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Updated: Jan 2, 2023

I was talking with my farrier as he worked and the subject of what is natural came up. It is a word we use a lot around horses but what does it mean - really (yes, this is one of these random tangents my mind loves to dive into.)

There isn’t much about horses that is natural. We’ve been shaping them for thousands of years to suit our purposes - a lot like dogs. Their shape has been tweaked to please the human eye and serve human needs. We made them bigger with beautiful long necks and excessively long legs. So where does ‘natural’ come into play?

My conclusion was that natural is not necessarily what we would consider the consequences of living in Nature with its ruthless driving forces. I see it more as what is true for what the animal is as we know it, as the animal it has become.

For example: Horses communicate with each other mostly through movement and posture. To speak to them with words is not natural. It works, but it takes a little training. Using the right body language requires no training. It’s natural to the horse.

In the same way what is natural should be a consideration for the individual horse. If you have an anxious horse, for whatever reason it has for being that way, expecting it to be confident would go against its nature. It would be unnatural.

So then what of the hoof? I think this is where being a farrier is an art. You can’t just apply standards and methods. You have to be able to see what is inherent to this very foot. How it’s being used and where it lives. You then shape it accordingly with an eye to what it realistically can become, not an ideal that comes from a book.

Just like a farrier shaping a hoof, I think natural horsemanship isn’t a set of methods for how to get a horse to be a certain way, it is the ability to adapt yourself and be the influence the horse’s needs to become the horse it can become. This will require different approaches and different methods depending on the nature of the horse that you are working with. There is no ‘one way’ as there is no ‘one horse’. And maybe, just maybe, we could do this for each other

Thanks for coming to my TED Talk :)

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