Relationship Riding!

Featuring GaWaNi Pony Boy

Do you truly enjoy riding your horse? Do you ever ride bareback? Do you know who your horse is? Do you spend quality time with your horse? Do you feel the two of you have a relationship of trust, harmony and respect? Are you and your horse in harmony? Have you become one with your horse?

If the answer to any of these is 'no', then you'll enjoy and benefit from reading the book, Horse Follow Closely, and by reading the following answers from GaWaNi Pony Boy. In these answers to our questions he shares with us the wisdom of his Relationship TrainingT, and Native American HorsemanshipT, which was handed down through generations of Native Americans, whose lives depended on their relationships with their horses.

Q: What is Relationship TrainingT?

A: A training method based on the ways of the Native American Horseman involving two premises: 1. It is more productive to focus on the relationship between horse and rider than it to focus on the results that you hope to achieve. 2. It is more productive to utilize only those types of relationships that horses naturally understand.

Q: What is Native American HorsemanshipT?

A: Native American HorsemanshipT is a title for the skills, beliefs, and practices utilized by the indigenous peoples of North America.

Q: Why is spending a day with suktanka (the horse) so valuable in the horse-human relationship?

A: There are thousands of books written about "what" the horse is. There are no books written about "WHO" your horse is. It is only through passive observation of your horse in its natural or normal environment that you can learn who our horse is.

Q: How can the human naturally become itancan (the leader) so that the horse will become waunca (the follower)?

A: Although there are specific exercises used to establish your herd status, the most important question to remember is "how do horses establish herd status?" Horses establish themselves as leaders of the herd by performing the same exercises that we humans attempt in the round pen. Movement, change of direction, and inside and outside turns are round pen exercises that mimic natural horse behaviors. The training area does not have to be round but an understanding of the exercises is imperative. We do these things because horses do them to each other.

Q: How can riding bareback benefit a rider and his horse?

A: I would suggest that every rider train bareback for at least 30 days. Any saddle separates the rider from the horse to some degree and disallows the understanding of the horse's biomechanics. If a rider has never ridden balanced while bareback, that rider has never ridden balanced. I have often been asked if riding bareback hurts the horse's back. If done properly, riding bareback does not hurt the horse's back. If done improperly, the horse's back is not a concern because the rider will not remain there long.

Q: How can one mount the horse without a mounting block?

A: I would never suggest that someone mount bareback without a mounting block. In my book, Horse, Follow Closely I explain that if you intend to mount bareback or otherwise, make sure that you are able to do so in one fluid movement. If there is a pause in the mounting procedure, there is an opportunity for the horse to move which could result in an injury.

Q: What are focal messages?

A: Focal messages are signals that are inadvertently or intentionally sent from rider to horse. Because our body language and position are determined by what we are focusing on, and because horses can expertly read our body language, horses can easily understand what we are thinking about.

Q: What makes Relationship TrainingT so beneficial for both horse and rider?

A: When we devote our attentions to the relationship rather than the results that we hope to achieve, the results come easily. It's really a matter of priorities. Does a rider want to develop a relationship that can support all sorts of training exercises and experiences or does a rider want to achieve results to meet a short-term goal (show, contest, ribbon, etc.)

Whether you prefer simple pleasure riding or competitive sports, Relationship TrainingT can help you, the rider, to build a foundation for success with your horse. There are no quick fixes, but through dedication and commitment, anyone can develop a satisfying relationship with his horse using these methods. Now go pack a lunch and spend a day with your horse!

Notice to readers: GaWaNi Pony Boy is pictured riding without a helmet because he is depicting the attire worn by Native American Horsemen. He does, however, wear and recommend a helmet during his demonstrations when not in regalia.




GaWaNi Pony Boy, author of the best selling book Horse, Follow Closely, has taught tens of thousands of horse owners each year how to improve their relationships with their horses. This world-renowned animal behaviorist has created Relationship TrainingT, a training philosophy built on the premise that a strong working relationship must be established between horse and rider before lasting results can hope to be achieved. GaWaNi Pony Boy's private evaluations and gatherings attract thousands of participants each year in both the United States and abroad. Riders of all disciplines have benefited from using his common "horse" sense techniques and methods.

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