(last edited 3/05)

NATURAL HORSEMANSHIP?



Some people call this method of riding "natural horsemanship" because you work with the horse in a natural way, not depending on mechanical devices. Others call it unnatural horsemanship, because it is not the human's natural inclination to treat the horse with respect and allow it to make choices.

Both are true, and so there is a built-in tension in the human seeking to use this method. Part of him wants to force the horse to obey, with no regard for the horse's feelings, just because he can, and because it is quicker and easier than learning to be a skilled horseman. Another part of him desires to follow a higher path, one that requires more of the human: patience, understanding, discipline, empathy, kindness. These qualities do not always come naturally to humans. But they bring about much better results with a horse.

Perhaps a rider has never thought of such an approach, but one day sees it demonstrated by someone else. He is attracted by the ease with which that person handles the horse, and by the horse's calm, relaxed attitude. As he sees the principles demonstrated and explained, it seems so obvious, and so logical, he wonders why he never thought of it before. A hunger to have this same experience drives him to learn how to apply these principles himself.

Another rider may also be exposed to this way, with a completely different reaction. He may wonder why anyone would want to treat a horse like it had feelings? He does not like the feel of riding such a light, yielding horse, because it overreacts to his yanking and kicking. He has no desire to change his heavy-handed, overbearing ways, and sees nothing wrong with them. He is comfortable with the idea of forcing the horse to do what he wants.

Even in trying to correctly apply the principles of horsemanship, the human often slips back into the old ways of forcing the horse. He becomes impatient and angry with the horse, and lapses into the use of force and fear. He misunderstands the horse's actions and falsely attributes to the horse a human motive, such as spite. It is not easy to always do the right thing, because it is not human nature.

Man in his natural state, or the old nature, does not do God's bidding. When presented with God's way, the true way, some find that their eyes are opened to something they had never seen before, and desire to experience it for themselves. They have a hunger for truth.

Others may see and hear, but nothing clicks. God's way is foreign, even repulsive. It is a crutch. It is for weaklings. Sin is too fun, or has them too enslaved. Their hearts are still hard; the soil needs cultivated before the seed can take root.

We do not just naturally go God's way; we will always struggle with mixed motives. The new nature desires the things of God, but the old nature is still with us until we die. When we let our attention drift, it is easy to slip back into the old ways.

Romans 7:21 I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wishes to do good.

Just as we are attracted to the higher path of unity between horse and rider, let us continually apply ourselves to the true way--unity with the Master Horseman.

Copyright 1998 Jan Young

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