Ginny’s Blog - May 9, 2015
In the Beginning
He said I stood in the driveway with my arms crossed and tapping my foot. Of course I don’t remember it that way so I’ll have to take his word for it as it was a long time ago. I suspect he is right; after all, Tim is a man of his word.
I met Tim McGaffic a long time ago. Dates and the particulars are a bit fuzzy but it’s been an enduring friendship for many years now. I know he helped start my King horse and King will be 19 this year 2015.
Tim claims he asked me if I had read and understood his book “The Nature of Natural”. He used to give this gem of a book to folks who rode in his clinics. He always bemoaned the fact that nobody ever read it! Apparently he thought I fell into that category too. I did read it and it pains me to fess up, I didn’t get it. You think you do but no I didn’t have a clue of how important that book was at the time. I only knew what I knew and it shaded what I didn’t know and my ability to expand my horizons. You don’t know what you don’t know and we tend to sink back to the level of the familiar.
I am luckier than most horse people who experience only a few horses in their lives. I had the good fortune of being raised up by a herd of horses on a quiet ranch away from the influences of tradition. I was left up to my own devices and spent all day every day caring for those horses and observing their nature. It had as profound effect on how I “see” horses. During my professional career I had some great mentors but as the old saying goes “no one can teach riding quite like a horse”. The horses taught me well and their essence has never left me. Many of the things that Tim wrote about I learned through their school of hard knocks and my daily interactions with horses but still I only had pieces of the puzzle.
I guess you could say Tim was ahead of his time. He loves animals and studied animal behavior long before it was in vogue. He has never stopped learning about animals and people. Today equitation science and evidence based horsemanship are on the cusp of changing the way things are done in the horse world. The old ways of tightly grasping only what we know and old school prejudices are falling by the wayside.
The first movement away from traditional training methods came in the form of natural horsemanship. The problem is there is nothing “natural” about horsemanship if you think about it. For all the alleged “good” that the natural horsemanship kingpins brought to the public about horses it soon became all about their bottom line with the horse the means to their fortunes and egos.
It became an “amazing race” of marketing between the top guns, branding and selling products. Discourse was not encouraged and clever sound bites based on subjectivity and opinions were the rule of the day. The titan egos continued on with ever increasing almost religious like conviction of their line of fervent patter and power. The movement became tainted by the quest for money and fame. Many of the folks that were involved in natural horsemanship have simply gone home and don’t play anymore. I suspect their guts were telling them something just wasn’t right. Thankfully the love they have for their horses remained.
The question is how can anyone ever hope to really train a horse and develop a partnership without studying the nature of horses, how people think and how it all fits together? Good information as well as bad has been handed down from generation to generation especially in the horse world. Equitation science is based on nature and objective scientific knowledge, not opinion. Science based knowledge can be used for the good of the horse by learning what makes them tick. Not hearsay, sound bites and opinion but objective, empirical knowledge based in science and graced with man’s desire of creativity.
Tim describes his work as the “nature of natural”. How things work in nature is relevant to how we and horses survived through the millenniums and influence how we interact with horses today. There are certain things that work and lead to survival and certain things that don’t. When we study the ethology or the nature of the horse we can begin to use this knowledge as the basis for effective and compassionate horsemanship.
Equitation science or riding science thoughtfully examines the nature of horses and how it impacts their training, humane treatment and management. Myths and nonsense are dismantled with proof. We can help so many horses have a better life by studying “the Nature of Natural” of horses. Keeping an open mind to knowledge creates possibilities that can open unimaginable doors for you on your equestrian journey.
Yes its work to develop critical thinking skills. But we need those life thinking skills to help us separate the fact from the fiction. It’s way too easy to return to our status quo of comfort. However for those who have that undeniable and haunting feeling and there is more to these horses than meets the eye, the Nature of Natural is a great place to start your educational journey to a better way.
So now many years later I confess I skimmed through Tim’s book but didn’t appreciate the profound implications and the influence it would have on my journey and the horses I love with all my heart. Tim and I would like to share “the Nature of Natural” with as many horse people as we can reach in hopes of helping horses to be acknowledged as they have come to be through survival and to be treated with compassion and respect. To the degree that we can appreciate and view the world through their eyes it will bring hope of a better life to horses.