What Is Natural Horsemanship? [audio]

The term “natural horsemanship” has been in use for a number of years in the horse industry, but what does it mean? What is “natural” about the way we humans work with horse? In today’s audio post I share my thoughts on these questions.


foals at playThe more we understand the horse for what it is–a prey animal with a keen survival instinct–and the more we understand how horses interact naturally, the better our relationship with the horse will be.

What do you think? What does “natural horsemanship” mean to you? Do you agree or disagree with the opinions I expressed in the audio lesson?

I’d love to hear your thoughts–please share in the comments below.


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Why Do Horses Buck? [audio]

ID 31902777 © Tommcginty | Dreamstime.com

ID 31902777 © Tommcginty | Dreamstime.com

People have differing opinions about whether rodeo is entertaining or . . . something else, but most of us–maybe other than professional rodeo competitors–would rather not try to ride a bucking horse.

This week’s audio lesson addresses a question I get often: why do horses buck? I believe there are two primary reasons, and understanding a horse’s instinctive reactions will help answer this question.

What do you think? Have you had an experience with a horse bucking, and how did you handle it?

As a reminder, we invite your questions about horsemanship-related issues. Leave a comment below, or email your questions to info@vanhargis.com, and I’ll try to answer them in future audio lessons.


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Transitioning from Rider to Passenger [audio]

RiderWhen you’re on your horse’s back, are you a rider or just a passenger? And what distinguishes a rider from a passenger? Listen to this week’s audio lesson for my thoughts on those questions.

What do you think? Did my explanation make sense? Where do you fit on that spectrum, and what can I do to help you on your horsemanship journey? Please leave your questions and comments below.

Looking forward to hearing from you.


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Home from the Rocky Mountain Horse Expo!

RMHE 2014 - 1This week’s audio lesson will be posted in the next day or two, but I wanted to take a moment to update you on our activities. We just returned from Denver, where we had a great time appearing at the Rocky Mountain Horse Expo. This event, put on by the Colorado Horse Council, was a jam-packed long weekend full of clinics, demos, and other learning experiences. While we were there I presented several sessions on Starting Your Horse on Cattle, Dealing with Obstacles and Spookiness, Ranch Roping, and Understanding Collection, Flexion, and Suppleness. I really enjoyed working with the riders who participated and interacting with the great crowds there.

RMHE 2014 - 2In addition, I helped judge a colt-starting competition in which eight trainers worked with eight untrained colts to get them gentled and introduced to the saddle. The competition culminated with each trainer taking his or her horse through an obstacle course. Quite a lot of fun for the audience, and I appreciated the chance to get to know the competitors a bit and to visit with the other judges.

RMHE 2014 - 3

There wasn’t a lot of free time, but I did take the opportunity to reconnect with some old friends who were also at the Expo, such as my good friends at the Ranch Sorting National Championships. We had a good time catching up on what’s happened in the past year.

My sincere thanks to Bill Scebbi and the event staff for all their help before and during the Expo. I wish I could share a photo of Bill and the other staff members, but every time we had a free moment to take a picture, they were busy taking care of business!

Thanks also to the fine folks at Clapsaddle Farms for providing Otis, the horse I rode during several of my sessions.

Finally, I can’t thank the Colorado Horse Council enough for welcoming me back for a second consecutive year, and for their hospitality while we were there in Denver. What a great job they did in pulling together this event, promoting good horsemanship in all its varieties. As I’ve said before, I have a huge amount of respect for the various state horse councils throughout the country and the work they do on behalf of horses and horsemanship, and the Colorado council is a fine example of commitment and dedication to that purpose.

If you were there, thank you for attending. I’d love to hear your impressions of the Expo. Share your thoughts in the comments below!


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Speed Your Horse Up in Reverse [audio]

Van on horseAwhile back, listener Kim Dove asked a question about how to get her horse to back up with better speed and rhythm. In this audio lesson I’ll talk a little about how I do that, and then share some thoughts for those of you who are just learning how to get your horse started backing up under saddle.

What do you think? Did these suggestions make sense to you? Please share your thoughts, and any questions, in the comments below.

I hope to hear from you.


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Setting Your Horse Up for Success [audio]

VanScan 2-19-2011 35How can you use your horse’s natural responses to make your cues more effective? Listen to this week’s short audio lesson for some tips.

What do you think? Did this help you? Did it raise any questions in your mind about the process of setting your horse up to be successful? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.


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The Horse is Always Right [audio]

Do you ever get frustrated with your horse’s behavior? Does it ever seem like your horse just can’t get it right (“it” being whatever you’re wanting the horse to do at the moment)?

VanScan 2-19-2011 20In today’s audio lesson I get a little philosophical as I share with you a lesson taught to me by one of my horsemanship heroes. I’d appreciate it if you’d take just a few minutes to listen here:

What do you think? Do you agree with Mr. Hunt? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

I look forward to hearing from you.


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Helping Your Horse Stand Quietly [audio]

Is your horse restless, prone to moving around when you want it to stand still under saddle?

VanScan 2-19-2011 33One of the questions I hear most frequently — during lessons at the ranch, at clinics and expos — is “How do I get my horse to stand still?” In today’s audio lesson I share how I train my horses to stand quietly.

Listen here:

Was this helpful? Please let me know in the comments. And if you have a training or horsemanship question that you’d like me to address in a future audio lesson, please share that below, or email me at info@vanhargis.com. If I pick your question, you just might hear your name mentioned in an upcoming audio lesson.

I look forward to hearing from you.


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A Better Way to Determine What Lead Your Horse is On [audio]

Forward Movement

When a horse is loping under saddle, it’s important for the rider to know if the horse is on the correct lead. I often see riders lean a bit to look down the horse’s shoulder to check the lead. That’s certainly one way to do it, but in my opinion it’s not the best or safest way. In this week’s brief audio lesson I explain why, and describe a better way. Click below to hear the audio.

What do you think? Are you a lean-and-look lead-checker, or have you tried the technique described in this week’s audio lesson? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.


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Riding the River [audio]

When I ride, I use the image of a river to help me envision how to direct the horse’s energy. Listen to today’s audio lesson for a description:

What do you think? Does this analogy help you think about how to guide your horse? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

In the meantime, merry Christmas and happy holidays from all of us at Van Hargis Horsemanship.


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