I have been on a horse journey for many years, though only a few of those years actually WITH horses. I have an intense desire to learn as much as possible, and work in harmony and peace with horses. My journey has shown me some great, and not so great, methods of horsemanship (no disrespect intended… how can one be wrong when they just don’t know of another way?) What is the best way for me to start learning these methods (other than my own trial and error- a very long road). I feel that at this time, my only way to engage a horse is by showing it that I’m the leader, stick with me and you’ll be okay, and (for now) this is the only way I know. Thank you,
Nicole — B.C.
It is wonderful to want to work in harmony and peace with horses. However, what is most difficult for people can depend on what it is we want to do with horses.
If I ask, `Were horses created for riding?`, I think that more than 99% of people would say no. However, if we take a look at the horse world around us, the truth is that people actually think, `what else is a horse for?`.
If you have studied other methods, then you well know that what you read in a book, or even hear what some trainers say and then what they actually do with the horse can be quite a contrast.
It is not necessarily a matter of knowing what is right or wrong, good or bad. The horse is no longer a need, or very useful, for survival to humans as in centuries past. Things have changed. However, the horse is still often perceived as a subservient animal that continues to serve for our own entertainment. I do agree that many people simply follow the norm and while learning, take everything as fact. The existing methods certainly work.
I want to point out what I just wrote above `…viewing the horse as a subservient animal…`. NHE gets rid of this. We are on a level playing field. We are two `creatures` that need to learn how to communicate. Right there, that could be a big problem for a lot of people.
Friendship and curiosity should always remain whenever we are with our horses. Monica Bretschnedier with Phantom
Get rid of force, gain a willing friend. Monica and Primo
Yet, what is also important in NHE is what goes beyond that… or should I say, before? The health of the horse is paramount. Lifestyle and living conditions play a very important role.
I do ride my horses, but it is in a different context than how most people ride today. It is still working toward physical strength of the horse. The motto of the school is, `The Horse is always right`. It may be considered that NHE is a physical fitness program for domesticated horses.It is personal because once building a relationship and understanding and subtle communication between ourself and a horse, that trust, bond, relationship is not transferable. In other words, we cannot `train` a horse with the mentality of NHE and expect the horse to act the same with someone else as they do with us. Those who want to build a relationship should take that relationship as it comes, and not because it is only a step to being able to ride a willing horse. Do you see the difference?
An old horse fed up with humans was reached through love and respect
13 yr old Sabrina with her mare, Mimi
In general terms, this means that if a horse refuses, there is a good reason. What we hear most of the time, is that the horse is lazy or stubborn or stupid. In reality, it is usually, but not always, because of some kind of physical discomfort. With other methods, the horse can be coerced to continue to perform, but most people do not know the consequences that the horse suffers. It is sad that what is considered normal today, in terms of common horse ailments, can and should be avoided.
At best, with a perfectly sound horse, it can also take very long to get understanding, practice, strength and fluidity within just one movement. A good Spanish Walk could take two years. When I have requests from dressage riders how to do a piaffe, I suggest a good dressage trainer instead. When I get a request of how to make a horse lay down, I suggest trick training. NHE is not a `method` where someone can pick out just a thing or two. It is a way of life, of thinking, of being. It is the end result of what many people, worldwide, have expressed about wanting to be with their horses. I think it is marvelous and I am somewhat surprised at this apparent shift in consciousness or behaviour and the increase of change of thought toward the horse based on the type of requests that I get from around the world. But it is still very difficult for people to change their ways or to break old habits, even when pursuing NHE. Unless, there is a major incident that we experience with a horse or seeing with our own eyes a great tragedy, plus an accumulation of little self-denials, where everything in our brain about what we have learned about horses short-circuit in an instant. Also, when it comes to harmony or friendship with horses, many people would like to have their cake and eat it too. As you mention, presently, the horse will be OK as long as he sticks with you and your ideas. Otherwise, there can be hell to pay, isn`t there? A horse that has no choice but to obey may be harmony and peace for what you want, but is it for the horse? This is also an important differentiation in the meaning of the words (harmony, friendship, willingness) that people use.
When the horse has a choice, we have a partnership
Active interaction is part of building a relationship
Many people think that NHE is witholding secrets. I was initially very reluctant to travel to fulfill requests for lessons. I thought the website would be enough. NHE is so simple, why would I have to meet people and their horses in person? But, learning from a page on a computer screen is far removed from our reality of being out in the field with horses, or living the experience, or seeing a live reaction, isn`t it? I think that people have a hard time understanding how simple this really is. Pages and pages of documents canot replace noticing the look in a horse`s eye when that moment of understanding takes place or seeing a side of the horse`s character that was never seen before. Let me explain further. Consider that you come across a child in a remote, tropical forest. This child does not speak your language, and notices that you carry a ball. This child has never even seen a ball and does not even know what a ball is for. How would you get this child to understand that you are not a threat, and how would you show what a ball is for, and even eventually get this child to willingly, happily play with you? Put the child in a cage? Secure with a rope to prevent escape while you prove that the ball is not harmful by bringing this alien object closer? Prod the child with a stick to get closer? Put chains around the wrists and drag to the ball? Threaten with imminent aggression until the child gets near the ball and then smile instead? etc, etc…
I`m sure you know the list. All of them would work. Putting it this way tends to insult people. What I like about the younger generation is that they see right through all that typical training stuff right away. They immediately question and do not follow. I have never seen that before. Trying to communicate and become understandable is not a method or a type of training. That is why the shift in mentality of how we view the horse is so important. I have seen people want to achieve the results seen within NHE, yet they feel quite foolish while trying to play with the horse or become understandable without using usual training techniques. What they are really seeking is a result and want an immediate response from the horse. In such a situation, the person will become angry and decide that NHE is absolutely ridiculous and either pull out a whip or a clicker instead. It does not matter what method they fall back on, they go back to training an animal.
A horse that used to kick and run away from people has found someone who listens
Another example question of our communication and understanding by the horse would be how would you show a horse to lift a leg without touching? How would you ask a horse to pick up a halter from the ground? How would you get a horse to pick up the blue halter instead of the red one? Yes, this is all possible. Just try asking the horse!
Frustration and defiance and fear were replaced with leisurely strolls — and exercise!
Health and lifestyle are important. There are some who would say that their horses just love going out on trail rides. Yes, it is quite possible because the horse has been in a box for a week or all day. Fed like humans (2-3 meals per day) and given grain, another tradition which is not good for horses. Whenever the horse goes out it is for some human reason. In some cases, they may get out for one hour out of twenty-four. Some people choose to leave the horses outside. Unfortunately, often this is not based on physical or mental welfare reasons for the horse, but a financial one. Even if the horse is outside, are the conditions acceptable? Is there shade, shelter, movement, food, water, other horses? Is it just another boring, bigger box? This is just part of the often overlooked, yet, accepted aspect of the life of a domesticated horse in a stabling environment.
As you can see, the best place to have a horse is at home with you and the conditions of keeping that horse in are also very important. NHE is for the horse owner. Many people just shrug off the conditions of standard stable life because that`s the way things are, but they certainly do not shrug off the questions about why they have `difficult` horses. With most lifestyles of work and little time, we often seek bandaid solutions. They are abundant…. and neverending.
The example of how to approach a child, is how I can try to explain part of what NHE is. It can take time, but once the trust and communication can be understood between horse and human, then possibilities are endless. What may be new is how Alexander Nevzorov has brought this love for the horse to help the horse consciously make the decision to do what horses instinctively do in nature. To the regular horse world, the only thing that seems amazing is collection. But we also develop the mind and allow the true spirit of the horse to develop.
The horse learns the power of collection and begins to do it freely more often
It is also important to note that NHE is not traditional Haute Ecole. It is not a discipline being revisited. It is not just doing the same stuff without a bitted bridle. Many people can achieve similar results, but it is far from being NHE. The truth lies not within the results, but within our hearts and the horse`s understanding and perception of how we ask and being able to accept the response. A subtle nuance, yet, a huge difference. It is also how those results are obtained and why we choose to obtain them in the first place! That is the difference with NHE and why it simply will not work for everyone. I would hope that anyone who understands this, will know the difference if they see someone claiming to be demonstrating NHE.
Like I mentioned earlier, there are prerequisites that must first be met that are important for the horse. What do you do with them, and what to you want them to do, what are you willing to do for them?
I fully understand how this may seem like such a dramatic shift and change. I have been there, and it certainly did not happen all at once. Maybe I can help you learn more. It is up to you to decide what you really want.
About the author:
Michael Bevilacqua owns and manages a horse schooling facility in Quebec, Canada. He offers informative seminars and private clinics on horse behaviour and Nevzorov Haute Ecole Principles.
“No such thing as a bad horse”