16 June 2021

Blog - Starting with natural horsemanship: what do you need?

A lot of people who do Natural Horsemanship, you see with other gear than you are used to. A thicker, longer rope, a crazy stick and a rope halter... Why is that? And what stuff do you need to start with Natural Horsemanship? This blog explains a lot about it.

In short: what is Natural Horsemanship?
A natural bond between human and horse, that is the literal translation of Natural Horsemanship. A kind of partnership for life, where communication between you and your horse is central. There are different techniques and theories among the practitioners of Natural Horsemanship, but the starting point remains the same: a training method based on the natural body language of the horse.

Ground work
Many people who do Natural Horsemanship focus on ground work. Ground work is not only fun to do with your horse as a change from riding. It is also a very useful way to train your horse and improve his posture without the extra ballast of a rider. There are a lot of materials for ground work, some of which you see passing by most often: a rope halter, loose rope and a contact stick.

Most ground work methods use lead halters. Because the rope is a lot thinner than a normal halter, the aids arrive more directly and precisely. That is why they are ideal to teach your horse to react to small aids.

In Natural Horsemanship a long rope is used. This allows you to give aids to your horse both near and further away. You can also use the end of the rope to herd your horse. A special lead rope is used for this. This rope is a bit heavier than a normal lunging line, which allows you to give more precise aids, making you clearer for your horse.

With a rope halter and a lead rope you're already a long way. Horses are long animals with a long body, but we only have short arms. A contact stick is therefore used as an extension of your arm to give aids further on the body. The advantage of a contact stick over a whip is that it is not flexible. This allows you to apply pressure or stroke very precisely.

Now you know why this stuff is handy, but what do you do with it? On the internet you can find simple exercises to practice with, or even whole training packages. There are also instructors who teach ground work. They can guide you in this - for you new - way of training horses.

Riding bitless
Also curious about riding bitless? Then your horse will have to learn to listen to rein aids again. This of course feels very different for your horse than with bit. These aids are now given on the cheek, chin and/or nose instead of with a bit in the mouth.

A bitless bridle is available in different variants with different effects. But how do you know which one to choose? Bridles Sunna and Ceto can be used in three ways. So you can easily try out the different systems and see which one works best for your horse or pony. Take some time for this!

The sidepull variant comes closest to the operation of a bridle with bit. If you give an aid to the left rein, the horse will feel the same way as if the left bit ring is pulled. The jaw crossed and chin crossed variant work differently. Because the strings run under the jaw/chin, the horse experiences a pushing movement against its right jaw or chin when the left rein is pulled.

Closer to your horse

You can ride without a bit, but of course also without a saddle! The feeling of sitting on the bare back of a horse and feeling your horse move is fantastic, but not always comfortable. If you have a horse with a nice low withers and wide back you are lucky, but if you have a finely built horse, riding without saddle is no fun, especially in trot. A bareback pad is the solution then. This is a thick pad, often with a soft bottom and a stiffer top. You can attach a normal short girth to it. This way it's nice for your horse and you're comfortable and firm.