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Methods of Training Horses & Mindfulness

Methods of Training Horses & Mindfulness

  when working to improve or assist them (or yourself).

Most of us have heard about the following training methods or techniques: Parelli, Natural Horsemanship, Reiki, Tellington Touch, Clicker Training. More recently we have other techniques or therapies which often aid training too: Mindfulness with Animals,  Equine Assisted therapy, Equine Assisted Meditation.  Others talk of a holistic approach to treating a horse or a problem whether it be a physical, mental, behavioural problem or general wellbeing.

The above are some of the many names and terms used today for training methods / techniques. Some of these methods/techniques have been created by people assisting with problem or difficult horses – or to aid people with personal issues or problems of their own.

Words such as ‘facilitated’ ‘holistic’ or ‘mindfulness’ can be a bit obscure sometimes. Perhaps an explanation will enable a fuller understanding of some of these methods.

  • Mindfulness – Means; paying attention and being aware – but specifically being purposefully aware and being aware of what is happening in your immediate vicinity and to you personally and to your body right now. Awareness of your breathing and your body working inside you.
  • Facilitate – Means; to make an action easier.
  • A Facilitator therefore, is the person/animal/thing that makes an action easier.
  • Holistic means that the parts of a person or animal are all connected and to treat one aspect alone is not enough to cure or help. You have to look at what is happening with the whole horse or person to make a difference.

Here at Lingfield Equine Distance Learning courses we offer a holistic approach to caring for horses – and throughout our courses we suggest that people think about what they are doing – i.e. are mindful or use mindfulness.

Caring for horses well is a huge part of their training and not everyone considers the training to be training them to work for us – but we are ‘training’ them to live as domesticated animals.  Whether that domestication is living out as a herd or living in the way many of us want to keep them – which is usually partly stabled and partnered with us as a ridden horse.

Only if they are well cared for and their well-being considered at every point can you hope to keep your horse well and work well with yours, or anyone’s horse.

More and more people are advertising their ideas and using various different  ‘methods’ or techniques to train or work with horses. Some of these methods are not necessarily equine specific and neither are they specific names of methods / techniques for ‘training’ or working with horses.  The methods and techniques may be used as life skills which assist in overcoming personal difficulties or just to help you have a happier life or a happier relationship with your animal.

There are an extraordinary amount of people involved in the equine industry who are working with various aspects of equine training and or care. These range from instructors, coaches and trainers, to psychologists and therapists. There are others who aim to assist, instruct and enlighten others in the way they care for and about the horses in their lives.

Many offer training, workshops, courses etc., in their own particular ‘method’.  Some are purely in business to make money out of horse owners or people with problems, whilst others genuinely care about horses.

It is surely important to all of us who care about horses, to search out and find out about how these different people work and how they are attempting to help us and the horses of this world. Should you do a search on the internet for horse training techniques you will find that many websites bear the name of those who have made a business out of working with horses.  Look further and you will find that they may, or may not, be using a specific technique or method. They may be using elements of all of them or, their own ‘method’ with the exclusion of all others.

Apart from those ‘methods’ or ‘techniques’ already mentioned, Equine Meditation / Equine Guided Meditation and Equine Assisted Therapy, Mindfulness Meditation and Mindfulness with Horses and other animals are amongst other terms heard today.

These are not as a rule regarded as horse training methods, but lean more towards therapies involving horses & humans to assist in relaxing or rejuvenating people. In the case of Equine Assisted Therapy for instance, it is often used for rehabilitating either mentally or physically ill (or both) people who have social, mental or physical problems.  Some, such as Mindfulness with Animals come under the umbrellas of both training and therapy because they help animals with problems as well as assisting the humans working with them.

Although some people find a particular ‘method’ useful when they are training their horse, it is usually found that it is better to study or at least read about some of the various methods first.

However you train or work with an animal however, we all know that it is vital to be kind and consistent in your approach.

Having said all that, the following conclusion is invariably reached by those researching and looking for methods or techniques to help, train or work with horses:

It is usually useful to use individual elements from a mixture of the methods or techniques because each horse and each person is different.  Not only are they individuals all different, but each horse and human develops and changes as they mature so what works for you in your present situation or for a young horse, may not work in other situations or as the horse matures.

Together with the variations of human and animal we have to understand that each circumstance and indeed each section of a day with your horse – or a training day with your horse is different, so once again it is important to consider what element of a method or technique might work in that particular instance.

Frankly however, for those of us who love and are interested in equine behaviour & care, and are interested in how we can be affected by, or effective at working with horses, it is an area of horse training and well-being which can be a mind bending research project.

There are of course some who do not actually use a ‘method’ as such, but are real and very experienced thinking horsemen and women who genuinely care about horses and are working with difficult equines with good results. We have to remember that the difficult equines are difficult because of their life experiences not just because they are difficult beings – such people are.  Michael Peace    and   Ben Hart    and with a Holistic approach to riders in general there is the group made up of  Lisa Venables, Patrick Print and Richard Dunwoody.  When it comes to helping the horses mind we look at the vital work out in the field being undertaken by Jacqui Howe.

In no particular order, we briefly list some of the methods / techniques / therapies.

Mindfulness with Animals has various trained practitioners around the country – but few who have undergone specific training to top level.   This is a form of ‘meditation’ with horses as facilitators which often induces the horse to come and lie flat out & sleep on the ground next to you. During the sleep period they are able to release themselves of emotional pain and stress. Many problem horses and other animals have been helped via this route. This is an extraordinary and beneficial way of working with horses which benefits the human as much as the horse. There are courses, workshops and retreats run by various people such as

Parelli is one method of horse training which is often in the news and not always for the best of reasons. There is plenty of information out there on the internet about Parelli. This training method we believe is not as well used as previously.

Clicker training works well for some and is popular around the UK but has in more recent years found some negative criticism as have most methods.

Natural Horsemanship – a variety of people use this ‘term’, most notably the demonstrator Monty Roberts.  The training method he markets in the UK via Kelly Marks is called Intelligent Horsemanship.  Many use some of his techniques although there are now more than a few who question the validity of some elements of his method.

We should all however strive to keep our horses more naturally and use any form of more ‘natural horsemanship’ we can – i.e. natural horsemanship without capital letters !

Reiki is a method of healing – originally from Japan.  From the Oxford English Dictionary we have the following:  “A healing technique based on the principle that the therapist can channel energy into the patient by means of touch, to activate the natural healing processes of the patient’s body and restore physical and emotional well-being”.  It is however, also widely accepted that reiki can be given and received equally effectively hands-off or via distant healing.  The healer can ‘feel’ or ‘hear’ via mind or energy or thought, – perhaps via mindfulness, – any problems or issues with the human or animal they are working with and can use the reiki energy to aid natural healing processes.  Reiki is used by some practitioners alongside other techniques or methods. e.g. Rosie Withey

Tellington Touch – a method whereby exercises are suggested and the hand is used in specific ways and shapes on the horses body to aid healing and support training. Only a few however, have been trained fully to top level e.g. Sarah Fisher at Tilley Farm

There are also the alternative treatments and therapies which may be of interest to some.  Crystals and Radionics (via the Black Box) are 2 we could mention.

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