23 November 2009


I've discovered a weekly show on PBS which focuses on the humane training of horses. It's called "Saddle Up", hosted by Dennis Brouse. The show is remarkable for two reasons. The first reason is that the training practiced on the show is clearly influenced by Monty Roberts and other so-called horse whisperers, trainers who "adopt a sympathetic view of the motives, needs and desires of the horse, based on natural horsemanship and modern equine psychology." Both the book and the movie The Horse Whisperer were based loosely on Roberts' life and philosophy, in which the emphasis is on paying attention to the horse's behavior, in effect listening to its non-verbal language, and on negotiating with a horse to form a voluntary, non-violent relationship with the trainer.

The second reason is that in addition to helping individual horse owners to train their animals, Brouse introduces his audience to different horse breeds, and to the variety of ways in which humans and horses associate, from trail rides to polo to steeplechase.

My own experience with horses is mostly limited to having ridden bareback as a child, during a time when my dad had his own farm. I still prefer riding bareback to a saddle -- there is a more immediate connection and communication between rider and animal. It feels more like a partnership, rather than one being imposing its will on another. But to each his/her own. I can well understand the enhanced control and safety which a saddle affords.

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