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.