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Around the world there is a growing tide of humans in search of a new way of being with horses, one that is in tune with their needs and requirements as equines and which also contributes to their psychological and emotional well-being. No longer are these humans prepared to accept conventional horsemanship’s insistence on horse care and training regimes which are utterly opposed to the horse’s intrinsic nature as a fellow sentient and cognitive being, and a highly sensitive and sociable one at that. As far as possible these humans seek to keep their horses in conditions which are in line with their understanding of the nature of the horse.

Stables are abandoned in favour of keeping horses in herds with access to effective shelter against the elements, the metal studs masquerading as ‘shoes’ are pulled off to allow them to move barefoot as they were born, and bits, whips, spurs and other metal and leather restraints and instruments of coercion are left in the hands of trainers committed to coercive control or practitioners of the deviant sexual behaviour inspired by it. These developments are accompanied by talk of ‘natural horsemanship’, references to a ‘partnership’ between horse and human and even allusions to connection, choice and love.

Trimming Pip's hooves at liberty in the herd

Trimming Pip’s hooves at liberty in a herd of up to 40 horses

All of this is commendable and to be encouraged, if for no other reason than that they hold the promise of a more humane future for our horses. But how far do we dare to go? Taken to their logical extreme, these developments must inevitably give us cause to pose the question as to what type of relationship we seek to have with our horses.

They raise the question as to whether we are going to base the relationship between horses and humans on control or choice. Put another way, is this relationship to be based on control by the human for the human’s benefit or choice, that of the horse and that of the human for the horse? And if it is to be based on choice, does this then not imply a major challenge to the human? For if we abandon control for our benefit, both physical and mental, how are we to ensure that the horse makes choices which are not only conducive to their well-being but ours as well and that we do so too? Perhaps more to the point, is it possible to do so and, if it is, what does this require of the human?

At the risk of walking a plank into ridicule, I claim that it is. This I do, not on the basis of some pie-in-the-sky, air-fairy, New Age fantasy but rather actual achievements in my management of and interaction with horses, not to boast of them but to reveal just a little of what is possible if we rise to the challenge of choice.

(Taken from the second draft of the book, Being Humans for Horses.)


For examples of choice in action see:

Lessons Taught Me by My Horse, Lesson 4. Trust is the strongest bond between horse and human!

Equine Bodywork and the Challenge of Choice

Horse Training: Do We Not Hide Behind It?


Anaïs up close and personal - her idea, not mine

Anaïs up close and personal – her idea, not mine. No training or bribery involved!



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