horsemanship" can be just as much of a box as "natural horsemanship is a myth" is a box!

Good horsemanship is good horsemanship--good marketing
is good marketing and marketing
is okay by me!

A point made by putting someone down is a less effective point than just making a point if that makes sense. :o)

Ed said...

Last year I was able to finally get back to my first love (horses). In February of 2007 I bought a beautiful 11 month on Quarter horse filly. I had been studying everything I could find on Natural Horsemanship for about a year before buying her. I have now been working with her for 11 months in the round pin and in my pasture. Just today I tried taking off the halter and lead rope since she really has been locked on to me and I worked with her on our normal routines and to my wonderful surprise she went through the passes as though the halter and rope was there. Of course I am walking on clouds now and am so thankful for Natural Horsemanship and the relationship I have with Fancy. For anyone that thinks Natural Horsemanship is not real or just a myth I invite you to come to Georgia and pay us a visit.

I am 57 now but back when I was in high school I had horses and back then I saw a lot of domination and pain inflicted on horses to get them to do humans bidding's. I didn't like it then and always believed there was a better way. Well now we have Natural Horsemanship and I for one will never use any other method.

common sense girl said...

I received your blog on whoever wrote the piece labeling many of the well known clinicians as "charlatans".

I am 56 and have been riding since I was 9 years old. To say I have never trained a horse incorrectly would be a lie and EVERY ONE of the clinicians who I have heard as ADMITTED the same. Give them a ton of credit for this.

I train and show American Saddlebred horses as well as trail ride and many other horse activities.

When I first encountered "natural horsemanship", it was as if there was a hole that started to become filled. Finally, something that made sense; a way to train without a lot of devices, but with respect and understanding.

I have ridden in clinics with at least 5 different well known clinicians, the latest with Craig Cameron last summer. Awesome.

I have audited clinics, grabbing as much information as I possibly can over the past 20 years from these "charlatan" clinicians and have developed my own problem solving and training techniques because at one point or another, if you "get it", you just incorporate what works for you subconsciously into your training.

By the way, what is the problem with making money in this country these days? I wonder if this writer has any idea of the sacrifice and schedule it takes to be successful in any endeavor. Has he ever heard of risk/reward?? I for one would not want to be on the road as these people are. If some are multimillionaires, I say GREAT!!

They took the risk, they should get the reward and look how it has changed the way many people are training and relating to horses.

So what if they develop products that are of quality and market them. I can certainly attest, for instance, to the fact that a 14 ft. lead with "feel" is a huge improvement over a 10 ft. when one is doing ground work.

Their presence on RFD TV enables those who cannot go to clinics to witness the changes that can be brought about with training that works with a horse's innate way of thinking ad reacting and not by forcing the horse to "overpower". Believe me. I have seen and heard the horror stories.

I say to them-

Thanks for everything.

Elsa Schroeder

Kiowa, Colorado

Rick said...

Common Sense Girl,
Beautifully said. Thank you!

cwmancill said...

Comment Id:12360 Posted By:Charles W Mancill Post Date:31/12/2008 Comment:I have a 3 year old mare that loves to swim. We live on a river and I have had her in the water many times for hour long swims which takes her well beyond the places where she can stand. I take her out without a saddle, just a halter and lead rope. I am not riding her while in the water, just swimming with her. Once in awhile I will grab her mane and hang on while she pulls me through the water. I have not been able to find any information about swimming with horses except for therapy. Any coments on this please post. Thanks, Charlie P.S. The mare is a Rocky Mountain.

ingallsra said...

The term "natural horsemanship" does seem to have a stigma attached to it, and that's unfortunate. Good horsemanship is good horsemanship no matter what the label. Many of the well-known clinicians have done so much for the average person in terms of teaching better ways to communicate and interact with our horses, and we owe them our thanks.
It's bad enough that people look down on "natural horsemanship", but it also bothers me that some of the clinicians are so quick to criticize other clinicians. Most of them are out there just doing their best to help others, and they deserve a pat on the back for it, not a stab in the back.

Michael Gonzalez said...

Mr. Lamb,

My first time posting here. Thank you for allowing this medium of discussion on your site. As we oncediscussed in person, Iam a huge fan.

Unfortunately, those with little experience or understanding of horse psychology and herd dynamics, find it difficult to understand the beauty, simplicity (and sometimes complexities) of what we call "natural horsemanshp". I beleive it stems from the inability to define 'natural horsemanship' wthin a certain paradigm or tangible framework. Beause they cannot readily define it and tag it with a simple permanent label, the entire philosophy behind it escapes them.

In essence two things happen here:

1) They cant see the forest through the
2) They throw the baby out with the bath water

I have to agree with what another poster was eluding to...attaching 'natural horsemanship' to the term 'horse whisperer' does indeed conjure up false myths and preconceived notions which are far from the reality. To also compare it to the movie by the same name is also an injustice. The movie had nothing to do with "natural horsemanship" or even good horsemanship in general although the leading character did try to be quiet and understanding toward horses. The movie was about life choices, fidelity and marriage, family, individual trials, etc. Anything that invlved the horse was a mere catalyst to hold the plot together. In fact, the movie gave unknowing audiences a very dangerous picture of natural horsemanship. There are several scenes in the film which depicted dangerous horse/human situations.

What the author of the 'myth theory' hasnt done is to look not at the humans involved in natural horsemanshp, but rather look at the horses themselves. Horses never lie. Ego or no ego...mass-marketing or no mass-marketing...look at the horses. The horses will tell you in no uncertain terms whether the principles and concepts of natural horsemanship do indeed work. Whether it is within the quiet confines of someone's back pasture, a seminar, a riding clinic, or a big mass production with lots of flash and bang, the horses dictate as to whether we are on the right track or not.

Again, horses never lie.

I am astounded that in this day and age of internet, DVDs, cable televion, satellite television, books, magazines, horse expos, seminars and talk radio, that there are still people out there who view natual horsemanship as nothing more than a myth...a fad...whose time they are patiently waiting for it to pass.

What they do not understand is that natural horsemanship (at leastin the beginning) has noting to do with "training" the horse. It has to do with "retraining" the human. Instilling new habits, ideas, and discipline in YOU and not the horse. Perhaps that is where the author in question is "missing it".

Perhaps it is due to their ownselves feeling the winds of change blowing toward a direction they fear to go. Perhaps they are finding their own identity, comfort, and self, slowly diminishing.

As for me, and the countless horse owners striving for a better relationship and understanding with their partners...we will quietly perservere in our journey.

At the end of the day, I have only my horse to answer to for what I have done. And I hope and pray that I have not cheated her in any way.

Thank you for allowing me to post here.

Michael Gonzalez
Less Is More Horsemanship

bnbaldwin_53 said...

Ray hates the term clinician, calls them "clinikins". Some don't like to be called trainers. Some dislike the term Natural Horsemanship because Pat coined the term. Tom is right about one thing. There is nothing natural about getting on a horse's back.
If you believe The Bible, God gave man dominion over the creatures of the other. My opinion is that as long as we do so with kindness, compassion and grace, that is our charge and our right. Tom Moates is, in my opinon a person that likes to hear himself talk. He rides Harry's coat tails. His argument is largely on of simple semantics. He could have attacked the use of the term "jumbo shrimp" and it would have been just as poignant as the rest of his diatribe.
Seriously. So what? Who cares? There are good, qualified people in every field of endeavor and poor examples as well. Find one you like that works for you, and your horse, and call them "Teacher".

Rick said...

Hi Michael,
Great points. Thanks for contributing!

Rick said...

Style and substance get so mixed up in people's minds. Clinton Anderson used to tell me that he felt people followed personalities rather than training methods. They followed a teacher that appealed to them on a personal level and that made it easier to learn from that person. Every teacher brings a set of unique experiences and perspectives to the table, plus his/her unique personality and ability to communicate. To me, that's a good thing. Not everyone can learn from RH.
Thanks for your thoughts.

CuChullaine O'Reilly said...

To: Rick Lamb – The Horse Show
From: CuChullaine O’Reilly – The Long Riders’ Guild
Subject: Historical Manipulation of the Public’s Trust by Equestrian Charlatans

Dear Mr. Lamb,
Having just returned from an extended stay in England, I was unaware that in my absence you had recently published a thinly-veiled attack against North America’s leading equestrian investigative journalist, Tom Moates, nor that you had failed to either provide the man the professional courtesy to name him in your article, nor to provide your readers with the link to the Long Riders’ Guild Academic Foundation website which originally published the information which you took exception to.

The respected North American equestrian publication, Eclectic Horseman, believes the article to be of such interest and importance that it is prominently featured in this month’s issue. However, for the benefit of those who are not subscribers to that magazine, here is the link to the Moates article, in case your readers wish to fully investigate this thought-filled investigation -

As the readers of your blog know, when it comes to the feeding, care and training of horses, every generation of horse owners strives to do the right thing for their animals. Sadly, what most horse owners, be they in the late 19th century, or one hundred years later, failed to realize was that there were predators in every generation as well. Beginning in the 1840s, a series of self-anointed “professors” of equine training routinely provided well-attended public performances.

While the actions of John Solomon Rarey are oft times remembered today with a hint of nostalgia, what is overlooked is the fact that he had plagiarized his training techniques from Denton Offutt, who not only trained Rarey but also taught famed Texas frontiersman, Sam Houston, how to domestic wild horses.

Instead, Rarey, a horse trainer from Ohio, is best remembered for having provided Queen Victoria’s court with a display of his supposed taming of a man-killing horse named Cruiser. In fact the LRGAF has discovered documents proving that the horse in question was not dangerous and that the event had been carefully staged before the gullible royal family. Nor has it ever been revealed that Rarey’s original teacher later sued him in American Federal Court for having breached his sworn oath not to publicly perform the techniques entrusted to him.

In fact, when Rarey’s name is mentioned today, it is in connection with the technique now commonly associated with him, that of breaking a horse’s will by the use of strapping up its front left leg, lowering the animal to the ground and then crushing its will to resist by shaking pie pans over its ears, opening and closing umbrellas in its face, or even standing on top of it and shooting a revolver into the air. All of these tricks were routinely used by Rarey and his predecessors, who like him, enriched themselves by enticing the trusting public to part with their money in exchange for a performance of their limited equine wisdom.

Nor should it be overlooked that Rarey’s technique is still being used to journey to the bank, as was witnessed when Robert Redford toppled a horse using such a method in the highly profitable film, “The Horse Whisperer.”

Thus, be it Jesse Beery, Oscar Gleason, or the infamous Professor Sample, the United States was awash with knock-off Rarey style trainers for ninety years. While there were indeed genuine horsemen, such as the Edinburgh academic, James Cossar Ewart, and the English author, Roger Pocock, who were eager to associate science with equine management, all too often the public was fed a dose of moonlight.

This philosophy of separating the rubes from their money was succinctly revealed when England’s most famous 19th century equestrian scholar, Captain Horace Hayes, made a point of seeking out his American counterpart, “Professor” Sample. Hayes later recalled that before he could ask Sample about his notorious horse taming machine, a device which spun horses in circles until they were too disoriented to resist, the American quickly brought the discussion around to his primary purpose, which wasn’t about horses.

It was about money.

Sample confided to Hayes that he didn’t care a jot about how much the Englishman knew about horses. Nor did he want to his discuss the many books Hayes had written regarding his hippological studies around the world. The only thing that intrigued the Yankee impresario was how much money Hayes had made as a horse trainer.

While it would be tempting to say that Sample’s ruthless greed was the exception, not the rule, recently uncovered bibliographic evidence proves otherwise. Because the 19th century North American equestrian world was horse-dependent, it witnessed scenes wherein immense crowds of eager riders came in search of much needed equine answers. For example Madison Square Gardens was linked to the rise of Professor Oscar Gleason, who routinely filled this massive venue with standing-room-only crowds so as to display his ability to overcome supposed man-killing equines. Likewise, though Professor Jesse Beery’s last public display occurred in the early 20th century, he was still able to draw an estimated 12,000 people.

Thus it was clever men like Sample, Gleason and others, who laid the foundation of the four rules wherein operate today’s equine clinicians.
One – find a famous person to witness your ability to tame a “wild” horse, i.e. Rarey’s demonstration to Queen Victoria.
Two – ruthlessly promote that connection to the public so as to encourage a strong sense of community trust.
Three – choose horses which can be easily “trained” so as to create the greatest public appeal.
Four – use the genuine need and curiosity of horse owners to sell your technique, lecture, book, etc..

Those were the rules established by Rarey, and as 20th century North American equine history proves, they are still being adhered to today.

As we all know, the late 20th century saw the rise of a new generation of “professors.” This time they dressed differently, preferring cravats to goatees, yet many of their underlying motives are the same, i.e. to offer a limited amount of knowledge, based upon a few tried and true techniques, and to enrich themselves at the public’s expense.

While there are documented benefits derived from using 21st century “natural horsemanship” training techniques, the Long Riders’ Guild Academic Foundation is currently conducting the largest, most thorough historical investigation ever undertaken into mankind’s various types of equine training and taming techniques. Among the many topics revealed in this intensive international two-volume study will be the chronological dependence the various famous trainers throughout the ages have had upon each other and how they often manipulate the public’s trust by cloaking an old trick in new garb.

Thus I shall forego the temptation to address the topic of how today’s “clinicians” achieve their results, focusing instead on their eager capability to link their efforts to the most intensive equine marketing campaign humanity has ever seen.

I shall not bandy words, nor shall I neglect to mention names, as you did, Mr. Lamb. Anyone who compiles a list of today’s “horse whisperers” in alphabetical order, be it Anderson, Lyons, Parelli, Roberts, etc., is just as likely to be able to also recite an impressive cornucopia of items being peddled to the public by these same “horse trainers”. Clothing, feed, pharmaceuticals, tractors, barns, you name it, a horse whisperer is eager to hustle it. In fact, given the shocking depth of this merchandising manipulation, I am surprised to see that the only product not yet associated with “natural horsemanship” are condoms.

While all of the leading horse trainers enjoy a devoted, some might say fanatical, fan-base which mirrors religious intensity, nevertheless there is a groundswell of undisclosed public skepticism about these individuals.

And though it is indeed fair to point out that every equine professional has a right, nay a need, to provide a living for himself and his family, it is disingenuous not to acknowledge the fact that the North American, Western European and Australian equestrian communities are keenly aware that their trust is being endangered by this same ruthless marketing.

As this message demonstrates, there is a critical need for an international study of what these people do, be they called clinicians, horse whisperers or professors. That is why the Long Riders’ Guild Academic Foundation is currently undertaking a historical, financial, sociological and psychological analysis of this equine phenomenon and its practitioners. The results will shortly be published, and will include recommendations to the international equestrian community and national governments of Canada, the United States, England, France, Germany and Australia.

Allow me to close by stating that there are a number of critical factors facing your North American equestrian audience today. The rise in petroleum prices will continue to undermine the late 20th century equestrian activities which depended upon the concepts of competition, commercialism and sexism to maintain their dominant position in the United States. The financial crisis afflicting America will be a contributing factor in the on-coming equinocide of countless unwanted equines. The demise in power of the traditional monthly equestrian publications, with their adherence to outdated topics and seasonal merchandising, will enlarge the audience of global internet equestrian radio shows, such as the World of Horses, and cutting-edge international equestrian news networks, such as New Zealand’s Horse Talk .

Therefore the topic Tom Moates raised in his investigative study into well-founded concerns about clinicians linking their services to a veritable equine shopping market full of products, should be applauded, not denounced, by the equestrian world, as this educated man and humble horseman has made an effort to engage the public’s interest in a matter of critical importance to the equine communities of the developed world. To rail against the man without naming him, and to fail to supply your readers with the website that published him, is not encouraging this overdue international investigation into equestrian ethics, it is dampening it.

CuChullaine O’Reilly FRGS

Kathy Baker said...

I have nothing against marketing, I have nothing against clinicians out to make a living or writers out to publish a book or two or ten. I personally think some clinicians lose sight of why they really got into the business to begin with. It seems the business takes on a life of its own and the clinician is no longer doing what he/she original set out to do.

I think some good points have been made on your blog here Rick. I agree that Tom should have been named in your comment as well as Harry. I know both of these gentleman. For the person that said Tom was just riding on Harry Whitney's coat tails, I say more power to Tom. I have not had the pleasure of meeting Pat Parelli, but I have been able to watch a few of his performances on RFD-TV. What I have seen in those performances are horses who speak loud and clear about their ok'ed'ness (or lack thereof). So given that, if I had to ride on someone's coat tails, boy howdy it sure would be Harry Whitney any day of the week over Pat Parelli. Now Pat may be a fine horseman, but the things that come across the media don't show that to me, something got lost along the way and like they say the horse never lies.

Maybe Tom Moates deserves some airtime to discuss your comments?

Kathy Baker
Follow Your Bliss Farm
Midway TN

ross jacobs said...

I should declare from the outset that Tom Moates is a friend of mine and the LRG have recently published a book of mine.

Having said that, I have to say Rick that I don't share your optimistic view of the average horse person to distinguish good from bad horsemanship. In my experience as a trainer, the vast majority of horse people are not critical thinkers and often have poorly developed awareness of what is behind what they see. They tend to choose a training method based of factors other than purely the quality of the horsemanship. This is why so many horse trainers are now conglomerates with a large staff to administer their business.

In my opinion many of the bigger names use labels like Natural Horsemanship as marketing tools because people need labels and categories. What they are selling is a MacDonalds approach to horsemanship. But they try to label it with terms like Natural Horsemanship, Join Up etc to make it appear more like Cordon Bleu horsemanship than MacDonalds.

Events like "Road to the Horse" are good examples of how the ideals of good horsemanship have been corrupted by the market place. There is nothing about such events that are related to the best interest of the horse or the education of the horse person. They are purely about making money for the organizers and promotion of the competitors. Yet, they are extremely popular. Could anyone imagine Tom Dorrance or Ray Hunt agreeing to participate?

Normally this would not be a problem, except that it needs to be pointed out to the naive among us that such horsemanship is not the best available as the marketers would have us believe. This is what I feel Tom was trying to do in the extract of his book. I think people like Tom who question and criticize the status quo are performing a valuable service for us all whether you agree or not with them. Too often we fall victim to the slick presentations and Santa's bag of new toys that often come with it. As P.T. Barnum once said "nobody went broke under estimating the intelligence of the American public."

Rick said...

Dear CuChullaine,

Thanks for your lengthy post. I’m flattered.

I left out Tom’s name as a courtesy to him. In fact, until you identified him, most of my readers probably did not know to whom I was referring. As for Harry, I didn’t mention him by name because I doubt that he had anything to do with this article. If you will reread my original post, you will see that I did not rail against either man but simply commented on what had been written. However, I’ll admit that “rail” is a more colorful verb. I hope to use it soon.

As for your “largest, most thorough historical investigation ever undertaken into mankind’s various types of equine training and taming techniques,” more power to you. That’s a big project! I’ll be looking for this “intensive international two-volume study.” Is it safe to assume that the fruits of your labors will be offered to the public free of charge? Where do I sign up? I probably shouldn’t tell you this, but I would actually pay for something like that!

Free enterprise is sacred to me. I believe that those who take chances and bring a product to market should enjoy success or suffer failure based on the relevance and value of that product to the public. I agree that the public can be duped. The Bernard Madoff scandal is a good example, but that is very different from horsemanship education that can be put to the test immediately and its value readily ascertained.

With all due respect, I believe you and Tom are making two primary mistakes. First, you are setting yourselves up as the arbiters of what is good and what isn’t good for the public. As a card-carrying member of the public, I resent the hell out of that! Second, you are slamming the commercialization of horsemanship while doing the very thing you criticize in others (unless, of course, you really do intend to distribute the Intensive International Two-Volume Study for free, in which case, I humbly apologize and will happily help you get it out there. Maybe Tom will even offer his new book for free and we can have a trilogy. I’m sure your publishers will respond with great animation to that suggestion.)

Enough on that. I, too, am a student of horsemen of the past. My previous research confirms your point about the numerous rivalries and public fallings out among horse tamers of the 1800s. (I would add Dennis Magner and Professor O.S. Pratt to your list.) Offutt did sue Rarey three years after Rarey published his first book, although I understand the fracas to be about “stealing” the method, not just publicly demonstrating it. When Rarey began teaching, he also tried to swear his students to secrecy but it just didn’t work. The genie was out of the bottle. At any rate, Offutt won the lawsuit, only to see it reversed on appeal. By then, Rarey was an international superstar and probably untouchable. Today most folks aren’t even aware that Offutt was a horseman, so strongly is he known by his earlier association with Abraham Lincoln.

The centerpiece of Rarey’s method was the one-leg hobble, so I think we can assume that it was also at the heart of Offutt’s method. Yet Offutt didn’t invent the one-leg hobble and it’s highly unlikely that he was the first to use it in taming a difficult horse. A silver Scythian vase from 600 BC shows the one-leg hobble in use more than 2,400 years earlier. If Rarey is a villain for stealing from Offutt, then Offutt must also be a villain for stealing from someone before him. This silly process would have to go back to at least the Scythians. Puh-lease!

It’s a minor point, but you may be confusing Rarey with Beery when you talk about “shaking pie pans over its ears, opening and closing umbrellas in its face, or even standing on top of it and shooting a revolver into the air.” I have photographs of Beery doing these things, although I wouldn’t characterize it as crushing the horse’s will to resist. Once he is flat on his side, a horse has already lost most of his will to resist because his primary means of defense, flight, has been completely taken from him. That’s precisely why horses were and still are laid down in extreme cases. In that state, you could do just about anything and the horse wouldn’t react. It’s much more impressive to do that when a horse is on his feet and can get outta Dodge if he gets frightened.

Perhaps you can share your sources for the new and improved version of Rarey taming Cruiser, the vicious six-year-old thoroughbred stallion that later became his equine partner and traveled the world with him. According to the published accounts of which I’m aware, Cruiser was a man killer and was notorious in England. A London sports writer named Argus, who believed Rarey to be a phony and hoped to discredit him, goaded Rarey into taking on Cruiser. Argus issued the following challenge in the Morning Post on March 2, 1858, “If Mr. Rarey can ride Cruiser as a hack, I would guarantee him immortality and an amount of ready money that would make a British Bank director’s mouth water.” Rarey had already proven himself to the British army, at whose invitation he had come to England in the first place, and in demonstrations with lesser horses in front of the royal family. He resisted the challenge for weeks but eventually relented. The taming of Cruiser took place at the country estate of Guy Carlton, the Earl of Dorchester and owner of Cruiser. It was not a public demonstration and was not witnessed by the royal family. Rarey later presented the reformed Cruiser to the London public in what the press dubbed, “Mr. Rarey’s Cruiser Soiree.” I’m sure you are aware of this version of the story. I would be interested in where you found a different account and why you believe in the veracity of that account over this one.

It is a difficult thing to reconstruct what happened long ago. In the case of Rarey and these other horsemen, we have their own writings, which are of course self-serving, and those of the press, which also had its axe to grind, as in the case of Argus. You write with such certainty about what happened in the past, not only about the objective facts, which are difficult enough to sort out, but the motivation of the participants, which is, in my view, impossible to know.

That part goes for modern horsemen, too. What makes you think you know what is in their hearts? I suspect that I know each of the horsemen you have vilified far better than you do and I wouldn’t presume to speculate about their innermost motives. I also know the almost irresistible urge a writer feels to tie everything up in a nice little package. Here are the villains and here are the heroes. End of story and on to the next one. Life is far more complicated than that, people are far more complicated than that, and the subtleties of context make all the difference the world.

There is very little new in horsemanship these days and that is one of my favorite themes. The revolution in horsemanship is not a revolution in ideas or methods or even mindsets, but in the communication about those things. Make no mistake; it is a true revolution. The proliferation of teachers is concrete evidence. As I see it, this is a good thing. I say the more teachers the better. The more training DVDs the better. The more public events like Road to the Horse, the better. We have an exploding horse industry in America, with 50% growth in the past decade alone, yet people are still getting hurt, frightened, frustrated, and ultimately defeated by their ignorance about the horses they love. Usually they suffer from lack of information, not inferior teaching and unnecessary equipment foisted on them by money-grabbing clinicians. Our mission should be to encourage the horse owner in his search for the teacher that inspires him, not make him paranoid about being hoodwinked.

Horses are tough and adaptable. Humans are fragile and of infinitely more worth. In my work, the humans come first. This is not an academic exercise for me. I meet these people in person by the thousands each year and I know how important this journey is to them. Some are sophisticated. Some are not. Some are athletic. Some are not. Some are wealthy and some can barely afford to be part of our industry. But all of them are more than willing to spend their precious time and precious money to get the help they need. Please join me in being a positive force for education and allow the public the courtesy of deciding for itself what has value and what doesn’t.

Again, thanks for your post.

Rick Lamb

CuChullaine O'Reilly said...

To: Rick Lamb – The Horse Show
From: CuChullaine O’Reilly – The Long Riders’ Guild
Subject: It is about Principles, not Profits

Dear Mr. Lamb,

Allow me to respond briefly to your lengthy diatribe in defense of the indefensible.

“I left out Tom’s name as a courtesy to him.”

I can think of a great many words that describe your treatment of this good man, and “courtesy” isn’t one of them.

“As for your “largest, most thorough historical investigation ever undertaken into mankind’s various types of equine training and taming techniques,” more power to you. I’ll be looking for this “intensive international two-volume study.” Is it safe to assume that the fruits of your labors will be offered to the public free of charge? Where do I sign up? I probably shouldn’t tell you this, but I would actually pay for something like that!”

Actually we shall be happy to arrange to have a complimentary copy delivered to you.

“Free enterprise is sacred to me.”

I noticed.

“I agree that the public can be duped.”

Then perhaps you will also agree that the public HAS been duped, by equestrian charlatans, for generations. That was the point of my previous post.

“…you are setting yourselves up as the arbiters of what is good and what isn’t good for the public.”

Issuing a public warning, and publishing previously undisclosed important historical facts, is not the same as defending an entrenched personal position, which is what you appear to be doing.

“As a card-carrying member of the public, I resent the hell out of that!”

Self-righteousness fosters self-delusion and leads to self-destruction.

“Maybe Tom will even offer his new book for free and we can have a trilogy. I’m sure your publishers will respond with great animation to that suggestion.”

Allow me to explain who the “publishers” are in this case.

The Long Riders' Guild is the world's first international association of equestrian explorers and long distance travellers.

Every major equestrian explorer alive today belongs to The Guild, including Hadji Shamsuddin of Afghanistan, who recently rode a thousand miles through that war-zone, Jean-Louis Gouraud of France, who rode 3,000 miles from Paris to Moscow, Claudia Gottet of Switzerland, who rode 8,000 miles from Arabia to the Alps, Adnan Azzam of Syria, who rode 10,000 miles from Madrid to Mecca, and Vladimir Fissenko of Russia, who rode 19,000 miles from Patagonia to Alaska.

Additionally, more than fifty of these extraordinary Long Riders are also Fellows of the Royal Geographical Society, including:
Sir John Ure KCMG LVO, who rode across the Andes -
Stephen McCutcheon, of England, who is currently riding 10,000 miles solo from Delhi to Peking -
Gordon Naysmith, of Scotland, who rode 14,000 kilometres from South Africa to Austria -
Pedro Luiz de Aguiar, of Brazil, who at the age of seventy made an 18,000 mile journey across Latin America and -
Robin Hanbury-Tenison OBE, who has made a number of equestrian expeditions in all parts of the world, including riding the length of China’s Great Wall.

At more than two thousand pages, and still growing, and having now been visited by more than a million people world-wide, The Long Riders' Guild website is the repository of the largest collection of equestrian travel information in human history – (and it’s all free, Mr. Lamb!)
( )

Additionally The Guild's publishing arm, Horse Travel Books, currently publishes more than a hundred equestrian travel titles in eight languages, making it the world’s premier source of equestrian exploration wisdom – (and every book is deliberately priced as inexpensively as possible so as to encourage international equestrian education, Mr. Lamb!).
( )

When The Guild completed the initial work on its Long Rider Literary Collection, we launched a new project entitled Classic Travel Books. The purpose of this collection is to make the world's most important travel books available at an affordable price. Many of the world's great travellers, past and present, are now represented in this exciting new collection.
( )

Because The Guild donates the royalties from many of our titles to worthy causes, our publishing efforts have been acknowledged in the last eighteen months by HRH Princess Anne, the Prince of Wales and most recently, Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth.

The Guild recently launched a new project. Entitled The Long Riders' Guild Academic Foundation, its mission is provide an academic forum for scientists to share their wisdom with equestrian experts. Every type of horse-related knowledge is being investigated and published at this exciting new website, whose motto is "Science not Superstition." (This information is also provided free to the public, Mr. Lamb!)
( )

A recent example of this cutting-edge equestrian research was the publication of an article outlining the forgotten religious war between the Vatican and the Vikings which resulted in the 700 year old American taboo against eating horse meat.
( )

As a North American author, not an international publisher, you may not be aware that it is a well-known fact in the publishing industry that The Long Riders’ Guild Press is motivated by principles, not profits. Here is our Publishing Code of Ethics, which I am sure you will find informative.

Thus, as the publisher of hundreds of books, I shall be happy to provide you with a complimentary copy of the forthcoming two-volume investigation into the history of equine training and taming. I shall also be happy to include a complimentary copy of the latest volume of Tom Moates’ work.

“,,,,you may be confusing Rarey with Beery….”

I’m not confusing anyone with anybody. Having spent five years overseeing the accumulation of the largest collection of equestrian training material the world has ever seen, I was attempting to condense the many examples available to me, so as to provide the public with the strongest possible example of dubious training methodology.

“Perhaps you can share your sources…”

The bibliography of the two-volume project alone will provide a new academic foundation from which 21st century equestrian scholars will be able to move far beyond the narrow range of material currently on offer, or being re-hashed to death, by those influenced by the standard late 20th century sources we all know of. While the two-volume set will be sold, so as to compensate the author for her years of work, a great deal of the generalized historical information contained in this monumental work will be provided free to scholars, riders and readers, on the Long Riders’ Guild Academic Foundation website. Thus the purpose of the author and publishers is to enrich the public, not ourselves.

“Our mission should be to encourage the horse owner in his search for the teacher that inspires him, not make him paranoid about being hoodwinked.”

We differ in our missions, Mr. Lamb, as The Long Riders’ Guild’s academic mission is not to ally itself with the financial exploitation of a trusting public by self-serving horse hustlers. Therefore “hoodwink” is too polite a term for what’s been happening in the North American and Western European equestrian communities for more than a decade.

“Please join me in being a positive force for education and allow the public the courtesy of deciding for itself what has value and what doesn’t.”

I must respectfully decline your offer to join you in a mutual educational effort. My wife, the Swiss equestrian explorer, Basha, and I are busy with the preparations for our departure on our forthcoming World Ride. This will be the first equestrian expedition around the Earth, a 12,000 mile journey through eleven countries. Allow me to explain that instead of lecturing to the public about the “road to the horse,” Basha and I shall actually be out there, exploring the Equestrian Equator for the next two years on top of our mounts.

Consequently, I can no longer spare the time to interact with you in regards to a topic on which we clearly differ. I shall instead rely upon Janine Wilder, the author of the forthcoming two-volume work, to educate you further. Moreover, international equestrian training experts, such as Australia’s Ross Jacobs, whom The Long Riders’ Guild is also proud to publish, have far more insight into the topic of genuine horsemanship than I could ever hope to achieve. I would strongly suggest that you read the work of this wise, insightful and transparently ethical man’s in his new book, “Old Men and Horses.” Once again, The Long Riders’ Guild Press will be happy to provide you with a complimentary copy.

In conclusion, I consider this discussion closed and wish you well.

CuChullaine O’Reilly FRGS

Rick said...

Dear Mr. O’Reilly,

I'm sorry you have to dash off when the discussion was just getting interesting. However, I understand that you have important international matters to tend to, so I'll look forward to Janine continuing my education. Actually, I've spent quite a few hours chatting with Janine and her late husband, Jim. Good folks. I wonder if she and the rest of the Guild's membership know the face you are putting on their organization.

Thanks for confirming that the study will be sold. It should be. Tom's book should be sold. Harry should charge money for his clinics, and so on. There is horse feed to buy, plane tickets to purchase, and Internet access to maintain. It's commerce. It's life. The only point on which we disagree, and it's a large one, is that everyone deserves the chance to present their wares to the public.

Regarding the good works and charitable donations of the Guild, bravo. Unfortunately for your argument, natural horsemanship clinicians and Road to the Horse also donate to charities. Inconvenient, but true.

I'm also sorry that you couldn't share your sources for the new Rarey information, since I find him a fascinating historical character. Rarey also regularly donated to charities, by the way, often soup kitchens and widows and orphans funds. It doesn't fit, I know. Sorry.

Alas, I am out of energy for this and must get some real work done today. Seriously, Mr. O’Reilly, I look forward to your publications and hope we can someday meet under happier circumstances. I'll continue doing what I do and I'm sure you'll continue doing what you do, each convinced he is right and the other is wrong.

Best wishes,
Rick Lamb

Floyd-VA-Resident said...

I think Tom Moates has forgotten how his journey with horses started. It was through his friend that believes in natural horsemanship. It was through her patience, kindness and understanding which I believe showed Tom there could be a better way for horses. Unfortunately you can lead a horse to water, but you can not make it drink. I think Tom is a wonderful writer, but is sorely lacking in his horsemanship. Tom still has alot to learn and I hope he gets it figured out for his horses sake. It's not about you Tom, but about the horse. Good luck on your Long Ride your going to need it and so are your horses.

Rick, just want to thank you for everything you do. We realy enjoy your show.

Rick said...

I didn't mean to ignore your post. I got a little sidetracked responding to Mr. O'Reilly's comments. Incidentally, he and I have called a truce and hope to start anew with a focus on what we share rather than what separates us.
As for your comments, first, thanks for the civil tone.
The horse industry is filled with beginners, people who know they need help and are reaching out for it. They don't understand Tom Dorrance and Ray Hunt. Heck, I didn't understand them when I first bought their books. Thus there is a DEMAND for clinicians that target beginners with their work. These are the clinicians that you criticize. No one is forcing the public to buy videos and books and tack and clinic tickets. The reason some clinicians have become very popular is because the public likes them! The public happily spends its money because it gets something it considers valuable. Of course, you don't see any value in it because you already know this stuff!

As for Road to the Horse, I have been on the inside of this event since day one and it is NOT all about making money. To say that is an insult to Tootie, to me, to the fine judges, to the great horsemen and to the countless volunteers who make this happen every year. It's also a tremendous insult to the audience. This year there were 6,000 people there and a fair number were experienced horsemen. I wish you could have seen Richard Winters this year. What he did was a sterling example of everything NH stands for.

My final point: natural horsemanship is not about teaching people to ride well. It is about developing a relationship with a horse, and creating a foundation of respect, trust, and communication that enhances any equine activity.
This requires changing yourself, thus NH is more about teaching the human than teaching the horse.

Regarding Mr. Moates, I have extended, through Mr. O'Reilly, an offer for him to share his views on my national radio show. That's the best I can do.

Again, thank you for your post.
Rick Lamb

4-H Mom said...

Good morning Rick.
3 years ago I was a new horse owner and had a 'poorly developed awareness of what is behind what I saw'. I didn't even know what questions to ask and I was scared of getting hurt. Since the Long Riders Guild was not holding any free clinics in my area I began using my 'critical thinking' skills and asked questions, read books, and searched the internet. I found Clinton Anderson's book, (note I mention his name!) and found it to be logical, clear and gave me results. I watched his TV show, free of charge, and learned more. 2+ years later I have safe, respectful horses.

The most vehement protestors against natural horsemanship are the experts who have ridden since they were in diapers and cannot fathom the fear, frustration and longing a 'newbie' like me endures.
Do they not want us to succeed and grow the horse community? If I can successfully master these basics and safely learn to ride, maybe I could join the Long Riders someday or learn dressage, or teach someone else. But, I must be taught the basics first and that is where clinicians are filling a huge need.

Charlatans? I don't think so.
The proof is in the pudding.

G.E.W. said...

Hi Rick and Others.
When I was a very small child I had the opportunity to meet a man that my father worked for, that worked with many different kinds of large Cats: Panthers, Mt Lions, African Lions, Tigers, and Leopards all in one pen. His name was George Keller. He was before G√ľnter Gable Williams. Look him up on the net.
I was very young when I met him but he said something to me that has never left me. I was at birth a lover of animals in general. I wanted to be an animal trainer, and I loved his cats, He allowed me to touch one of the tigers, but when I ask if I could touch the Leopard he said no, he hasn't learned to TRUST all that well yet he's my new addition. He TRUSTS ME but not sure of others. As we have learned in the not to distant past that Even when an animal trusts someone they don't trust the actions of the others, they work on instinct. He said it all takes time to build TRUST, your eyes, your touch and listening to what they are telling you, ANIMALS NEVER LIE.
When I was older and got my first horse, I spent and insurmountable time just watching her, and all my horses, (especially brood mares a month before foaling)like I did my cats and dogs, yes even fish. You learn how their world circles for them, you learn their ways, and then you adjust yourself to how you can get them to reason out those actions your asking them to do thru trust.
I don't mind the terminology Natural Horsemanship, anything can have a label, but its what’s inside the package that counts. I would sooner use the terminology Horse-man Trust ship. Animals are like books too, you just have to learn how to read them to figure out the end, before you get to the last page. Oh and don't lets forget, every book has a different story and end. I learned a great deal from some great horseman that are no longer with us, Melvin Love- AQHA JUDGE and trainer specialty Cutters, Okie Wyatt also an AQHA Judge and trainer, and several very special gentlemen Paul Babington former AQHA judge-trainer, former Bob Spedden AQHA judge-trainer, and Ward Studebaker- Penn State University Equine Studies and training all people and horse together and never got either one hurt in 30+ years and Cutters especially. These men didn't have labels they just knew. I could go on about the many trainers that came before all of our natural horseman but when it boils right down to it, it comes under the description of Trust and understanding.

DONNA said...

Unfortunately these so called "natural trainers" forget to inform the public that horsemanship is not learned in a book or video anymore than playing the guitar or riding a bike. Riding is a "motor skill" that you can "only" learn by riding. Not a few hours at the rental ranch, but hours upon hours of riding, with knowledgeable horse people helping you along the way. If you can't ride a walk, trot, canter completely bareback without clutching (hanging on with your legs wrapped around his belly) or grabbing mane, you are no where near ready to break a horse because you have no balance.

If you can't see that a horse in limping due to injury, ill fitted tack, or fatigue without you vet telling you. Then you do not have an "eye" for what your horse is communicating to you therefore you are not ready to be training horses. If you have never trained under a professional trainer and have not been riding several disciplines such as western, pleasure, equitation, english, dressage, reining, or roping so that you know why to use certain bits, bridles, leg pressure, and know "exactly" what discipline you are training your horse in, and for? You could danger your horse, yourself, and anyone that comes in contact with that horse.

Good for you your using a trainer!

Your trainer should have all of these skills or "they" are in no condition to "train" anything, and learned it all from videos and books too! There is "no" substitution for experience. None! Even if a person is successful a few times. They 1. got lucky 2. Had a horse/es with amazing temperaments to start 3. Have some idea of what their doing but still are putting it all together themselves.

Beware of the "so called" horse whispers. There are no short cuts for solid, educated, and informed trainers for you, or your horse. (Opinion of a 40 plus year horsewoman who rode at Fox Field Academy for english. Worked under Perelli (before he became a famous jerk) for horsemanship. Trained at Dave Rhodes in California for western pleasure, and reining, and rode her horse bareback from ages 9 to 17 over jumps, through water, up mountains till she dug in like a tick.

And no, I do not consider myself a "trainer" because I rode all my life. It's one thing to bridle, saddle, and ride a single horse at a time, its a whole nother level to bridal, saddle, and school and be schooled on six or more horses a day for years, and years which is what it takes to become a "trainer".

Daniela Brown said...

Natural horsemanship as a training method has actually been around for a long time. Because of the popularity of natural horsemanship, for its gentleness and effectiveness, many trainers have developed new and creative approaches based on this principle.

Danniella Diaz said...

More frequently we all observed people point out in which horsemanship just isn't normal due to the fact there’s practically nothing normal concerning education any moose carry out that which you need these to carry out! Nonetheless Horsemanship can be quite a obviously developed connection once we think of education from your horse’s point of view.

ayumiyu20 said...

wonderful work! the way you discuss the subject i'm very impressed. i'll bookmark this webpage and be back more often to see more updates from you.