Sunday, October 24, 2010

Natural Horsemanship versus Functional Horsemanship

I received the following question through the comment block on the post about Jubal – the Mustang Nobody Wanted. Anonymous said, “Good site, thanks for all the information. What is the difference between what I have seen with Natural Horsemanship and what you are calling Functional Horsemanship? Is it something physical or a philosophy? Thanks again.”

I can see how you may be confused, being that most people want to give things labels, and in some cases, end up confuses most of us. The term “Natural Horsemanship”, I believe, it a copy righted term that defines Pat Parelli’s approach to horse training. Craig Cameron, on the other hand, advertises “American Horsemanship”. I have seen a lot of Craig Cameron’s philosophy and enough of Pat Parelli to tell you they both advocate approaches that are consistent with Tom and Bill Dorrance, and Ray Hunt, all of whom are credited in some way to bringing a better, safer and more gentle method to training horses, rather than the old method of man handling or making horses conform....using pressure and release,...making the right thing easy and the wrong thing hard,, I would not get too concerned about titles, all of the top trainers and instructors use methods that would, in total or mostly, be approved of by the Dorrance brothers and Ray Hunt.

I can’t speak for anyone else, but I know I didn’t invent anything when it comes to horses or training. I was taught by someone else, and by many people in fact. The reason I titled this site “Functional Horsemanship”, was because I am trying to help horses through their new owners or maybe even an old owner who just grew up not really understanding much about horses. I think if you have horses you need to be “functional” with them,…able to enjoy the relationship with them and in particular riding, but also know enough to give these horses a fair life,…..because these horses did not choose the owner,…the owners chose those horses.

I have taught riding and horsemanship to small military units, who had a need to have some rudimentary skills with horses because they have found themselves in places and situations where horses (and sometimes mules and camels) were the only viable means of transportation. One Army Special Forces team asked me to give them some instruction on horses because they had just came back from a tour in Afghanistan where they sat at a base camp for four months only doing foot patrols because trucks were non-existent and none of them knew enough about horses to use the horses that the indigenous troops used. So I said something like,..”So it appears to me that you want some functional horsemanship skills” and the name just stuck.

Again, I didn’t invent anything. Sometimes I have a client or someone else say to me “Wow, I didn’t know that!”, and I always reply “Hell, I didn’t know it either until someone taught me.”

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