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Natural horsemanship, or horse whispering, is a form of psychological animal abuse perpetrated by the lazy and woo-susceptible. It involves using neurolinguistic programming-like models and techniques to work supposed horse cognitive biases to train the horse — rather than those tired old classical techniques accumulated over thousands of years of horse domestication and selective breeding, because those are too much like work.
Like NLP, natural horsemanship "works" insofar as having a theory, even an erroneous one, makes you more confident, and thus the horse is more likely to obey you (after five thousand years' selective breeding to obey humans). The theoretical model is complete bollocks — and often different bollocks for each school of natural horsemanship — with an admixture of renamed classical techniques.
Experienced riders not only hate these "natural horsemanship" bozos for their fiddling and woo, they note that almost without exception they can't fucking ride. The stereotypical Parelli victim is a middle-aged woman with money who was horse-mad as a girl but got bad or no training; now having money, she buys a young athletic status-symbol horse (rather than something older, experienced and appropriate) and is easily conned into feeding the Parelli gravy train. The horse meanwhile learns terrible work habits, almost never actually gets ridden and becomes almost unfit for anyone to ride, which can lead to tragedy should the owner's fortunes change.
Schools of natural horsemanship proliferate, all with different theories and all claiming to be the real thing.
- Monty Roberts. The film The Horse Whisperer was based on his autobiography, The Man Who Listens to Horses. The source of the disease as we know it.
- Pat Parelli of Parelli Natural Horse Training. Has a pyramid scheme of levels and also renames all the riding tack and sells his branded versions at twice the price. Parelli also claim that if you learn their techniques, you won't need a helmet (as if horses did not evolve as skittish prey animals and never get spooked), though have slightly moderated this claim after strong "wtf" from the horse world.
- Kelly Marks, Intelligent Horsemanship (UK) — given the British horse world's sociability and fondness for dressage and gymkhanas, there's less tolerance of this rubbish, but Ms Marks has found a niche anyway. Follower of Monty Roberts. Sells similar training pyramid scheme.