Aims of the Silversand Natural Horsemanship Programme
Horses have evolved over millions of years to survive in an environment where they depend on having highly developed survival instincts. These instincts were essential if horses were to avoid being the meal of one of many predators. Even though horses that we generally deal with today have been domesticated for generations, this survival instinct is still very strong and when aroused the horse's behaviour can change in a fraction of a second in order to save its life from a perceived threat.
I say perceived threat because we may see absolutely nothing that could be of any danger to our horse, but our horse may have a totally different view of the situation. The main aim of the Silversand Natural Horsemanship Programme is to provide you with a system that can enable your horse to perform confidently with responsive yields at higher and higher energy levels (speeds).
The initial aim is to teach you some good habits that if practised enough become automatic, just the same way as you would drive your car. Once you have been driving for a while you do not consciously have to think about every gear change or every adjustment of the steering wheel.
To achieve the aim, we need to understand the following:
- The importance of a confident horse
- The importance of responsive yields on a confident horse
- The importance of accurate patterns with responsive yields on a confident horse
This is a simple formula that, once understood, can help you attain your goals with your horse. Successful use of the model requires us to have a clear understanding of the above statements.
The confident horse has a certain look about it. Usually it will look relaxed. If at a halt it may cock a leg, have soft look about its eyes; its head will probably be not too much higher than its withers. Most of you will already know this look very well and you will also recognise that an unconfident horse will probably show the opposite of these postures.
The responsive yield can be defined as when your horse confidently moves away from a feel applied to it - either by a rein, leg or some other tool that you may use to apply the cue - in soft relaxed manner. That was a very short definition for a term that is often misunderstood, even amongst people who have been practising Natural Horsemanship for a number of years.
Imagine you are with someone you really trust and are really relaxed with; it is someone you would be happy to help and would be honoured if there was something that you could do for them. How much effort would they need to use to ask you to do something for them? Would you get irritated and defensive if they asked something of you? Would your body tense up and brace against the thought of some pressure that was being applied to you (whether mental or physical)? I think you would be happy to help and it would take only a suggestion from someone like this and you would respond without any tension or resistance. This is how I feel a horse needs to respond before we could class the response as a yield. I think it would take a whole book to really cover this one subject but I hope this is a good enough explanation for now.
An accurate pattern could be anything from a circle, figure eight, serpentine, or cloverleaf right up to a reining pattern or a dressage test as long as it is done with responsive yields on a confident horse. The main thing here is that your horse puts his feet exactly where you want them as accurately as you can place your own feet.