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A Distant Memory

‘’ At 14, I started to question (still do) why and how we can do it better. Like, why are you doing that? Why are you using that equipment? The answer was always the same (still is). We’ve always done it this way ... My reply was (still is), well it doesn’t work ... So, I decided to go and ask the horse what they were thinking. ‘’- Stefan Forsman remembers his beginnings and references an article by the late, Dr Robert M. Miller.
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‘’ At 14, I started to question (still do) why and how we can do it better. Like, why are you doing that? Why are you using that equipment? The answer was always the same (still is). We’ve always done it this way ... My reply was (still is), well it doesn’t work ... So, I decided to go and ask the horse what they were thinking. ‘’

- Stefan Forsman

A long time ago, Sweden :)

And, a few years later in America, Dr Robert M. Miller writes about myself and others who helped to develop what natural horsemanship has become today ..

Early words from Dr Robert M. Miller. Still GOOD value! 

This is the 24th in a series of 24 articles by R.M. Miller, DVM. Dr. Miller is a recognized authority on horse behavior and the author of "Imprint Training of the Newborn Foal," as well as other books and articles. Reprints of this article are NOT available. The entire series will be published in book form sometime in 1997.

R.M. Miller, DVM
None of the behavior shaping techniques presented in this series were new or original. In some cases, when I discovered a technique on my own, I eventually learned that someone else had used it and put it in the literature long ago.

Mankind domesticated the horse, as far as archeologists can determine, about six thousand years ago. The culmination in the technology of horsemanship occurred in the late nineteenth century. With the advent of the internal combustion engine, automobiles, trucks, tractors, and motorized warfare vehicles largely replaced the horse. By the middle of the twentieth century, the equine population of the United States of America was down to 2 million, from a high in 1905 of 22 million. In the last half of this century, the numbers have escalated again to somewhere between 6 and 8 million, depending upon which information source one consults. This increase is almost entirely in equines kept for recreational purposes. A significant proportion of those people who own and work with those horses are inept individuals who have not grown up around horses and who have never learned the finer points of horsemanship.
Even amongst the professional horsemen: trainers, breeders, farriers, and veterinarians, there is a tendency to rely upon modern behavior modifying drugs to solve certain problems. Those who constantly rely upon tranquilizers, mood ameliorating, hypnotic, narcotic and disassociative drugs to solve behavioral challenges, may not learn to control horses by psychological means.
I do not want to suggest that I am opposed to the legitimate use of such drugs. There is a place for them and, as a practitioner, I probably used such medications more freely than most of my colleagues. What I would not do is fight a horse and, if the limitations of time did not allow me to control a horse by psychological means, I was very quick to use chemical restraint. That has an important place in veterinary practice. It does not have a place in the training stable, the show ring, or out on the trail. Problems there can and should be solved with behavior shaping and behavior modifying techniques.
Books written by master horsemen in the latter half of the nineteenth century, therefore, are among the very best sources of information on state-of-the-art horsemanship. I say this notwithstanding the fact that we are near the close of the twentieth century, in what I call a "Revolution in Horsemanship." More will be said about this movement later. Meanwhile, it is of great interest and value to consider the authors of the past century, and it is no coincidence that so many of them were veterinarians.

No horseman faces a greater challenge than the doctor of veterinary medicine engaged in equine practice. Nearly everything that person does to a horse is either frightening or painful. Moreover, that person is nearly always in a hurry. The practice of veterinary medicine is a stressful profession. Rushing is not conducive to cooperation on the horse's part.
A busy veterinarian will handle more horses in a given day than any other professional horsemen, be they farriers, trainers, riders or drivers. Typically, a practitioner will see ten to a hundred horses in a day, the larger numbers when stables are dewormed, vaccinated, or are subjected to other preventive medicine procedures. Twenty or thirty head can make for a very ordinary day.
So, it is imperative that the doctor of veterinary medicine becomes a competent and efficient handler of horses. This is true today, in spite of the variety of drugs at our disposal, but it was all the more true before and during the turn of the century.

The most famous of all the nineteenth century "horse tamers" was Rarey. His observations are and always will be pertinent to horsemen:
"First, that the horse is so constituted by nature that he will not offer resistance to any demand made of him which he fully comprehends, if made in a way consistent with the laws of his nature.
"Secondly, that he has no consciousness of his strength beyond his experience, and can be handled according to our will without force.
"Thirdly, that we can, in compliance with the laws of his nature, by which he examines all things new to him, take any object, however frightful, around, over, or on him, that does not inflict pain, without causing him to fear.
"It will at once be gathered from this that as God intended the horse for the friend, companion and servant of man, he made no blunder in so constituting the animal that men of average sense should be able to turn him to account without great trouble or any cruelty whatever."

Rarey's most famous accomplishment was his ability to tame any horse, no matter how vicious, and to do it very quickly. His fame spread to Europe, and he did command performances for Queen Victoria.

His methods were very simple. He used a one-leg hobble and if that was not sufficient, he lay the horse down. Control of movement creates submissiveness in the horse as we have repeatedly counseled in this series.

Rarey's technique, of course, was not original. He learned it from a man named Denton Offet. In St. Petersburg, Russia, there is a collection of Greco-Scythic art. Included is a silver vase and on it in bas relief, a young Scythian man lassoes a horse. Then he ties up a foreleg, puts the horse on its knees, and finally has it saddled and bridled. This vase is 2,600 years old.
In a 1992 biography of presidential candidate Ross Perot, Mr. Perot explains his crooked nose. As a young man he broke colts for a dollar a day, and was frequently bucked off. One of these falls broke his nose. His problems continued "until I learned to tie up one front foot with a rag (a gunny sack probably) and found that after standing on one leg for 5 minutes the colts would let me mount without bucking."

In DeWitt's Complete American Farrier and Horse Doctor, published in 1870 by Robert M. DeWitt and authored by Col. Christofer Forrest, the following profound observation appears:
"The writer of this book has no fear of being contradicted by any respectable trainer in laying it down as a fundamental principle that, other things being equal, that horse will be the best "broken," freest from trick and vice, most reliable and obedient, and, at the same time, the most spirited and enduring, whose course of education has been such that he cannot recall any time when he was not broken. He should have no memory of any hour of great trouble and fear when he first discovered that man was his master, and, that all his struggles for freedom were in vain."
One of the best books ever written on the subject is Illustrated Horse Training by the British army veterinarian Captain M. H. Hayes (1889). Most of the behavior shaping techniques I have mentioned in this series, and the characteristics of the equine mind I have described, were in Hayes' book. All I have done is modernize the terminology in accord with the principles of ethology as they are now known. Hayes was a century ahead of his time.

Professor Beery's works on horse training, originally published before the turn of the century, are still available from the Beery School of Horsemanship in Pleasant Hill, Ohio. Beery's success as a horse trainer, again, involved control of movement. He used a "running W" rig to take both front feet away from the intractable horse. On lesser challenges he used a harness to pull up just one foreleg.
If any single concept is behind the motivation that resulted in this series being written, it is that horses are more effectively trained with persuasive methods rather than with coercive methods. Persuasive methods, which elicit behavior that the horse wants to do, are safer, faster, and longer lasting than are coercive methods which elicit behavior that the horse must do. Why then have coercive methods been the principle training techniques used by all human cultures? It is because such methods are natural to us. We are a predatory, aggressive species, and this is generally more true if we are young, and if we are male.

The horse, by contrast, is a prey species. It is timid and easily frightened. Its response to fear is flight, and harnessed, controlled flight can be obtained by using physical force, pain and coercion. Jumping, racing, driving, and even dressage movements are simply controlled flight responses which have become conditioned responses. But, horses run for joy and pleasure, not just from fear, and non-coercive training techniques can produce equine athletes which perform well and enjoy doing it. This can be achieved by means of the behavior shaping techniques described in this series of articles, but especially by control of movement (JEVS Vol. 16, No. 1, 1996). Of course, many traditional trainers will reject this concept. The cited clinicians now involved in the Revolution in Horsemanship are widely criticized. To the skeptics I would point out that wild horses are almost invariably led by an older mare. Indeed, she is often a decrepit older mare, certainly not the physically strongest individual in the herd. How is this possible? Shouldn't the leadership be accorded to the fleetest and strongest?
No! It is awarded to the wise, experienced, older individual, and that position is maintained by assertively controlling the movement of the other members of the herd. We can do the same thing. This, is the principle underlying the Revolution in Horsemanship or, what is now being called "Natural Horsemanship." Why the latter designation? Because it is natural to the horse, not to the human.
At least one monthly magazine is entirely dedicated to this kind of horsemanship. It is The Trail Less Traveled, published by Winsor Publications, Box 187, Boulder, Colorado, 80306, telephone (303) 444-6879.

Earlier in this series we presented some of the horsemen who were leading the "Revolution in Horsemanship." That list is growing rapidly as the movement spreads worldwide. So, here is an updated list. It is by no means complete. I have only listed Americans and only a few of them because I am personally familiar with their work. There are many others, and an increasing number are in other countries. For example, Alfonso Aguilar in Mexico, Stefan Forsman in Sweden, Adrian Heinen in Switzerland, Mako Cook in Argentina, and a half dozen men and women in Australia. As I predicted a decade ago, by the turn of the century this revolution will have swept the world to the benefit of the horse and all who choose to work with this unique animal.

What I call "The Revolution in Horsemanship" involves training techniques which have been called "New Age Horsemanship," "Renaissance Horsemanship," "Universal Horsemanship," and especially, "Natural Horsemanship."

Actually there is nothing new about the kind of horsemanship we are talking about. It has always been used by a few talented trainers but now, for the first time, this non-confrontational, humane, swift, and effective training philosophy is becoming popular world-wide. Why? Because today's horse owners are better educated, more receptive to the science of psychology, and because of the information explosion that is occurring in most technologies. Videos, publications, and jet travel which allows clinicians to travel rapidly, are spreading the word. Below are some of the better known trainers who are masters at behavior shaping in the horse. There are others, and there will be many more in the years to come. These people have produced books and videos and do clinics all over the world. If you are involved with horses, professionally or recreationally, I urge you to become familiar with as many of these fine horsemen as possible. After six thousand years of domestication, these people are advancing the art of horsemanship so rapidly that, by the turn of the century, most of the traditional methods of the past will have become obsolete.

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