Natural Horsemanship & Horse Whispering

Chapter 11
The Evolution of Horsemanship

There has always been more than one method of training horses. Historically, the method most often used throughout the world involved controlling and training a horse with force or the threat of force. Due to countless centuries of its continued practice, this method could rightly be referred to as “traditional horsemanship.”

Natural horsemanship is an alternative method of training that replaces force with communication derived from natural equine herd dynamics. Control is achieved with leadership by replicating the same methods horses use with other horses to become the herd leader.

Natural horsemanship simply means what is natural for horses, as opposed to what is natural for humans. To establish leadership horses control each other using physical dominance administered with minimal contact, without violence, abuse, or injury.

During the nineteenth century in both America and Western Europe, equine specialists known as horse tamers rehabilitated horses that, although born in captivity, had become dangerous. They behaved like wild horses, were often extremely violent, and in some cases were known to have actually killed their previous owners.

Equine history has given the world centuries of men and women endowed with unique and remarkable abilities to tame, train, and transform horses into creatures of unsurpassed athletic performance who participate in unequaled work partnerships and become lifelong friends. But defining what it takes to have this magical gift with equines has never been stated more eloquently then by Dennis Magner, who is acknowledged as one of the original group of nineteenth-century American horse tamers responsible for giving rise to the term “horse whisperer.” 

Magner wrote of the horse trainer, “He must have the delicacy of touch and feeling of a woman, the eye of an eagle, the courage of a lion, and the hang-on pluck of a bulldog.”

Instead of using force, they would cause undesirable behavior to be uncomfortable and desirable behavior to be comfortable and allow the horse to make the choice. And, finally, they would establish themselves as the leader by maintaining total control over the horse’s feet and their movement.

Horse whispering had nothing to do with whispering. It was the knowledge that one could control and train a horse with kindness, understanding, and communication by simply using the mental, physical, and emotional evolutionary nature and psychology of the species. Today this is referred to as natural horsemanship.