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Pardon me for writing but I was rather upset with your comment to a question asked by a member on the net about old and new methods of horse training.

You mentioned it would be good to check out John Lyons and Steve Harris for methods that work, but said to be careful about "horse whispering" (why you put it in quotes I have no idea but it just looks like you figure you are quite an expert on that subject). I am a believer when it comes to horse whispering and the foundation of those two trainers you named, and all other humane trainers in the world came from the method of horse whispering.

Horse whispering is the root idea of all good, humane training techniques. It's just the idea of communicating using the horse's own language and behavior which is exactly what John and Steve do so be careful about what you tell your "inquirers" because your information can be false, and as well many other people access your site and read this, and I know many disagree with you. I would really appreciate it if you could explain yourself on why you think horse whispering is such a "bad thing" as you make it out to be.

Thanks for your time,

- A partly displeased cowgirl


Howdy, "Cowgirl"!

If you've read much of John Lyons' material, you'll know that we both share a concern over much of what is being passed off as "horse whispering." Unfortunately, the term is so often misinterpreted that it's probably best to just dump it. John gets especially uptight about the training approach portrayed in the film, "The Horse Whisperer." As John points out, if a novice used that film as a guide, he could get himself killed. The movie never mentions that something close to two dozen highly-trained horses were used in the filming.

It's fine to talk about communicating in a horse's natural body language -- often called "horse whispering." However, as Monty Roberts (often credited with being the original horse whisperer) learned and taught, communication with horses is NOT -- I repeat, NOT -- a matter of soft "whispering" to a horse. A horse trained that way will be insecure and a potential danger to himself and his rider. The key to successful training is conveying the key fact that the rider is always at the top of the herd hierarchy. Unless the horse understands that the rider/trainer is the "lead brood mare" -- a sort of benevolent dictator -- the horse will not feel confident and will always be at risk of trying to put the would-be trainer down a notch or two below the horse. When that happens, the trainer usually gets hurt -- bad.

Take a close look at one of the most famous quotes by Monty, which may actually be the origin of the "horse whisperer" phrase. Monty said: "A good trainer can hear a horse speak to him. A great trainer can hear a horse whisper." Notice that it's the horse -- not the human -- who is doing the whispering. When he wrote his autobiography, Monty titled it "The Man Who Listens to Horses," NOT "The Man Who Whispers to Horses."

Since you haven't understood what I say on my web site, let me repeat some of the main points. First I mention the fact that, "The primary key to working with a horse is communication. You need to learn how to read your horse's mind -- much of which involves reading its body language." A few sentences later, I say, "Another important element of working with horses is understanding the herd mentality that God built into the critters. A horse has an emotional need for someone to be in charge -- it's part of the herd instinct. If it senses that you don't have that 'I'm in control here and you will do what I say' attitude, it will try to be the one in charge. Be a bit aggressive -- I didn't say mean or cruel -- and use the aids to show it that you are the one calling the shots. Once it feels comfortable following your lead, you'll find that it will act a lot calmer."

"Whispering," as many people understand it, may work in exactly the wrong direction... which is why I (along with John Lyons) caution against just accepting anything that goes by that name. At the same time, remember (as I mention in the Q&A that you objected to) that I also prefer a gentle approach over a harsh one.

I hope this clarifies matters a bit for you. Thanks for your thought-provoking letter. I apologize if I seem to be a bit stern in my remarks. I'm not mad at you for questioning what I said. Actually, I'm delighted that you took the time to write and question me. I'm just being a bit firm because I've seen too many people -- and horses -- hurt by a mistaken approach to training... and I don't want you to be one of them. You're generally headed in the right direction, just don't be misled by some faulty terminology.

God bless!

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