From the Editor

Natural Competitions

There is talk of a new kind of horse competition, where you compete to show your and your horse's best side regarding your abilities, talents and skills in horsemanship - natural horsemanship. All the typical classes and disciplines could be included.

Horses have plenty of natural talent and ability, and when coupled with a person who puts the importance of a working partnership in front of external gloss there can be nothing less than a fabulous performance. To take the time and put forth the effort needed to excel at partnership requires a lot more from a person than just getting results. You may get the horse from one side of the jump to the other, or around the ring on the correct lead (or the horse may get YOU from one side of the jump to the other, or get you around the ring on the correct lead) but it doesn't necessarily mean the horse is with you on it. The skill of the rider in getting the horse to do what is requested is what judges look for, but they look right through a lot of unnatural equipment, restraining tack, and even cruel 'training' aids. Take away all of these restraints, and what is left? The truth. Very few of these blue ribbon winners could perform without all these crutches.

What else do competitions reward for? Rarely for what is good or natural for the horse. Think about some of the things judges pin for:
Grooming (removal of wanted and needed body hair including fetlocks, manes, eyebrows, whiskers, tails…)
Flash (black-coated horses are kept out of the healthy sunshine so their coats don't lighten, harsh bleaches are used to whiten coats and socks, winter coats are shortened to look like summer coats, hooves are subjected to unnatural shaping, shoes, unfriendly paints, glosses and polymers)
Extreme action or characteristics (exaggerated postures; gaited horses' high, exaggerated action, often from irritating 'training' tactics when it could be there naturally; breeding for a specific conformation)
Accomplishing a given task within a given time regardless of how it is accomplished

It seems that today's shows put the emphasis on the horse and what he does being 'pleasing to the eye', not necessarily on showing off the horse's best abilities, natural looks, and the person's horsemanship. This has led to classes being judged for what is trendy and 'looks' good or different - almost like a fashion show. Subsequently show goers have little choice but to impose upon the horse these human preferences, whether it is detrimental to the horse or not.

Instead, why not build relationships with horses and teach them through natural communication and humane ways, instead of 'training' them for only specific responses? Why not work on a language with the horse instead of using restricting or painful tack? If class rules were changed to prohibit the use of martingales/ tie-downs, nosebands to close the mouth, bits, and bridles, those who show would be the REAL horsefolk - the ones who learned to have a language with their horses.

Also, why not let the horse keep his hair? Why subject him to questionable glosses when a healthy coat has a real shine? Why use restricting shoes, 'support' wraps, and bell boots when shoes restrict hoof mechanism, create more concussion and tendon stress, and cause greater injury risk? Why worry about the color of a coat lightening when this is a natural occurrence (or if it is from lack of nutrition, why not correct the nutrient balance)? Isn't a natural, healthy, exuberant horse beautiful? Why even worry about superficial looks when a true partnership is real beauty? It IS possible to accomplish this partnership and perform the usual disciplines bridle-less, as has been proven by the Parelli's and their students, by Robin Brueckmann, Leon Harrel, Jan Snodgrass, and many others. You can do it too. I am working on it myself.

If you are interested in natural competitions, you can contact our office, or the offices at the Parelli's International Study Center in Pagosa Springs, 800-642-3335 or visit