Training Philosopy

Herds of Hooves exclusively practices Progressive Horsemanship, a form of natural or "least resistance" horsemanship.

What is natural horsemanship?

The term "natural horsemanship" has become a catch-all term for methods of handling and training a horse that are more "horse-friendly" and focus on-- instead of forcing a horse into a desired behavior-- setting up an environment that encourages the horse to be a willing participant in the activity. Essentially, training, cues, situations, etc. are all presented from the horse's perspective in methods designed to more closely resemble how the horse would learn and interact in the herd. If a new behavior is desired out of the horse, pressure is introduced to the horse and then, once a response in the direction of the desired behavior is given, the pressure is released. This lets the horse know that the response was correct.

Along with pressure and release, body language-- often called the language of the horse-- is also an important part of interacting with equines. Awareness of one's own body language can have much impact on the success of one's training / handling / riding as confusion between the cue offered and the corresponding body language (cuing the horse to go forward while giving body language to go backward, for instance) can lead to frustration, resentment, and even-- apparently unfounded-- violence on the horse's part. Being able to read the horse's body language can deescalate dangerous situations before they happen and allow the horse to relax as it sees that it is being "heard."

The concept of "tries" goes right along with this. When a horse is learning a new behavior, it is important to reward any effort made in the direction of the new behavior (sort of like learning to crawl before you walk) and progressively ask for more and more until the desired behavior is reached.

Obviously, consistency on the part of the human is paramount here as the horse needs to be able to trust that EVERY time something occurs or is presented, the same thing will follow or is expected. Inconsistency can undermine the horse's training with lightning deftness, especially when the training is still new.

Essentially, natural horsemanship seeks to develop a relationship with a horse where the cues are light, the response is soft, there is a basis of mutual communication, and there is a foundation of trust and respect.

So, what is Progressive Horsemanship specifically?

Progressive Horsemanship is a form of natural horsemanship that, as the name implies, seeks to progress the horse's training through a series of foundational skills learned first on the ground, then applied to the saddle, and then progressively taught on more and more intricate levels. Not only is the concept of rewarding tries focused upon, but also of building a horse's confidence and understanding of what is required by teaching simple concepts first and then building upon them at the horse's pace to achieve progressively more complex maneuvers.

Extremely important in Progressive Horsemanship is achieving free forward movement in whatever is being asked and sensitivity or responsiveness to whatever "feel" (or cue through the rein, leadrope, or body language) is offered.

Understanding on the human's part of horse body language, herd dynamics, the natural pressure of angles, and appropriate and consistent boundaries is essential. For the human, the life skills learned through this method of training and riding are all-encompassing.

Herds of Hooves Training and Teaching Philosophy~ Life skills through horses

Practically speaking, Herds of Hooves emphasizes all aspects of horsemanship, including horse care, barn maintenance, ground handling, riding skills, horse training, safety, and so on. However, our philosophy goes further than that. Our purpose in teaching is

"building confidence and increasing knowledge through the human-horse relationship"

This statement is built on a few philosophies...

The first is that horses are wonderful reflectors; they are incapable of lying, so what they tell a person they see can typically be relied upon. Whether they feel scared, relaxed, able to dominate, or threatened by a person is an honest reflection of how that person comes across to the horse. Learning to see this can give great insight into how a person is interacting and coping in his or her daily life or within a group. With this concept in mind, we believe that many life skills can be taught through horses, including but not limited to empathy, positive forms of leadership, teamwork, dealing with frustration in acceptable ways, problem-solving, perseverance, and sensitivity to and acceptance of others. This is a wonderful aspect of horses for children, adults, groups learning to work together, and anyone else who is interested!

A practical aspect of our philosophy is that safety is imperative and that knowledge increases that safety. Even safe activities can be very unsafe in the hands of a novice and more dangerous activities can be relatively safe when done by someone who is well-versed in the activity. Therefore, we have a foundational method of teaching where skills are built one on top of the other and begin very basically only to progress to more complex. Learning begins on the ground and progresses to the saddle, starts at the walk and moves on to the faster gaits. Even experienced horse people will start with the basic to "cover our bases" so to speak and discuss any safety issues that may come up.

Throughout teaching and instruction, the concept of "real-world" horsemanship is emphasized. We are not a show barn or a jumping facility; we teach how approach uncertain scenarios with confidence. Many people know how to ride when all is well, but are at a loss when the horse says "no." We want to empower people to know what to do when things go wrong and how to stop bad situations before they start. Having a knowledge of horses' instinctive behaviors and of how the horse thinks, a working action plan, and confidence in one's ability to meet unexpected challenges can be defining factors in coming through scary situations unscathed.

English or Western is a type of saddle. Done correctly, the seat (how one sits on the horse) for each should be the same. Foundational skills to develop safety and confidence with the horse are the emphasis. Once these are mastered, personal learning tracts can easily be pursued. All of this is taught by teaching people to communicate with their horses in a more healthy manner while learning how to more effectively read their horses cues to them.

Let us help you meet your goals with horses, whether you are 3 or 93, would like to pet a horse without being nervous or want to succeed in the show ring. We would be happy to help with english classes on the flat, western horsemanship, trail, competitive trail riding, and colt / remedial training or behavior modification. Just go to our "education services" tab to find out more information.