Excerpt from the May issue of Heels Down Magazine.
Natural horsemanship wasn’t always billed as a highly-marketed, humane way to train your horse. It didn’t begin in large arenas packed with ticket-buyers who came to see the spectacle of a terrified horse being taught to calmly load into a trailer, or with pricey DVD training sets. These days, there’s a lot of misconception around natural horsemanship, but Tik Maynard isn’t bothered by that.
Tik can often be found with a rope halter in hand, working young horses to seasoned competition horses on the lead line or at liberty in the arena. He has built much of his career as a professional trainer and Advanced-level event rider on the principles of natural horsemanship. He believes that no matter what kind of response the phrase elicits, it all boils down to understanding how horses learn, choosing what works for your horse, and realizing that you know nothing.
“The Right Things at the Right Time”
As professionals have developed prominent training and equipment brands, it’s tempting to categorize natural horsemanship by the techniques and tools used – the unfamiliarity of which may leave riders in traditional english disciplines thinking, ‘That’s not for me.’ But according to Tik, those are shallow ways of defining what is a far more fluid way of viewing the horse.
“It’s how you see yourself with the horse and how you empathize. Do you see yourself as a partner? As a dictator?” said Tik of Citra, Fla., who is also married to CCI4* eventer Sinead Halpin. “The biggest thing for me is understanding how a horse thinks, how a horse is motivated, and how a horse feels. It’s not so much about what you’re doing with them in the moment.”
Great horsemen in various disciplines build their foundation on these principles, Tik says. While it’s not common to see trainers in the english disciplines tagging their training methods as natural horsemanship, more people are using aspects of it without realizing.