I heard quite a bit of hype about this book, both from natural horsemanship and Equine Assisted Learning colleagues, so I was keen to see how well a book straddled the worlds of horsemanship, spirituality and self awareness.
In the last 10 years or more, along with the popularity of natural horsemanship styles, there has been a growing awareness that working with horses can also be a fast track to personal and spiritual growth.
Parelli have embraced this concept in more recent years and Carolyn Resnick, Klaus Ferdinand Hempfling and Mark Rashid have always expressed this view in their horsemanship teaching.
As an Equine Assisted Learning practitioner I have often found that many teachers tell you what mindset or attitude to aspire to when working with horses but don’t explain what to do if you’re not feeling it and don’t know how to get there. I was curious to see if this book was any different.
Firstly, I absolutely loved the presentation and style of this book. It is beautifully put together in black and red with plenty of diagrams, drawings and photos to explain everything that’s described. The writing is accessible without being patronising or preachy and each chapter is well structured with a Highlights summary page at the end.
The introductory chapters give a very basic description of neuroscience, chi, chakras, non-verbal communication and self awareness. For those new to this approach, it is a great place to start and explains the connection between our brain science, mindfulness, energy and the language of horses in a clear and non “woo woo” way.
For anyone who has a background in energy work, martial arts, equine assisted learning or the neurobiology of emotions, there won’t be anything new for you apart from, possibly, the clarity of the connection and application of these approaches to horsemanship.
The rest of the book explains basic natural horsemanship techniques that would be familiar to anyone who has studied one of the popular natural horsemanship methods available, however the emphasis is on using your chi mindfully to achieve each technique.
With this emphasis, there is more likelihood that the person learning from this book would firstly question their own intention/energy if the horse doesn’t comply with the request before escalating the phases or strength of the “ask”. This, I believe, is a great strength of this book.
Many styles of natural horsemanship, especially in their early incarnations or presentations did not give enough emphasis to asking “why” when a horse doesn’t comply with a horsemanship request. I am pleased to see a presentation of natural horsemanship methods that at least includes the need for the human to be aware of their energy and attention.
I would have liked to see more emphasis on checking to see if the horse is able to do what is requested biomechanically before escalating the pressure, but perhaps the assumption is that owners have already done this. Sadly, in my experience, this is often not the case.
Overall, I think this book is a great addition to the “horsemanship with awareness” camp and a well structured, enjoyable read. It is not really a book to develop personal growth or spiritual awareness and it doesn’t offer the reader techniques for accessing the emotional and mental states best conducive to good horsemanship and life.
For that, go to an equine assisted learning teacher!