Tuesday, February 8, 2011

OMG Moment!

I didn't plan on blogging today because I haven't finished Day #2 Video or Part II on Thoughts on Natural Horsemanship, but I sat down and started to read, Horses Never Lie, by Mark Rashid, and I had an OMG moment, and I'm not even past the introduction.

He says, in speaking about his philosophy of managing a 72 horse herd that learned to trust and willingly follow them and others they brought to their ranch--that they decided to mimic a certain "lead" horse in the herd:

"The horse that we chose to mimic was not the 'alpha,' or dominant horse in the herd, as many folks might suspect. The horse we tried to be most like was a horse with a completely different temperament and role within the herd--a horse that leads by example, not force. A horse that is extremely dependable and confident, one that the vast majority of horses will not only willingly choose to follow, but that they actually seek out."

Um, could that horse be RED?!?

(Red is behind Cowgirl giving the neighbor girl a ride--she was a green rider then.)

Watching Red is what changed my mind on what horsemanship should look like--and apparently, I'm not alone.

I've written about Red many times on this blog, and I've always said he has been worth his weight in gold. He's the go-to-guy for new riders, he mentors our young ones, he keeps the peace and teaches them the way.

So many times I've told my husband, even if he were too old to give anyone a ride, he's our most valueable horse because of what he teaches our young horses.

Turns out, he's priceless, too, for what he teaches us.

The qualities of a "passive leader" (and I almost wish there was a different term for this because it does, as he points out, make people think of a person who doesn't stand up for themselves), but the qualities are:

"Quiet confidence, dependability, consistency, and a willingness not to use force."

He ends the intro with these words:

"...this book is really all about--attitude. A good friend once told me that she felt that working with horses is like being on a long trip. It's a journey with no destination--an unending process--and everything that is important is 'as you go,' not when you 'get there.'"

You know what I'll be doing tonight....



  1. I thought of that book when you were writing but I just assumed you had read it as well. That's great that you came up with the same idea by watching your herd.

  2. Well, you know, a friend of mine--another horsewoman--gave me these books about eight years ago--Considering the Horse and Horses Never Lie. I flipped through them at the time--cherry-picking it (mostly Considering the Horse) for problems I was facing with my horses, but it didn't make an impact on me and I put them aside...until today.

    I must say, I'm a different horse person than I was when she gave me these books. I hadn't lived with my horses yet--I was in the process. Living with them and constantly watching them has drastically changed my impressions. If I had heard or read this before, I probably would not have "gotten" it--and I definitely would have turned off the brain as soon as I heard "passive" leadership". I was much more into "force"--not cruel force--but subtle force. I'm going to have to write more about this because I have a lot to say about the difference--and it's very hard to explain in a comment section.

  3. I like your posts very much lately. And I like your reference - maybe in the previous post - about a "universalist" type approach. I agree! I've learned so much from different horses throughout my life, and now the wild ones, and I love seeing how they behave and conduct themselves. And I'll agree a thousand times over that horses like Red are worth their weight in gold!

  4. I did think of that book when reading your earlier post and should have left a comment! Your Red sounds like one of those very special horses. I think my Pie may turn out to be like him. That idea of the quiet, calm, effective leader was a real turning point for me.

    You may know that I've ridden a number of times with Mark Rashid, including two week-long clinics in Colorado. In fact I'm taking two horses to a 3-day one-on-one clinic he's doing in Wisconsin in May. He's an outstanding horseman, and although his books aren't really about how to train, they're really good. I'd also recommend Tom Moates's and Tom Widdicombe's books - if you search on books on my blog you'll find my reviews of those books and one other book of Mark's.

  5. You've got a real gem there in Red. There are so many life parallels in your horse posts ... Red's qualities would make for a really effective leader in people, too.

  6. TJ--You are the ultimate herd observer! You and I really do the same thing, but you're out in the wild and I'm here in my comfy seat with coffee. ;)

  7. Kate--I'm going to be very, very interested to read your experience taking two horses to the one-on-one. From everything you describe, I absolutely think Pie is one of those horses, and you were lucky enough to find him while he's still young. My friends and I always say that we're looking for a young "Red"--which is, basically, a Pie--but they are few and far, far between.

  8. Joanne--Absolutely, but just as in horses, these people are rare. My question now is, can we train ourselves to be that kind of leader if we weren't born with it naturally? I hope yes.

  9. Reading this post reminds me of the one on natural horsemanship and the implied question, what is it? For me, it is really what you're talking about here, learning from the horses how to deal with them.

    I have not read Mark Rashid but have seen/heard him at expos. Sounds like an interesting book.

    As for "training" ourselves to be that kind of leader, I don't know if that is the right word when one of the components is confidence. I believe it is the confidence of that horse that draws the others and that confidence is reflected in all the mannerisms of that horse. The individual behaviors of the horse are not nearly as important in the scheme of wanting to lead in that manner as the confidence itself.

    We all know those people who can do most anything with a horse. They just expect things are going to go smoothly and most times they do because the horses feed on that confidence and trust because of it.

    Love this topic and the discussion it brings.

  10. What did I tell you?!! It was really quite a moment for me when I heard you describe Red in your last post - I immediately thought of Mark!

    And yes, I do think that with practice, we can get better at this.

  11. Mikael, I'm beginning to think the same thing--that these are all part of good "natural" horsemanship. Learning lessons from the horse, how to communicate with the horse in a way it understands. Rashid spends a lot of time in this book talking about what is natural for a horse and what a horse is thinking and why it is acting a certain way.

    I think you're right about the confidence being key--a real confidence rather than bravado. He actually talks about that, too, in this book. The "Old Man" he learned from, expected the horse to succeed rather than fail--and all his energy went toward that belief which allowed him to get immediate results. I have to say, I have OFTEN undersold my animals--thinking they were limited in what they could accomplish. I watched Red yesterday with BG and there was a wide open gate and horses on the other side and she wanted to go through the gate, but he stood about 70 feet away and somehow told her "NO." She stood in front of the gate and DID NOT go through. If Red can keep her from going through that gate at 70' feet away--that horse is much smarter than I thought!!!

  12. Laura--You definitely called it yesterday and I'm glad I gave these books a second look. I'm in a better position now to understand what he's talking about. I mean, if you haven't ever seen "this" horse in the herd--how would you really understand?


Please feel welcome to join our discussion by telling us about your own thoughts and experiences.