Natural vs Relationship Based Horsemanship

Finding “Natural Horsemanship” felt like the best thing I could do for myself and my horse,  back when I first became a horse owner in the early 1990s.

I studied at home and at clinics around the Eastern USA for 10 years and then changed my whole life to go away to horsemanship school for the entire year of 2005.  I learned to be safe and effective with horses but when I came home, I started to observe things in my herd that were contrary to my horsemanship education.

Little by little from then until now,  I discovered that the way of the herd is different than the way of the domestic horse in un-natural environments.  And, there is a way to literally be even more natural with horses than the world of Natural Horsemanship.

This whole idea of dominance and submission is not something that you find in the natural world or in congruent herds.  This is something we see in herds that are stressed in un-natural environments.

Now stay open-minded here.

I know you can find and see countless you-tube videos and gurus who will prove this theory. I’m sure you’ve seen it in your own pasture.  So have I.

However, upon further observation, when I see this dominance, it is demonstrated over limited resources.  Limited resources like:

  • The hay house
  • The hay net or pile
  • People, people with treats
  • The gate.  Because that usually means, horses are coming in to eat concentrates etc.

In the natural world,  there literally is no competition for limited resources.  The resources are unlimited.  Wild herds live on hundreds of thousands of acres of diverse landscape and resources.  No one is bringing out piles of hay, no one is bringing all the horses in at 3 PM for their evening meal.  No one is separating the horses.  (Let’s not get into the Bureau of Land Management here.)

The horses choose their herds.

  • If a horse doesn’t want to stay in its current herd, it will take much work on the part of the stallion to keep her.  She will leave and go with another herd.
  • If the horse is a colt, at a certain age, he will be sent out of his herd and need to find a bachelor herd of stallions in the same boat as him to become part of for safety, companionship and for simulating and working on strength and moves that will help him learn what he needs to learn to one day win over his own band of mares.
    When I say to win over, I don’t necessarily mean to compete with other males for the ladies, but also win over the mares hearts and loyalty.  When they win the mares hearts and desires, they stay together and aligned based on the want to, not by fence, force, showing them who’s boss, intimidation or bribery.

The whole idea of leadership is also taught like there is an absolute, all the time leader.  I disagree.
In the natural world, leadership is shared.  Here’s what I mean.  Again, stay open-minded here and give this some thought.
The leader is often the one with the most need.  For example, in the natural herd (Wild)  the one with the most need may be the nursing mare.  She needs the most to drink, for herself and her nursing foal so she may “lead” the herd to water,  more often.  It may occur like she’s the lead mare, however, I have observed my 30″ tall pony “lead” my herd out to the front lawn for lush grazing.  Perhaps being old, she has the biggest need for the lush grass because her teeth are old and don’t work as well as when she was young.   She has the most need.

So, my observations are that leadership is shared based on need. If, the herd is allowed to live as naturally as possible in captivity.  Living together outside 24/7 with food available at all times.  This lessens stress on the herd and allows for each individual to be known and their strengths to be discovered, naturally.

It’s based on these observations that I’ve learned we can be more herdlike which is ‘more natural than natural horsemanship’

If you want to discuss this further or learn more about consensual or shared because we care leadership, let’s get on the phone and talk about it! Book your call here.

Much 💞,
Yours Truly, In the Company of Horses,

MaryAnn Brewer
“Changing Lives, One Relationship at a Time”

Hugging Valentine.JPG


He lied his way into the arena….


It was a windy cloudy day in the 40’s when the men’s group arrived.  There were 8 of them hanging over the fence petting the horses before they signed their release forms.  When the paperwork was out of the way we had our intro conversation in the arena;  the wind was uncomfortable and one guy excused himself and said, ok, well thanks but I’m not really in this group and I should go wherever I’m suppose to go and besides, I’m really cold, I just wanted to pet a horse and now I’ve done that, so I should go.

We take the horses to an adult residential rehabilitation center for people in the early days of recovery from addiction to drugs or alcohol, so I say to the guy, you know, the thing about the weather is, it’s either cold, or windy or there are bugs, or then there are allergies, or it’s hot, if we are just going to work our recovery program when the weather is right, we are on a narrow road here.   He said, good point, how about I just stay here and see what I can learn.

We had our activity “steps one two and three” and when we were done, the guy comes over and makes a point of stopping us to say, I am so glad I stayed, I thought we were just going to pet the horses, I never imagined I was going to learn something valuable for my life!

The thing is, they “Want” to be together.

ImageWe can and should use this to our advantage!  


  [hawrs-muhn-ship]  Show IPA

1.  the art, ability, skill, or manner of a horseman.

It’s not just about riding, it’s about having an artists eye to see what’s so, the ability to know what to do with it, the skill to do it so it becomes your way of being.  
As noted in the picture above, one of the things there is to see, know and use is the fact that horses want to be together.  They will be happier moving away from home together and    giving their all to you at home.  And it is through being together that you can move apart from the herd.  
Here’s the other thing to see in the photo; Curiosity, notice how all the horses are curious about the photographer? It’s not feeding time, it’s natural curiosity, this is what, if cultivated, has our horses be interested in leaving the herd with us.   
These are things a horseman understands.  


I’m Afraid – Emotional Intelligence…

All living beings feel other living beings through relationship or Social Intelligence.  This starts in the brain and follows neural pathways and related systems to manifest outwardly.  Think of bees stinging repeatedly, they release  information to other bees through their endocrine system and so do you.  Before you know it, you have a big problem.  It works the same way with horses and dogs and yes people too. We are all wired to read each other.   It’s just that sometimes humans don’t recognize what’s happening as quickly as other living beings. This is because we rely so much on talking.

If you have spent any time with me and horses I’ll tell you, just be honest because there is no where to hide.  The reason for this is because in the hiding your blood pressure rises, heart rate increases, your breathing changes, all outward signs that something is wrong.    You can use this information to monitor what is happening to you thereby becoming smarter about what you are feeling (emotional intelligence.) When you add your new awareness to a mix of horses, rabbits or other people this becomes Social Intelligence.

Learning to be emotionally intelligent is something that is easily learned In the Company of Horses and Social Intelligence is clearly defined and learned in the herd.

In the Company of Horses


The herd in this photo has done all the work necessary to share food.  Emotionally  knowing what they want; Socially doing what it takes to share.  It does not always go this way.  Sometimes a horse will posture and push other horses away.  Sometimes a horse will physically bully  other horses and take the hay.  Sometimes a horse will stand to the side and watch the others eat but never do the work it takes to be able to share with the others.  It’s the honesty of asking for (through body language) what they want that has these three horses eating together.

Some self examination could reveal how you get what you want!


Being Serene


The  Group wanted to work on things in recovery that they knew they needed but didn’t know how to get or keep.  Serenity was only one of the three tools in recovery that they named and that is her laying in the leaves.  The moment they named her, she went directly over, pawed in the leaves and proceeded to have a nap, right there in the arena with the entire group of people watching.  

When they needed to use "Serenity" She was ready and available.

When they needed “Serenity” She was ready and available.

As soon as it was time to apply Serenity to their recovery journey in the exercise, she woke up, looked around, had a stretch and did exactly what they wanted.  She was a fine example for this group of women in how to use “serenity” in early recovery.