The three words that generate a lot of discussion in the field of natural horsemanship. What do they mean? What are the differences? Can you have one without the others?
In the herd the leader is most often an old and weathered mare. It is not, as some think, the most aggressive stud. There are very good reasons for this and it has to do with gender and nature. I have experienced this first hand in a field with 25 horses. When I was approached by one of the geldings a very small mare came between me and the gelding and quite forcefully shouldered me away. She had identified herself as the herd leader.
There is an order in the herd and each horse has its place in that order. The dominance in a herd is established by the ability of one horse to control the movement of another. The horse that can cause another horse to move or not to move is the dominant horse. If you go in your paddock and your horse crowds in on you and makes you move or if the horse cuts you off and stops you from moving then the horse has established his dominance over you , in his mind.
Dominance can also be established by force. And this is sometimes called “traditional” training. In this method the horse is forced to submit to the will of the human. In effect the spirit of the horse is broken. Hence, the term “breaking” a horse. In the not too distant past the force used was so extreme that 1 in 3 horses died in the process of “breaking”.
In “natural” horse training the methods are based on the natural behaviour of the horse and are used to establish dominance and leadership with the horse. The methods rely on the ability to control the movement of the horse. These methods do not rely on force. They rely on an understanding of the behaviour of the horse, its perceptivity, its ability to learn very rapidly, and its natural need for leadership.
Leadership is based on trust, respect and confidence. The use of force destroys trust, respect, and confidence.
In a partnership with horses there must be senior and junior partners. You must be the senior partner. From time to time the junior partner will test your leadership. Do not be offended or angry. This is a natural part of horse behaviour. Just re-establish your control of movement and the order is restored without force or fight.
Remember partners help each other out.