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Natural Horsemanship

Natural Horsemanship

In recent years, there has been a surge in videos showing natural horsemanship techniques to tame nervous or dangerous horses, and the inspiration has largely come from US pioneers.

In natural horsemanship the emphasis is on developing a relationship based on trust, understanding, and clear communication.

Although liberty training and natural horsemanship have some crossover in their approaches, they also have distinct differences, such as the use of equipment and pressure-release techniques.

Inspired by herd dynamics, key features of natural horsemanship include:

  • Developing effective and clear communication with the horse using body language, and pressure-release techniques;

  • Establishing very clear boundaries and consistent rules;

  • Doing groundwork exercises to establish respect, focus, and responsiveness in the horse such as leading, backing up, lunging, desensitisation, and other exercises designed to build the horse's trust and obedience;

  • Encouraging the horse to yield to pressure and become responsive, light, and balanced in its movements.

Round pen, or lunge pen, training is commonly used in natural horsemanship – and this is where most ‘join-up’ training takes place.

Join-up is a technique designed to establish trust and partnership between horse and handler, resulting in the horse voluntarily seeking connection and cooperation with the handler. Typically, this process takes place in a round pen or an enclosed area where the horse is allowed to move freely while the handler observes the horse's behaviour and body language.

The handler then uses specific body language and gestures to invite the horse to engage and connect, such as maintaining eye contact, controlling body posture, directing energy, and using vocal cues.

While the horse might show resistance, evasion, or confusion at first, the use of consistent and clear communication gives the horse scope to understand and trust the situation. The end goal is the horse voluntarily approaching the handler, indicating submission and willingness. Once this is achieved, the handler takes off the pressure.

It all sounds very simple, but as with any type of training, it takes skill and experience to gain a successful outcome. For further information, check out


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