The Natural Horsemanship Dichotomy

The philosophy behind natural horsemanship poses an incongruous tension between control and freedom, maintains a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Chester in Britain.�Lynda Birke finds that natural horsemanship characterizes horses with both equine and human qualities. Birke argues that these two premises are contradictory.

The natural approach to horse training and handling involves learning about horse instincts and behavior. This "quasi-scientific knowledge", as Birke describes it, forms the basis of understanding how to communicate with and train horses in a way that's considered kinder and gentler than traditional methods.

At the same time, Birke notices that natural horsemanship advocates people forming a partnership with their horse in a manner that's "almost human".

These two main premises behind natural horsemanship form an uneasy relationship of contradictory ideas about control versus freedom. Birke sees this incongruity appearing most prominently when natural horsemanship enthusiasts express their emotions about their relationships with horses.


Lynda Birke. 2008. Talking about Horses: Control and Freedom in the World of "Natural Horsemanship". Society and Animals. 16(2): 107-126.

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