In addition to Herd 2 Human, Willowbend Farm
continues to provide a limited amount of riding lessons and
horsemanship training consistent with the Herd 2 Human philosophies
First and foremost, good leadership promotes safer horsemanship and is paramount in the handling of horses. We believe in strong, confident, trustworthy and considerate leadership of the horse. One of our first goals is to teach the horse to trust and rely on our leadership. Without trust and reliance, they will follow their own instinct each time they disagree or feel threatened. We must learn to emulate the security of their herd. We must use a very consistent method of eye contact and focus to accomplish leadership before we do anything else. Good leadership develops a safe place for the horse to return to when they think they can't do it or feel threatened. Like all animals of prey, the horse will watch your eye like a zebra watches the eye of the lion at the water hole. They need to know what we predators are thinking.
Your eyes are the window to your soul.
No one knows that better than the horse.
Allow the horse to communicate with your eye and they will quickly trust in your soul, if it is true.
There are a lot of "Natural Horse" trainers in the world of horses today. Truly, there always have been. At the same time, there have been a lot of "get it done in a hurry at the expense of the horse" kind of trainers over the years that have led the horse world into some pretty dark and dangerous places with horses. My hat is off to those leaders in the new world of horses that have encouraged us all to do a better job for the horse and ourselves.
At Willowbend Farm we practice much of the philosophy behind natural horsemanship training. We focus primarily on leadership and learning how to communicate with the horse. This means more than following only the methodology of pressure and release. It also means learning how to listen to the horse, understand what they need to trust your leadership, and offer them a safe place versus their only option of defense, that being flight. All horses are dangerous just because they are big and generally a little reactive. Our philosophy at Willowbend Farm is that while we cannot change the fact that horses are horses and inherently dangerous, we can mitigate the danger by becoming more trusted, respected and confident leaders for horses to rely on. There is no horse more dangerous than a horse in a panic and escape mode.
Ask clear and consistent questions, then listen intensely for your horse's answer.
Once a horse learns that you will listen to and consider their answer to your requests, they will become more confident in your ability to lead them. Trust leads to reliance. Think how your world would be if you could only listen, but could not be heard. We cannot be horses and it is dangerous to think we can. We can however, develop a language of verbal commands, body language and eye contact that become universal between man and horse, which we both can learn to rely on. We borrow some of that language from the horse, just as we teach them some of our own.
Example of trust: This is a 4 year old Arabian gelding in his first 20 days of training. This was also his first time crossing water. He was scared to death, but he knew he could trust me from the work done in the arena. It cannot be seen in the photos, but he was shaking inside, yet listening to everything I was telling him. This is the ultimate feeling for a trainer; to know a horse is afraid, but still listening to you with confidence in your leadership.
Theory, Technique & Timing:
The 3 Ts is a training philosophy we borrow from trainer and clinician, Frank Bell. www.horsewhisperer.com
Theory: We first need to decide what it is we want to teach our horse and why.
Technique: We then apply a clear and consistent communication to the horse that they are capable of understanding (voice, eye, touch, body language -- pressure of some sort). That communication must ask the horse to respond with some part of their body each time we ask with as little pressure as possible. All communications start in our minds and hopefully end up in the horse's feet. Thus, we attempt to move from thought to motion, with pressure if needed. With every communication, we are looking for the break in the horse's rigid posture -- an answer to our request.
Timing: Most importantly, we need to listen to the horse's response to our communication, that break in rigid posture. There is a fine line between asking for response and punishing the horse. Recognizing when the horse has answered you and relieving the pressure, is the communication the horse is looking for. This is when they begin to trust that you are willing to give them a chance and you are as capable of listening as you are demanding. If you push too far beyond the horse's answer, they will perceive it as punishment. Horses do not take punishment well and quickly look to their ability to run. Unable to run, the horse is next likely to panic or fight back. At this point their trust in you is compromised. Understanding this, was the turning point in my training philosophy and methodology. I learned that by having good timing and listening skills, the horse would respond to me with trust, respect and reliance.