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Natural horsemanship is just not good enough...

Holistic Horsemanship is About the Whole Horse


Our horses experience so much trauma. Most have stored trauma from negative experiences they have encountered during their lifetime. And since horses typically have several different owners and situations in a single lifetime, this can translate to many different triggers.

Frightened horse in Natural Horsemanship Training

If you believe horses are sentient beings, you believe they have feelings. This means what you say, how you think and what you do speaks volumes to your horse.

Based on over 20 years of evidence-based research with both domesticated and wild horses, I’ve learned that just one hit, one crack or a yell can traumatize a horse. Wild horse herds and healthy horses are fair, and use follow through when correcting. They are assertive, not aggressive. So, when we hit, yank on our horses, or do anything extreme, we show aggression and this naturally, instinctively frightens them.

Because horses are passive by nature (they avoid confrontation) they freeze and get quiet when we are aggressive. This is often perceived as “training” or “teaching” a horse to stop behaving a certain way - when in reality, they are petrified and instinctively freeze out of self-preservation.

Most of our training standards also harm our horse, even the more natural and positive methods can cause harm if they use too much pressure, repetition or operant conditioning.

In the end, too much of anything is not healthy, balanced, or good for one’s overall well-being, including our horses.

So how do we avoid further traumatizing our horse and most of all fixing our already traumatized horse?

In my experience, taking a holistic approach to training and rehabilitation is the answer. In my 20 years of evidenced-based research I have worked with thousands of horses in this beautiful and natural way.

Whether I was developing a young horse’s ground and riding foundation, developing a horse for high performance, or rehabilitating a horse with severe PTSD, holism has worked 100% of the time, and it is 100% for the horse.

Holistic Horsemanship Graphic - Why Natural Horsemanship Training is not enough

Applying a holistic approach to horsemanship means you consider the whole horse, not just the mechanics, the technique and the skill. While these things are important, we will ruin our horse's desire to be with us and work with us if there's too much repetition and pressure. In the end, nothing we do will work for the horse if they aren't happy, relaxed, or willing and wanting to be in partnership.

How do you get to a happy, relaxed and willing partner? By considering all areas of the horse’s well-being - the whole horse.

By considering the following areas of the horse’s well-being, I have been able to successfully rehabilitate horses, including deep trauma, as well as develop horses to their fullest potential easily, without stress and in connected, consensual partnership.

  • Socialization (or lack of)

  • Environmental influences

  • Physiology - way in which the body functions (nervous system response)

  • Heart (Relationship)

  • Mind (Regulation)

  • Body (Flow)

My holistic horsemanship method is very thorough, comprehensive and inclusive, meaning it includes everything needed to develop a horse thoroughly, completely and from the inside out, ground to riding, start to finish, rehab to recovery, novice to pro.

It begins with creating a safe and thriving environment and socialization. In the wild, horses thrive in their environment because their basic needs of friends/family (socialization), 24/7 forage and freedom are met. When these needs are met, the horse will naturally align themselves, balance themselves and be in an emotional state of flow. When these needs are not met fully, our horses will show extreme behaviors. This is their way of coping and letting us know how unhappy, scared, alone, frustrated, they are.

So, think about this... (this is huge!) Why do you think our horses are acting out, being spooky, checked-out or nervous? Wild horses don't act this way. Never. Any extreme behavior can cost them, and their herd (chosen friends and family) their lives. Wild horses are always in their parasympathetic nervous system, reserving energy and enjoying life (thriving) until there is a real threat. This means our domesticated horses’ well-being is being compromised and they aren’t happy or healthy.

How would you feel if you were locked up in a stall (jail cell) 22+ hours a day? What about socializing? How many horses are turned out by themselves and in small dry lots? What about feed schedules? Most horses are fed 2-3 times a day and that's it! Not to mention their forage... their hay consumption is limited with 10+ hours of no forage available for most. Unlike humans, who only release acid when we salivate, a horse produces acid constantly - so they must have constant forage to prevent ulcers!

And, what about training and lessons? How many times has your horse shown you (told you) they didn't want to participate by pulling, bucking, rushing, balking, swishing, pinning, or rearing...and you kicked, pulled on their mouth or pushed them through?

It doesn't help that most equestrians (horse caregivers, stewards, guardians) are at the mercy of their boarding facilities, where there is often little or nothing they can say or do about their horse‘s basic needs of friends, forage and freedom (large pasture to roam and horses to befriend). I know how tough this is for most and that's why I have developed my training method and system. So I can help horses and humans create the life and working partnership they both need to feel great and thrive. Because most horses, and their guardians, are limited by outside influences they can't always control, we move into the next set of our horse's needs: relationship, regulation and flow. Areas we can totally control, change, improve and protect.

By forming deep and meaningful bonds and relationships with our horses, we can help them feel emotionally safe. Through our relationship they will feel loved, they will feel like they belong to a family, and they will feel like they matter - that someone cares about how they feel.

Relationships are where we begin and through heart-coherence. If the horse is not “open” (and most are not), I have designed specific exercises to help the horse relax and feel safe so they connect in a relationship. These exercises are all about self-regulation and are designed to help the horse work through their fear (trauma) and reset their nervous system.

Once a horse can regulate their emotions, they are open and willing to connect, partner and participate. Only then can we work on deepening the relationship through self-regulated exercises. These exercises focus mostly on lunging. The reason my lunging methods work so well for the horse is the science. When we (and horses) create rhythm, we release natural relaxers (hormones) within our nervous system that are then released throughout our body. These natural relaxer hormones are called dopamine and endorphin. They are the “feel good” hormone (chemicals) responsible for putting us, and our horses, in our parasympathetic nervous system of calm, relaxation and digestion. In addition to my lunging methods creating regulation, there are many other important areas including, but not limited to; straightness training, Pilates, strength building, balance, self-carriage, collection, biomechanics of healthy and symmetrical movement, energy alignment, and most of all, heart-mind-body synchronization so we can feel as one, think as one and move as one with our horse.

When relationship and regulation are working together, our horse’s naturally feel safe. They relax, stay connected and yearn for connection. They choose to partner with us because it feels so good. When we and our horses are aligned this way, flow is created within and between us. Like a strong electrical current or magnetic field, the frequency shared is so powerful, it creates a “state of flow” between horse and human. I call this the “endorphin high” (athletes refer to it as the “runners high”.) Once you achieve this connection...anything is possible!

I invite you to experience this for yourself and to learn more about these methods I teach by joining my free 7-Day Holistic Horsemanship Mastery Miniseries below.



Free Holistic Horsemanship Mastery Mini-Series

Sign up here!


If you’ve been searching for a deeper way to be with horses, a better way to train horses and in a connected and safe riding partnership, the Tao of Horsemanship Academy is for you!

With a comprehensive website of holistic horsemanship information, as well as free resources, support and a complete online learning program, you can immerse yourself in the world of consensual partnership with your horse and love the journey as you learn together.

May you always be one with your horse,

Caroline Beste

Founder, Tao of Horsemanship


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