Thursday, 31 May 2012

What is Natural Horsemanship?


I am attending a Parelli Super Course natural horsemanship weekend in a few weeks (at the Nebo showgrounds near Mackay), run by licensed Parelli professionals Carmen Smith and Rob McAuliffe.

What is natural horsemanship?

Basically I believe that Natural horsemanship is the idea of working sympathetically with a horse in order to obtain cooperation while avoiding fear- and pain-based training methods.

Some well-known trainers considered to be practitioners of natural horsemanship in the late twentieth century include: Tom and Bill Dorrance, Ray Hunt, John Lyons, Buck Brannaman, Monty Roberts, and  of course, Pat Parelli.

John O’Leary at Horse problems Australia has a detailed history of natural horsemanship on his site, particularly from an Australian point of view.

Like many other forms of horse training (clicker training for example) operant conditioning is the core concept of natural horsemanship, this time in the form of pressure and releases. The basic technique is to apply a pressure of some kind to the horse as a “cue” for an action and then release the pressure as soon as the horse responds, either by doing what was asked for, or by doing something that could be understood as a step towards the requested action, a “try”. Timing is everything, as the horse learns not from the pressure itself, but rather from the release of that pressure, and by reinforcement of the action. As well as knowing how to use pressure and release, body language of the trainer is also key, like how to use your eyes, how to place your body, as well as your tone of voice or lack of voice.

My aim as a new horse owner is gain the respect and trust of my horse so that we will have good relationship and I will be able to ride her safely and with confidence. I think that learning and practicing natural horsemanship is key to this, as is learning how to create the best environment and lifestyle for my horse. To this end I am also looking at paddock care and set up, tack, hoof care and trimming and diet.

There are many natural horse women around too!

In Australia

Cynthia Cooper at my favourite site, Natural Horseworld ,is a Natural Horsemanship Instructor, based in Tasmania, and was previously was a Parelli Instructor and has been teaching Natural Horsemanship for the last 10 years.

Georgia Bruce is from Kuranda in Far North Queensland (about 8 hours of north of where I am in Mackay). She has represented Australia in Dressage on eight occasions, most recently at the 2008 Paralympic Games.  She specializes in training young horses and retraining problem horses and gives lessons and clinics around Australia , and has founded Click with Horses horse training website.

Jenny Pearce in Victoria is an advanced kinesiologist, a master of reiki healing and a Melchizideck master and helps both horses and riders.

Fire Horse Inspirations is the website of Michelle Harris, a South Queensland based horse trainer who is amazingly inspirational. Her displays with up to nine horses at liberty at one time, are extraordinary.

Carmen Smith is a licensed Parelli professional based in Cairns, North Queensland, and has been involved in the Parelli program for the last 15 years, including 5 years working at the Parelli Centres in the USA & the UK. Carmen runs clinics throughout Australia, and has a passion for helping students to live their dream with their be able to understand how your horse, thinks, acts and plays.


Wrangler Jayne is an internationally respected natural horsemanship instructor, having been influenced mainly by Pat Parelli, and master horseman, Australian Philip Nye.  Jayne is a dedicated advocate of bare hooves, bit-free communication and natural, holistic horse keeping, and does not lend her support to organisations or industries that exploit the horse’s rights, such as horse racing and rodeos. 

In New Zealand

Hertha James at Safe Horse teaches natural horsemanship for safe horse ownership, as well as clicker training.

In the UK

Rio Barrret of Oakwood horsemanship studied Parellis’ Natural Horsemanship programme for several years, both in the UK and at his ranch in Colorado, USA. She passed my Level 3 and in 2001 and graduated as an instructor in Parelli Natural Horsemanship, later chosing to work independently, teaching and demonstrating all over the south of England.

Kelly Marks at Intelligent horsemanship is a protégée of Monty Roberts.

Kelly Marks

Lynn Henry is the founder of Think like a pony, and author of natural horsemanship books aimed at children. She is has studied and trained with some of the leading figures in horsemanship and is a horse and human healer, having qualified as a horse Iridology practitioner and a Shiatsu for horses .

In the US

Karen Rohlf at Dressage, naturally, trained over 20 years in dressage with Anne Gribbons ('O' dressage judge, International Grand Prix trainer and competitor) and studied Parelli Natural Horsemanship

Leslie Desmond, is a horsemanship coach after Bill Dorrance, whose main goal is to teach others how to teach their students to develop a reliable partnership that is based on feel.

Now world wide, Tellington TTouch was developed by Linda Tellington and is a specialized approach to the care and training of our all animals, as well as for the physical and emotional well-being of humans


Liz Mitten Ryan is an expert in Horse Herd Language, natural horse training, therapy with horses, horse programs, equine programs and Horse and animal communication, as well as a talented artist, and also has a site dedicated to Natural Horse Friendship.

Centered Riding was developed by Sally Swift, author of the best-selling books and videos , and is now available internationally via lessons from Centered Riding instructors.

Stacey Westfall is a Freestyle Reining champion, currently building the Westfall Horsemanship approach to create a program that is efficient and effective — with resources to compliment the clinics such as DVDs and equipment.

There are so many websites and books, and so much information. Although I love the Parelli method, I think there is something to learn from every natural horseman or women out there, professional or not. 

My favourite natural horseman at present does not have his own method, training dvds or books, but has a great website and heaps of FREE training videos and info.  Not everyone likes him, as he is forthright and outspoken, especially against women who treat horses like pets and not horses, but I think he has a lot of great info.  Check out Rick Gore’s site at Think Like a Horse.

And as Rick says, Happy trails!


Friday, 25 May 2012

Stone bruises, hoof support & boots


Tana’s sore foot turned out to be a stone bruise and abscess, which while painful,  was pretty quickly fixed compared to the tendon problem we feared. It could have been caused by the change in  environment, moving from soft green pasture to a more rocky environment, as well as a change from a wetter to a drier environment, or she could have knocked her hoof during her travel up in the truck.  It could even have occurred before she arrived.

Once the abscess travelled 'up' the hoof and ruptured out the coronet band Tana was walking well. She has had soaks in epsom salts, poultices, magnetic boots on and antibiotics – everything really as I have not wanted to get her shod.  I know some people recommend shoes to prevent stone bruises, but they can also cause them.  Here is a great article about hoof problems in horses, and the author (Chrisann Ware,an Equine Myofunctional Therapist),  shares my view that horse shoes slowly deform horses’ hooves.


I am looking at getting Tana removable boots (like mine!) for when we go on trail rides, but in the meantime I am just building her (our) fitness with some gentle lunging and work in the round yard, and we might start gentle riding this week. All boots are different, and I would prefer to find a farrier who stocks boots so they can be tried on first.  There are many different brands and fastenings too.  

These velcro boots can also have extra fastenings added – see the Easycare range here - they start at about $87 each.

See the space age looking strap on renegade range here.  At around $130 a shoe, they come in a range of colours too, including red!

sport orange

The Equine Fusion jogging shoe in red and black are around $225 a pair.

Equine Fusion Hoof Boots red/black [pair]

Cavallo have a few different boots too, at around $170 a pair.

Cavallo Simple Hoof Boot [pair]

Tana is taking well to her new diet, and has not lost any condition since moving here three weeks ago.  Hopefully the added nutrients, including sea weed meal, will improve the health of her hooves too.  I am also thinking of trying a hoof support supplement, such as this one from Easycare Downunder.

Bare hoof trimming is a real art, some may say science, especially when you start talking about things such as the correct alignment for the pedal bone.  I am only just starting to learn about it, and I would love to be able to trim myself one day.  Until then I aim to find out as much as I can about the correct way to trim, so that I can make sure whoever I use is doing a good job!

There are some great articles by Pete Ramey at Hoof,and when I am feeling richer I am going to get a copy of  Sarah Bell’s  How to Barefoot Trim for the Complete Beginner, which is available as an e-book for about $55. 

Happy trails

Deb xxx

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Starting clicker training–head turning

My clicker training DVDs I ordered from Georgia Bruce at Click for Horses arrived!

I watched the first half hour of so today, then this afternoon put the first idea into practice – get your horse to turn away it’s head.  The DVD was clear and easy to follow, and I did exactly what I was shown, I hope.  Success! Within 6 or 7 goes Tana was turning her head away waiting for the click.  I stopped once I used up all the treats – chopped apple and carrot.  Then later when it was feed time I tried it again with a few handfuls of feed – it worked well.

Here is a video with the same idea from Mary at Stale Cheerios:

Mary at Stale Cheerios

Deb xx

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Horses and Native American Indians

My interest in natural horsemanship began when I was a teenager.  Although I didn’t have my own horse, I rode whenever I could, on what ever horse was on offer.  I also read and dreamed a lot.  I especially loved stories about Native Americans and horses, as their lifestyles seemed to be one of connection with the land and the animals, and I must admit I was a real ‘greenie’ as a teenager – an eco-warrior vegetarian on a mission!

I really wanted to live in a tipi and have my horses all around me – and part of me still does (yes, my kids think I am crazy).  But how idyllic is this?


Australian aboriginals were initially distrustful of horses, as they thought that the men on horseback were one, a strange new creature that hurt them - they  had never seen anything like them before. They did gradually come to love horses too (and are now some of the best drovers in Australia), but they did not have the great affinity with the horse that the native Americans seemed to have had.  This may also be partly due to the different landscape, as Australia did not have the great plains of the Americas, and to the fact that  the horse was introduced into Australia over 250 years later than America. Horses were also native to the Americas, although they became extinct after crossing the Bering Straits into Asia 15 to 25,000 years ago. Maybe the stories and drawings of the people kept the ideas of the horse alive, a bit like the unicorn and Pegasus myths today.


When American Indians encountered horse, they thought of them as large dogs, and the horses and riders seemed godlike. Indians were seen to rub themselves with horse sweat, so that they might acquire the magic of the "big dog."  The horse was indispensable to the conquest of Mexico by Cortez.  To keep the ‘god-like’ reputation going, the Spanish conquerors prohibited any Indian from riding a horse.  In 1541, however, Viceroy Mendoza allowed allied Aztec chieftains on horses – all the better to  lead their tribesmen into battle during the Mixton War of Central Mexico. This appears to have been the first time that horses were officially given to the Indians.


The horses of the conquistadors were considered the best horses in the world at that time, and were a mixture of Barb, Arabian and Andalusian blood.  Horses changed everything for the Indians, from ways of travel and hunting to wealth and warfare. They were useful but they were also friends and companions – not mere tools.  For many Indian tribes, their whole lifestyle changed, as horses became a central part of many tribal cultures.  Indians and their horses were true partners, the first true natural horsemanship partnership in the new world, with natural gear the equivalent of modern rope halters, bitless bridles and bare back saddle pads.  Saying that, the war bridles can be severe on a horses mouth,but they were used by riders in complete control of their horses by vocal and body aids. The bridle is made from a single piece of rope or raw hide that loops through the mouth where the bit would sit, ties around the jaw in a type of slip knot, then runs back as reins.

Kalispel woman and child on horseback, ca. 1910. Flathead Reservation, Montana. Photograph by Henry Fair. (P4166) source

Even before battle they were close to their horses, spending time painting symbols on their horse.  Hoof prints were drawn on the horse to show how many enemy horses were captured and a left hand print on a horse’s right hip meant that the horse had brought his owner home safely. Apache and Comanche warriors who were dying in battle would pat their horse’s neck with a bloodied hand and the horse would return home with this grim news for all to see.


By the 1800s, American Indian horsemanship was legendary, and the survival of many Native peoples, especially on the Great Plains, depended on horses. Buffalo was the main food and clothing source of the plains Indians, and horses made hinting these large, fast beasts much easier. 


Horses were also a great aid in transporting their tipi homes, essential for the nomadic tribes that followed the buffalo herds over the plains.  Before the horses the Indians used dogs to transport their homes from one area to another, but horses meant faster trips with greater quantities.


Horses were also used for sport by the Indians in a way – horse stealing between the tribes on the plains became a favourite pastime, and it was considered an honourable way for a young warrior to gain experience and fame.  Horses also meant wealth, and were used extensively for barter and gifts. A young man who gave his prospective father in law a horse or two was sure to win favour.


To the native Indians, horses were part of their everyday lives, and they respected and treasured them.  They incorporated them into their cultural and spiritual lives, and  many religious ceremonies and dances, such as that by the Oglala Dakota tribe, were based on the horse and its contribution to the life of the Indian. The Oglala used their horse dance  to influence the outcome of horse races, to cure and calm sick and wounded horses and to make broodmares have fine foals. Horse medicine men and women were mong the most respected members of their tribes.  The sense of partnership that the Indians shared with their horses meant that the remedies they used on themselves they also used on their horses.  So too it meant that horses, as well as people could possess useful knowledge in  curing the sick.


When a warrior lost a horse, he would honour the horse by making a horse stick, an effigy made of wood and decorated with paint, leather, fur, feathers, beads and other items that represented the likeness of the horse.  The horse stick would then be carried by the warrior in dances to pay tribute to the great horse before other tribal members, and it was hoped that the spirit of the horse would follow the warrior in life and give him added strength and power.


The days of Indian horse culture were brilliant but quite short in the scheme of things, lasting just around 200 years. Indian raids occurred on the white population on and off, encouraged early on by the British and continuing during the civil war.The United States Army found, in its attempt to conquer the Indians during the 1800s that the only way to effectively control the people was to take their horses away from them. The story of Crazy horse leading a war party at the Battle of the Little Bighorn is legendary, but less known are the repeated instances of complete massacre of Indian horse herds, and the dividing up of the herds after massacre of human Indians, such as that at Sandy Creek in 1864.

 Model of the Crazy Horse memorial

Then the train (iron-horse) came along, followed by the car, truck and motorbike, and the horse was needed less by everyone, not just Indians.  They still ride horses of course, and horses are decked out in traditional gear for festivals and shows across America.  There are also organisations, like th Chief Joseph Foundation, that strive to keep the Indian horse heritage alive.


The Indian Horse has contributed to a number of American breeds including the Morgan, Quarter Horse, American Saddle bred, Tennessee Walking Horse, coloured breeds such as paint, appaloosa and buckskin,  and of course the mustang. There is also a registry for American Indian horses, for horses which show traits of the original bloodlines as well as litheness, agility, endurance and load-carrying capabilities.


Personally, I dream of an appaloosa.  Maybe one day this could be me……..


Links and Resources:


Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Nightmares and Natural Feeding


After only 10 days of horse ownership I have hit a snag.  Tana has a sore front foot.  We are hopeful it’s not tendon damage, and at this stage it seems to be a bit of an abscess.  She did have a small sore on the same foot when she arrived too. Yesterday she could hardly walk, but today she is a bit better.  Time will tell.  I am lucky to have an experienced horse person on hand, as I have been reading everything I can about lameness, tendons etc, and am having nightmares!

I also have the farrier coming tomorrow to look at her feet, and then we’ll decide if the vet is needed.  We are going to look at boots too,such as the ones from Easy Care Down Under and Cavallo, as I think she is used to soft, grassy ground, not the rocky ground we have here.  I would rather not shoe her, but her hooves are very badly cracked at present.

She is still eating well, though, and very friendly and inquisitive. She loves the camera!



Tana is in a small paddock by herself until she is better.  I would love to install a track system, but it is a bit difficult when you are agisting.   At lest there is not much grass, it’s hilly and she has hay.  She also gets a bucket of specially mixed  feed each night, including chaff, pellets, kelp and garlic.

Another feed suggestion I found at Natural Horse New Zealand (for 16HH) is as follows:

  • a few good handfuls of chaff- a different type every week and mix them so oaten, meadow, peavine and clover etc...
  • 1 cupped handful of fibre-ezi or a low gi forage
  • 1 cupped handful of NRM LOW GI pellets-these are great as they are grain free and are a slow burn energy
  • 1 capful of diluted cider vinegar to keep away worms
  • 150ml of flaxseed oil
  • 50-60g  of our natural horse organic mineral mix
  • Mix to blend in oil, supplement and vinegar  . . . . and they love it :)

This is combined with a biscuit of hay each morning and night, the evening feed helping to keep the horses warm at night, as they are not rugged.  I am not a big believer in rugs either.  We do get a lot of rain here though, and rain scald affects a lot of horses, but I think I would rather get a place with lots of trees, and rig up a shelter for when the horses feel they need to get out of the rain.

I doubt Tana will be ready for the Parelli Weekend I have booked for in June.  I am riding a different horse on Saturday, so I’ll see how he goes.  I have ridden him before – Woody is a rehabilitated ex-racehorse - but he also has feet problems, as he is not long off shoes. 


He is lovely, and will be a perfect size for my husband (who I am trying to convince to start riding) or my elder girls.  We will move eventually, and you can’t just have one horse, now can you?!

Deb xxx

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Clicker Training Horses


As part of my research into natural horsemanship methods, I have been researching clicker training – especially after the great demo I saw last weekend.

Clicker training is an operant conditioning method for training an animal using a clicker, (a small mechanical noisemaker like those old party favours we had as kids), as a marker for desired behaviour.The clicker is used during the beginning of training a new behaviour, to allow the animal to rapidly identify that a behaviour is sought and then uses positive reinforcement such as a treat to enforce the behaviour.

Clicker training was originated through Marian Bailey (née Kruse) and Keller Breland, who as psychology graduate students during WWII taught wild-caught pigeons to "bowl" (push a ball with their beaks).  Their professor was B. F. Skinner, who had first identified and described the principles of operant conditioning. Similar methods were later used in training at least 140 species including whales, dolphins, bears, lions, chickens, dogs and cats, and even humans.

Keller Breland, and otter

There are some amazing websites out there, including some with online courses such as Karen Pryor’s clicker training .com, but my favourite sites for horse training are these:

Georgia Bruce’s Click with Horses.

Georgia is from Kuranda in Far North Queensland (about 8 hours of north of where I am in Mackay). She has represented Australia in Dressage on eight occasions, most recently at the 2008 Paralympic Games where she won two bronze medals riding Carolyn Lieutenant's 18hh horse Victory Salute. She also competes successfully in open dressage to FEI level as well as cutting, western events, horse sports, hacking and reining. Georgia specializes in training young horses and retraining problem horses and gives lessons and clinics around Australia helping people to get the best out of their horse and achieve their goals.

I have ordered the Introduction to Clicker Training - 3 DVD Set , which includes: The Science of Clicker Training, How Horses Learning, How to Shape a Behaviour, Step by Step Instructions for Introducing Your Horse to Clicker Training. Clicker Training for Groundwork and Desensitizing and more. Nearly 3 hours of Clicker Training with a variety of horses. ($99.95).

Georgia is an amazing rider and trainer, and has even taught her horse Rumba to paint.

The other great site is Equilog, which has great fact sheets you can print, as well as a good links page. There are also some basic videos to watch, and they have a shop


Kumalong is another Australian resource for clicker training, but is aimed solely at dog owners.  They do have great clickers and coils for purchase though.

Alexandra Kurland is a pioneer and leading voice in the development of clicker training for horses, and she developed her method after that of Karen Pryor’s. She is the author of "Clicker Training for Your Horse", "The Click That Teaches: A Step-By-Step Guide in Pictures", "The Click That Teaches: Riding with the Clicker", and "The Click That Teaches" video lesson series.  Her website, The clicker centre has amazing amount of information and resources, such as videos.

The Best Whisper is a click is an American site, and host Peggy Hogan is a respected clicker trainer who has based her style on that of Ms Kurland.  The site has lots of downloadables, including videos.

Katherine (Katie) Bartlett has also studied with Alexandra Kurland, and her website Equine Clicker Training is fantastic, with lots of great photos and stories, as well as ideas to get started in clicker training.

Willy tic tac toe

Willy plays nought and crosses.

Lots of reading to do!

Deb xx

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Confidence workshop days 2 & 3

Tana (Tariqa Tiana) arrived safe, and she is beautiful! 

My daughters loved her on sight, and Olivia decided to feed her apple and grass she picked especially.


After two days on a she was in great condition (thankyou Rudds).  She unloaded well, but backed out, as if in a float.  I walked her up the step drive way, and into the arena where the clinic was gong on.  She was very alert, but not fretting or too worried.  I led her around the arena on both sides, walking and trotting, and she responded well to front and rear quarter turns.  My riding instructor had the first ride, to make sure all was well.  We decided that she had some western training as well as parelli, due to the position she was used to having the reins in. I hopped on for a short 20 minute ride, and she responded to leg aides so well. 


As a getting back into riding rider, I am still building up confidence with the trot, but I did try a little one. I think I might try a stock saddle soon, rather than an all-purpose, to give me a bit more security.  I like to think that with every hour I ride I am getting better, and fitter.  I am certainly feeling great – sore but great. And also motivated to eat healthier and drink less red wine (a bit of a necessity if you want to stay sane with five children!)

Yesterday we had a special guest at the clinic, Nina - and her pony Fatty – who is a clicker training teacher.  The things she could get that pony to do, all with treats and no force, were amazing.  Standing on a box and spinning around, laying on a beanbag, throwing a hat, sitting down and singing – the list goes on……how cute is this?




So a great weekend, I have my first horse at the age of 42, and I am so exhausted I have to go to bed before 9.30.


Deb xx

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Confidence Workshop Day 1


Today was the first day of a three day confidence clinic at Walkerston, near Mackay. Run Mark and Anne-Juanita, two experienced horse-people with different, but complementary, methods of horse and rider training, it was a great day.


We did basic things like leading the horse – but we also had to do it on the off side, and get them to trot.  This is harder than it sounds, especially around corners.  We learnt to lunge in the round yard, with and without a lead rope, and then to lunge outside the yard.

After lunch we played with our horses, bouncing big yoga balls near and at them, and getting them used to all sorts of things like balloons, bubbles and polo cross mallets and balls.  We also had to get them to walk across a tarp, which proved a real challenge for little Koda (below), who took an hour work to get him over.  After that he did it happily a few times.  Persistence and patience.

012  013

My new mare doesn't arrive until tomorrow, so my partner was a big grey ex-racehorse called Ghost.  I had not so much as patted him before the day, and he had always seemed a bit scary to me.  By the end of the day we were good friends, and my confidence had certainly improved!

Tomorrow I get to do it all again with Tiana.  Can’t wait!

Deb xx

Thursday, 3 May 2012

My First Horse

Today I became a horse owner!

She doesn’t actually arrive until Sunday, but the money was paid today, and she is on her way.  A big trip, about 1000km, from Mount Tambourine near the Gold Coast in South East Queensland, to Mackay on the Central North Coast.

It is a bit risky buying a horse that you have never ridden, and only seen in photos, but here is hoping that everything is ok. Her owner and I have sent each other lots of emails and talked on the phone, and she seems genuine.   I know that my mare is an Australian Stock horse and she was born in September 2006.  I have even found her on the Australian stock horse register.  She was broken in by parelli instructor Julianne Tetlow of Stonefox Ranch. She is barefoot at present, and has recently been wormed.  She also has  a little cut on one front leg. Looking at the lush green grass she has been grazing on, I think she may be a little overweight (but so am I!).

She will arrive on Sunday at my riding instructors ranch at Walkerston, just out of Mackay.  I will be agisting her there for a few months until we get our own acreage.  She will have a introduction period on her own, but then she can join the herd of about seven horses.  Her companion horse was sold last week and she has had only a Shetland pony for company, so I wonder how she will adjust to that.  Our paddocks aren’t as lush either, so that will also be interesting.

Meanwhile I am reading all I can about natural horsemanship and natural horse keeping.  I have just read The Smart Women’s Guide to Midlife Horses, by Melinda Folse, which is excellent for those of us in our middle years, and also Paddock Paradise by Jamie Jackson, which I think will be my new bible!  It answers a lot of questions about the best way to look after horses, which Jamie came upon from studying horses in the wild in the US.

Paddock Paradise: A Guide to Natural Horse Boarding  Smart Woman's Guide To Midlife Horses

Both are available in Australia from Horse, my new favourite bookshop, that offers free postage for orders over $30.

Next on the list is Revealing Your Hidden Horse – A Revolutionary Approach to Understanding Your Horse, by Mark Hanson.  I bought my copy from the natural horse world store.  I have also downloaded a book on clicker training by Elaine at Training horses naturally.

  clicker training guide ebook

I had better get busy!