Book Review | Video Review


Horse Follow Closely


By GaWaNi Pony Boy

Copyright 1998

ISBN 1-889540-22-6

Publisher, BowTie Press

Hardback, 135 pages, Approx. $40

December, 1998 - Horse, Follow Closely was awarded The Athena Award-Publisher's Choice

Whether you are a horse owner or just an admirer, this beautifully written and illustrated book will inspire you and help you learn how to really relate to horses. Rider, listen closely. And observe. That is how the Native Americans became the riders and horsemen that they were - and they still are today, at least in the case of GaWaNi Pony Boy. Pony, as he likes to be called, the book's author, is a true horseman as well as a teacher of horses and people alike. Through his well-known demonstrations, Relationship Gatherings, and his books, he has spread much needed and appreciated knowledge of how to become one with the horse.

This delightful, insightful book includes horsemanship techniques and tips that have been handed down through generations by the Native Americans from a time when horses and warriors needed to think as one and act as one to survive. Not only was survival alone tough, but a warrior had to survive battle as well. Horses, used for hunting and battle, were captured wild and trained by their warrior-owners to be of service to them in many ways. Unfenced, the horses were allowed to roam free to graze, yet they remained with their people.

The Native American Indian way of life embraces nature; its beauty and simplicity are inspiring. The animals, plants and trees are family and the Native Americans showed respect for them in every way; they thanked and prayed for their catch and for the plants and trees that provided food and necessities. The author takes the reader back into that time and gives one the feeling of being there, observing the Native Americans. One gets a sense of what it was like to be a Native American in that time, and to be one with the horse.

Pony explains how the Native Americans believed the relationship with their war pony was the most important relationship, because they knew their survival and success depended on the relationship they built with their horses. Extremely dedicated to working on this relationship, the warriors spent countless hours and entire days with their horses. Their war pony was their companion, best friend, soul mate, and teacher, and held equal status with a brother warrior.

This text awakens the reader to how, in contrast, our horses are viewed today when owners say, "Come and fix my horse."  Pony tells us we have problems in our relationships with our horses because we don't accept the fact that "a horse is a horse"; if we could understand what it means to be a horse, react like a horse, and relate to other things and beings like a horse does, then we could have a more productive relationship with a horse. Native Americans knew this and understood this; they understood the deeper significance of things, and knew they must communicate with horses on horse terms, according to the nature of the horse. They observed the horse and learned this. One's status as itancan, the leader, is important to give the horse a reason to feel secure. The human needs to fill the role as leader or the horse will become the leader, and the human needs to know what to do when the horse tests his leadership. The human must be able to be the leader, the way another horse would be the leader in the horse's relationships with others in the herd.

Horse, Follow Closely is composed of three chapters. In chapter 1, Hunkapi: I Am Related to Everyone, Pony explains and illustrates the Native American way of thinking, or way of life. If we are to understand our relationship with the horse, we must first understand the relationship we have with the entire animal kingdom, because as humans, we directly and indirectly affect all other species on the planet. Our actions affect all living things, and the Native Americans of long ago understood the human's responsibility to the natural world; they believed that all species are related. They viewed animals as teachers and from them they gained knowledge and insight about seasons and migrations, plants that are edible and plants that are poisonous, and other natural things. Pony explains about natural trust and the horse's relationships with other horses, and with humans. Leaders and followers naturally exist in the herd and the human can become a leader by earning respect and developing rapport with a horse. When we consider the horse as a guide, messenger or teacher rather than a student, we can realize that the horse already knows what he can do and that we don't teach him those things; we merely learn from him how to communicate with him and the horse teaches the human how to request things. Through successful communication, a horse and rider can do anything; they become one.

In chapter 2, The Basis for Relationship Training, Pony explains that a horse is a horse, and therefore herd behavior is what a horse understands. Relationship Training is not the horse teaching the rider or the rider teaching the horse; rather, it is creating the right environment in which two beings can understand each other. Being one with one's horse requires open, two-way communication between horse and rider. This can be accomplished easily, but not necessarily quickly, so time is the most critical tool. Pony explains how the Native Americans accomplished this open communication: why time is so important, how to verbally, physically, and focally communicate with the horse, how to appropriately use tools, and how and why to ride bareback. All of this allows for harmony within the two-member herd of horse and rider. 

In chapter 3, Exercises for Relationship Training, Pony breaks things down into numerous fun and rewarding exercises that help one build a stronger relationship with the horse. This is the practical portion of the book. Included in the exercises are "Spend a Day with Your Horse", "Using Focus in the Saddle", "Come, Follow Closely", and others on communication, tools, cues, mounting, falling off, jumping, obstacles, and night riding.

Beautiful photography by Gabrielle Boiselle graces this book from cover to cover; horse and rider are captured in a variety of fabulous natural settings. Many Native American quotes and stories impart wisdom and insight while various Native American terms, for which Pony provides pronunciations as well as meanings, are interspersed throughout the text. Horse, Follow Closely is a very readable, easily understood book with a practical approach, which will be of great value to any dedicated horseman. 

This beautifully written and illustrated work instills respect for the elders and ancestors who not only lived through many wars and much bloodshed to preserve their heritage, but who did not waver on their beliefs and their respect for nature. This book is not only a precious gift to horsemen; it is a precious gift to all mankind. If you are a lover of horses or simply a lover of nature, you will adore this book.


Video Views

Motivate Your Horse

By Ellen Ofstad Warren

Copyright 1999, Susanne Elfstrom and Ellen Ofstad Warren

60 minutes; Approx. $30

If you ever thought that rewarding a horse is unnecessary, or that rewarding with treats is a bad idea, you can think again. And punishment? It's non-existent in the approach taken by international trainer Ellen Ofstad Warren. Though Ellen explains that the use of food is not really necessary in training, she finds it works well. Food as a reward, when properly used, is a great incentive for the horse to follow your lead. Horses want to cooperate when there is reward.

Ellen has produced an excellent video that lets the viewer sit and watch with nary a grimace or twinge of discomfort. Everything she portrays is goodness, gentleness, and ease, with no force or fear, yet the horses, even in their herd situation and at liberty, remain focused on her as the leader and are ever willing to do as she requests. In the place of roughness or harshness, there is consistency, and in the place of fearful obedience is willingness. Ellen accomplishes more than one can imagine by her methods. By using a reward system, or positive reinforcement, the horse is motivated to respond to new cues and remains very interested in the learning process.

Not only can Ellen train horses this way, she also teaches owners to train their horses this way. She shows how to interpret and utilize the horse's natural ways of communication, because when the horse's nature is taken into consideration, one can readily develop a better relationship with the horse.

Ellen demonstrates a refreshing way to achieve what we want from our horses - responsiveness, respect, agility, and even collection. She demonstrates how she starts with collection on the ground before mounting so the horse can develop collection before carrying a rider.

In Motivate Your Horse, Ellen portrays the kind of relationship every rider wants with his horse. She demonstrates how one can learn to ride his horse bareback, halterless and bridleless with ease, control, and willing cooperation. By presenting things to the horse in a way he can understand them, one gains the horse's respect and trust easily, with amazingly positive results. This video is a must-see.