Resources (books, DVDs, methods, etc.) and personal analysis
All the following comments are my personal opinions. I am not trying to convince anybody, just sharing my thoughts. All titles and references are given so you can check the information by yourself and make up your mind.
I decided to present the following horsemen and horsewomen in two parts: first the origins of this Natural Horsemanship trend, second the contemporary horsemen.
Origins of Natural Horsemanship
Xenophon is known as the first author ever to have written a complete text about horses, their selection, care and training. One text is more ancient (by Kikkuli of the Mitanni Kingdom) but clearly not as complete as this one.
John Solomon Rarey
John Rarey was one of the most famous horsemen back in the 19th century. Born in the United States of America, he became well known after he tamed Cruiser, a horse reputed to be pretty wild.
This Portuguese horseman is considered by many as the Master of dressage. Contrarily to what is commonly accepted, dressage is initially a very light, soft and respectful equitation. Nuno Oliveira is a great representative of the Haute-Ecole of dressage and his teaching is stunningly close to Tom Dorrance’s horsemanship…
That book is probably the most important concerning our matter: communication with horses. Unfortunately, that is also certainly the most complicated to understand. Writing is good and vocabulary is common, but ideas developed in that text require a new way of thinking, a fresh mind about horses.
This two-and-a-half hour DVD presents Tom Dorrance in his late days. He was interviewed and presented several horses and horse problems in order to understand his philosophy and more practical technics. It can be interesting to watch him giving advices, yet the rider does not always understand very well the instructions and we end up sometimes with someone trying to get Tom Dorrance’s idea without real success.
An interesting complement to the book, but not necessary.
Ray Hunt was probably the best disciple Tom Dorrance ever had, his understanding of Tom’s approach is really good and he had — on my mind — a better capacity to express ideas. This book is a perfect explanation of the philosophy behind natural horsemanship.
That set of DVDs is a must-have to those who want to start horses. It is a great source of knowledge to all others. We can watch Ray Hunt starting a few colts in real-time, from the first contact to the first lope in the round-pen.
Current horsemen and horsewomen, or sometimes horse'business'men
This is a very interesting set of DVDs, in particular for beginners. I recommend these films to all those who just start with horses: Clinton Anderson deals with everything from handling a horse, to the equipment and tack, to hoof care, to the very first exercises.
This title designates all Clinton Anderson’s horsemanship methods from handling the foal to the groundwork to starting a horse to the first saddle work to horse training… A complete set of DVDs that cuts down every exercises into multiple steps to achieve with the horse.
It is a three-DVDs set edited in the early 90’s. Three DVDs for three steps: riding in a snaffle bit, riding in a hackamore and finally riding in two-reins to end with a bridle horse.
This book is Buck Brannaman’s biography. As it deals with one of the greatest horsemen in my opinion, it deals obviously with horses. No exercises, no methods. But a beautiful philosophy, a moving and interesting way to consider life!
That second book is quite interesting as it deals with the qualities a horseman or a horsewoman should develop to improve his or her communication with horses. Buck Brannaman explains those concepts which are then all supported by the testimonies of people who attended Buck’s clinics and testify about their own experience.
This is the documentary inspired by Faraway Horses. This film deals with Buck Brannaman’s life of course, but many extracts of his clinics are showed all along the movie. We can see some pretty amazing pieces of horsemanship.
This 7-DVD set is the source used for the documentary Buck. Hours of footage were available and it has been decided to share these videos which perfectly illustrate Buck Brannaman’s methods inspired by late Tom Dorrance and Ray Hunt. A lot of exercises, a lot of tips, a lot of information…
Yes, Smokie is Buck’s brother and vice-versa. Having said that, approaches are quite different. Smokie Brannaman does not have the same knowledge, probably not the same empathy to horses. Yet, this book is pretty interesting as the text is 100% frank and honest, words can be rude sometimes, but truth is exposed.
This second book has the same kind of approach as Whisper This…, as Smokie answers questions he gathered from forums or via his web site.
John Lyons is considered as a great horseman by many. I am not that enthusiastic about him: I think he uses the Natural Horsemanship technics without the essential knowledge, the philosophy that should rule our relationship with horses.
The subtitle of his book says it all: “John Lyon’s Proven Conditioned-Response Training Program” . . .
This set of DVDs could be described as a shrink-therapy for horses. Pat Parelli has a very psychological approach to horses. Psychology is important of course and the concept of “horsenality” is quite interesting, but basing all horsemanship on psychology is a mistake on my mind.
This is the Bible of all Parelli preachers in the world, Pat Parelli explains in these pages how he discovered Natural Horsemanship and how his scientific program can fit everybody and every horse worldwide.
Freud now has his alter ego in horsemanship…
Frédéric & Jean-François Pignon
This TV show has taken me into the Pignon brothers world, although I’m usually not fond of horse shows and circus tricks, these interviews are based on their philosophy, their way of life with horses. It’s unbelievable to discover how much Haute-Ecole, Ranch work and Circus share, the education of the horse is the same for everyone!
This DVD is presented as the utmost wild experience by Monty Roberts, the objective is to show Monty’s method and his capacity to communicate with horses… The observation is not that glorious: many lies to hide poor horsemanship behind a wall of smoke.