I have had the opportunity to see Lyons-program followers working and I wondered why they looked so distant from their horses. The reading of this book explained it all.
John Lyons understands the mechanics of NH (Natural Horsemanship) but has no feeling with horses, he is not able to communicate with horses _ which is the big difference with Tom Dorrance for instance. John Lyons’ understanding of horses is purely mechanic: horses are binary animals, unable to think or feel, unable to understand.
All his program is based on conditioning a horse to give one specific response to one specific cue:
“If we set up the condition often enough, and we get the same response consistently, then the condition becomes a cue for a specific, desired reaction or response.
The complete title of this book says it all: “True Unity, Willing Communication Between Horse and Human“.
Tom Dorrance is the most important reference when we deal with modern Natural Horsemanship in North America. He has launched this new wave of a more respectful horsemanship, although he probably never did it on purpose. This horseman was greatly skilled and reputed to be able to start a wild colt within a few hours, not by magic, simply by listening to the horse and speaking to it in a clear, gentle and comprehensive language.
The book contains different texts: some are written or said by Tom Dorrance _ they are the most interesting of course _, and some are written by students. Students are sometimes quite famous people such as Bill Dorrance, Martin Black, Bryan Neubert or Joe Wolters. Yet, I tend to be very critical with this kind of texts as people like to praise and idolize, and usually forget to be objective. Still, we can find some interesting information in these “Students’ feedbacks”.
True Unity is a very important resource as it contains lots of wisdom, all the natural horsemanship philosophy lays in these pages. That is also its main defect: you will not find any practical information, any exercise in the book. As in most books written by genius, it is full of treasures, but you have to dig hard to find them! In the present post, I try to dig up some of these treasures. I can not write about all of them as it would be too long and fastidious though.
There are three words, three concepts on which is based all Tom Dorrance’s approach to horses. The same concepts have been used to divide his texts in the book:
On Horsemanship (Περὶ ἱππικῆς, peri hippikēs) has been written by Xenophon around 350 B.C. and is known as the first book ever written on the subject of horses, their selection, care and training. One text is more ancient (written by Kikkuli of the Mitanni Kingdom) but clearly not as complete as this one.
It is quite interesting to observe that most of the major principles on which modern Natural Horsemanship is based were already well known more than two thousand years ago in Greece and around the Mediterranean Sea. Indeed, the philosopher Xenophon clearly deals with the following concepts:
Gentleness and patience;
Timing and harmony with horses;
Diversity in training;
Making the wrong thing difficult and the right thing easy;
Getting the soft feel and avoiding riding gimmicks;
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