While deciding what I wanted to include in this little website, I made
notes about everything Fell. In my own little Fell world, Natural
Horsemanship seemed to be a recurring topic.
I was raised with horses. I cannot recall a time in my life when my
family did not have horses. Even when we lived in Southeast Asia for
several years, we had a horse.
My father was raised in a ranching lifestyle in the West. He knew about
horses. He taught us. Was it natural? No, not really... but we were
fortunate that it was also not as "traditional" as so many.
We always trained our own horses. No matter what it was we wanted them
to do, we trained them to do it. During the decades that my family owned
and operated our Arabian breeding farm, my sister did all the training.
But as we rarely got along back then, if I wanted my personal horses to
be trained, it was up to me. It's amazing I'm still alive.
About 16 years ago, my sister (whom I was finally getting along with)
found Natural Horsemanship and embraced it. As she was now a
professional horse trainer, taking in outside horses for clients, and I
had new horses I wanted trained, I asked for her help. And she agreed
with one proviso- I had to learn Natural Horsemanship.
This softly couched ultimatum was after she had coaxed me to a Natural
Horsemanship presentation, which I hated. I didn't like the guy, I
didn't like the prices, I didn't like the day or my seat or where we
parked. To say that I was dragged into Natural Horsemanship is putting
However, after a couple weeks of the most basic of methods, I saw a
difference in my filly, and a difference in me. I tried more things,
and they actually worked. If it didn't work, I was quick to say, "see!"
and my sister would crawl down off the fence railing and say, "bend your
body this way. Look at her hindquarters." And then as my filly easily
did what it was I was asking, my sister would quietly say "see," and
crawl back onto the fence rail.
That was about 14 years ago, and I have become an advocate of Natural
Horsemanship. I know dozens of people who have the same view of it as I
did in the beginning, and have convinced themselves that they don't need
it, it doesn't work, there is no real gain. These are the same people
who can be heard complaining about trailer loading, bolting, bulging,
refusals, not taking the correct lead, jigging, and the list goes on.
What most people seem to fail to understand is that Natural Horsemanship
is not a discipline. It is not that you either do dressage or Natural
Horsemanship. You don't have to pick between reining, eventing or Natural
Horsemanship. It is simply an alternative method or path to achieve the
same results. Or perhaps more accurately, better results.
The reason I wish to bring Natural Horsemanship into a conversation
about Fell Ponies is that while I think every single horse on the
planet, as well as their human, could benefit from the practice of
Natural Horsemanship, I think Fell Ponies are among a group who almost
Fell Ponies are pretty laid back, but they have an intellect that needs
activity. They enjoy challenges and thrive in relationships.
When my gelding, Harcala, arrived in this country, he watched me warily.
He showed no signs of annoyance or interest... the perfect poker face.
He would test me every now and again by herding or driving or pushing me
slightly. He would try to make me move my feet without moving his. As I
had already been involved in Natural Horsemanship for many years at
that point, plus having been raised in the company of horses, I knew
what he was doing. As he continued to play his games and I played them
back, he became interested.
Harcala had spent his young life on the hills of his home-country,
playing and communicating with other horses. Within a few weeks of
playing and communicating with me, he would canter to the fence-line
where I was, and look at me curiously. When we would go out and play
together online, he would enjoy it. He really enjoyed (and still enjoys)
testing me. He would still see if he could move my feet without moving
his. He would try to drive me, and then I would drive him.
Fells need good leadership, or they won't follow. They need to trust
their human and have confidence in their ability. Simply put, they are
generally just too smart to be happy doing nothing. They thrive in
relationships. They love challenges. They enjoy learning. And we owe it
to them to offer what we can.
Having lived without Natural Horsemanship and now with it so ingrained
in my life, I know that all my horses and ponies and myself, are better
off today. I so strongly believe in the benefits of Natural Horsemanship
that I offer discounts on sales and leases to clients
(soon-to-be-friends) who have achieved a higher level of savvy.
While I do not take on training clients, and have no interest to do so, I
do know of wonderful trainers and coaches around the country. I would
be very happy to connect you with one wherever you are.
I also invite you to visit us (me and my Fells) in the Black Hills of South Dakota (as well as around the rest of the country from time to time) and
immerse yourself in Natural Horsemanship and enjoy our hundreds of miles
of incredible trails.
I am also a strong supporter of the 4H and encourage everyone to get involved with their local group. My brother and sister and I spent many years in 4H as kids and now as adults, have found a new growth process with the same group.
I look forward to hearing from you regarding anything Natural Horsemanship and/or Fell Pony related. This would include essential oils, which my family has been using in every aspect of our lives for over decade. Feel free to check out the blog