Monday, December 14, 2009

Lessons From Natural Horsmanship

Through the Eyes of a Child
Children Need Training, Not Discipline

There's no such thing as a bad horse. There's no such thing as bad kid. There's no such thing as a bad person! If a horse kicks, is he bad? Is it just a bad habit? Is it just what horses do? If he is allowed to kick it's not that he is bad. It's just his natural inclination. The result of a lack of training. Anything short of this is Nazism. There are people who sort through horses like tomatoes and can the bad ones. Hopefully no one does this now with people the way Hitler did.

Children might need discipline all right, but only because they missed out on their training somewhere. You can imagine, discipline can really get out of hand with a lack of training. Even to the point of abuse. This happens with horses all too often. There's a lot of people that are just animal lovers and have no business owning a horse. There experience with horses is usually short lived. The same can be said of many parents now. They mistake love for permissiveness. they think they just need to love them to death. If you do this with a horse he's liable to kick your head off someday. At least he is going to throw you off and leave you in the ditch. What good is love if you haven't done the work?

My Dad was a World Champion Cowboy. He wasn't that great of a horseman but he really worked at it. He used to say, "I better get out there and work with that colt or he'll grow up to be an idiot." I remember someone complaining to him about the problems they were having with a horse. He said, "Just get on that horse everyday and ride all the way to the end of the road and back." About 10 miles I think it was. There's always all kinds of details and imperfections, forget all of that and just put in the time.

If you let your kids run with the herd instead of with you. What do you think will happen. There's no substitute for being there. The only thing worse than leaving them for someone else to tend is leaving them unattended. "The only thing worse than doing nothing, is watching television. At least if you are doing nothing you might be thinking."

If - YOU - are going to raise your children, remember they are generally going to emulate you. If you want your children to behave properly. You have to behave properly. If you have your head stuck in the television and so do they. Forget it! What a disaster. How can you compete with what they are seeing there? The best television programs are not going to raise your children. Most if not all of the best programs would be better if you just read the book. If the child isn't mature enough to appreciate the book, he surely shouldn't be watching it.

One time we were at Jack in the Box for dinner. ( veggie burgers ). This mother came in with her 6 kids. Ages of about 1 to 10. She must have been 30 or so. They were all so quiet, and they flocked right around her like little chicks. No one even noticed there were 6. I actually counted. I couldn't believe it. She only had to whisper. Reminds me of the old saying. "Words that soak in are whispered not yelled." Also, "You can tell a good trainer by their voice." "Silence is Golden", this should be the atmosphere in the home. How can little ones learn their manners if there is chaos; idolatrous ( canned ) sounds and images every where. Then we wonder why they have attention deficit disorders.

Everyone should study Pat Parelli's book "Natural Horsemanship". He talks about the three big lies of NORMAL horsemanship. One, "You pull to stop", two, "You kick to go", three "You just jump on and go". He didn't include yelling because it's implied. Obviously you don't yell at horses. You want to keep in mind the ideal. Good horsemanship is like good stewardship. It has to be built on a relationship. What does a ship have to do with it? Smooth sailing requires smooth communicating. Ultimately your horse knows what you want from the slightest touch without a word. He slows down when you relax a little, he turns with the slightest pressure from the single line against his neck, he stops when you completely relax, he starts to go with the slightest squeeze of your legs. You are careful how you introduce new things to him. Once a horse learns the right way he never forgets. If he has a bad experience he doesn't forget that either. They are never just ready to go if it is something they haven't encountered. It's easy to break a child's spirit by giving them an assignment they are not ready for, and then demanding they do it.

Parelli talks about the different levels of horsemanship. From the beginner to unimaginable levels of skill. He gets horses to do any kind of maneuver completely naked. Running, jumping, spinning, etc. No lines, no saddle, no bits, no spurs, nothing. Then he gets them to do things from 50 ft. away. It's all about building on that relationship between a human and a horse.

So many times I've seen parents who were going to make sure their kids were under control, only to have it backfire. "Control freaks ultimately loose control." They try to force them into a mold and make them conform. All of sudden they are in shock when their children develop a mind of their own and go their own way. Whether it's at age 13 or 18. There is a saying, "The definition of a great man is, one who keeps the hearts of his children." By the same token, I've seen people with dogs or horses that were confined, isolated, and restricted to the point they were completely uncontrollable. The resultant problem is, they can't handle freedom. They've never been free. When I get a dog or a horse like that, I start to give them freedom whenever and wherever I can. The best way to accomplish that is to have good dogs and horses there that follow your commands. "Parenting is not about hanging on, it's about letting go." From the earliest age you begin to let them make their own decisions and learn from their own mistakes.

Another reason things backfire is because we try to play God. Instead of learning from Nature, we rely on our own great inventions, we think we are so smart. Definitely smarter than our kids, right? "God made man upright, but he has sought out many inventions." Even the old timers had trouble here. Children were barely tolerated.

If you want to have a relationship with a child they have to have fun doing things with you. No matter if it's work or play. Initially you will encounter resistance. Once they get going though, they want more. If you work with your horse everyday pulling logs or whatever, pretty soon they are not happy unless they get out and get their quota.

Here is a quote from Pat Parelli to end with. "You never work with your horse, only play, you work with yourself."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My experience is one-sided. I don't have the blessing of children (yet?), but as a son, I really appreciate your perspective.

The one sentence I got caught up on was: "Children might need discipline all right, but only because they missed out on their training somewhere."

Isn't discipline part of training? Doesn't the best training still have to deal with human sinfulness along the way? Perhaps this is the advantage horses have over children.