Tucked away in West Sussex is a horse trainer who uses very traditional and natural methods of gaining a horse's trust to improve behaviour and reinforce positive learning. Sue Gardener tells us more.
Sue Gardner founder of Applied Equine Behaviour works full time in the horse industry helping horse owners and their horses. Sue told us to us that she answers to many titles and one of them is that of "Horse Whisperer".
She explained: "Why so many titles? Quite simply because there is a lot of confusion, so hopefully this will help clear it all up."
What is a horse whisperer?
"There are always gifted people in every area of life, we can all name at least one, so it comes as no surprise that there have always been gifted horsemen who could train horses as well as heal horses both emotionally and physically.
"These people have the title of Horse Whisperer because they're impressive in what they can do with or for a horse.
"My very elderly neighbor, knowing what I did for my living, shared a story with me some 30 years ago now. His grandfather told him of a great horse whisperer who gained his title because he would only work in solitude with the horse and with the top door closed.
"No-one could see what happened nor was there any sound coming from the stable, hence they assumed this person was either blowing into the horse's nose or whispering to it.
"The title for this rare breed of people has stayed in our consciousness, although rarely spoken of. That is, until 1995 when a book was written called the Horse Whisperer."
A change of perception
"Possibly the closest we have to the above description of a horse whisperer is an animal communicator, someone who can bridge the gap between species and not only communicate but also help heal a horse.
"Google Horse Whispering and it's not usually the communicators that show up, but the book and the film The Horse Whisperer.
"In 1995 Nicholas Evans wrote a best seller called The Horse Whisperer, Robert Redford had already bought the film rights before the book was published and in 1998 he directed and starred in this film.
"Robert Redford employed Buck Branaman - a highly successful natural horsemanship trainer. Buck trained Robert as well as the horses; the perception of a horse whisperer was about to change!"
"Now it took on the guise of a cowboy who worked the horse in a round pen and certainly did a lot more work on the ground before getting into the saddle and seemed to magically transform the horse dangerous to calm without people understanding what exactly it was that he had done.
Horse whispering in the UK
"In the U.K. around 1998/9 Monty Roberts and Pat Parelli arrived onto the scene. Monty published a book called 'The Man who listens to Horses' and of course, through his famous work with the Queens horses and his round pen work, join up, he soon became known as a Horse Whisperer.
"Pat Parelli also became known as a Horse Whisperer when he was seen to ride bridleless and train horses at liberty. His method was to understand innate horse behavior and train accordingly. Along with his wife Linda, they developed The Parelli Program, now all horse owners could develop a skill set and do extraordinary things with their horses; go onto YouTube to see many thousands of horse people doing exactly this.
"So, who's the true Horse Whisperer and can it be taught in those who are not naturally gifted. The answer is yes, which is a big relief for horses."
Can you be a horse whisperer?
If you want to develop a communication with your horse that's so subtle that others can't see it, then yes, you could proudly think of yourself as a horse whisperer, or the person who listens to horses, to be honest, the horse doesn’t care what you call yourself, they care that you understand his innate needs and that you use them for his welfare as well as training.
To do this you need a whole list of attributes, here are a few of them:
A great love and respect for the horse
A humble personality with an open mind for curiosity and learning
A deep understanding of innate horse behaviour
Highly tuned observational skills
Light hands that release quickly
patience and compassion
Recognition that the horse is a sentient being.
If you'd like to learn from an experienced horse whisperer - Sue has developed a theory based home study course which helps you discover and develop your skills, to find out more visit her website: www.suegardner.co.uk