Natural Horsemanship and riding classes for children – and adults         

                                                                              How Danehill  Manor teaches  Natural horsemanship:

Why is it important to learn horsemanship besides learning to ride?  Safety is one very important reason - but also to have an enjoyable time together with your horse and not the fearful, exhausting fight because the horse and rider do not communicate well. We often blame the horse, but in reality we are to blame, since in most cases it is lack of communication skills from the person, who does not speak "horse". When people ask me: My horse is bucking with me, can you fix it? I answer with another question: When and why do yo think your horse is bucking? I can "fix" it in most cases, but that would be like removing the symptoms and not the reason for the bucking  which in most cases is due to something the rider does.  So the horse will continue bucking when his owner continues to do the same thing. Learning to be in control, dominate and become the  leader  of the horse- - not by  showing the horse "who is the boss" which will create fear in this prey and flight animal rather than trust - and in it for the horse dangerous situation, the horse will take leadership and do what HE thinks best: RUN. So if the rider has not earned the leadership over the horse, the horse might LIKE the person, but not trust the person to make good decisions if they are scared.  We give people tools to learn this language and how to earn the title of being the protector of the horse.

The understanding of directing the energy instead of confining  it ( which is our usual predator instinct to do) is the key. Preventing a prey and flight animal from running in a situation he is fearful, will only add to this fear. A good way of fixing a bad habit is to become  part of the solution for the horse by directing his energy immediately after his attention is back to the person. The instructor, Danehill’s owner Karin Dilou, is passionate about passing on the horsemanship knowledge she has learned  "the hard way" herself over a long life living with  her herd of Danish warmblood horses. A basic key ingredient for success to learn this is patience with ourselves and being observant and focused. It gives her utmost pleasure to give her students tools to become, confident, focused, goal, respectful and happy protectors which is what the horses are looking for in a herd leader. Jokingly we refer to Danehill Manor as: The  Stress Free Zone.   Having stress, being irritable or impatient, fearful, angry etc. will NOT work in the communication with the horses. It needs to be assertive, firm, polite and precise when we gently ASK them (not make them) do things to get the response we are looking for.  We need to be pro active by asking the horse to do something, before the horse makes a decision on his own that we then need to fix, The horse is "telling us" a lot through his body language and we get many warnings BEFORE they make their own decisions. You will learn to recognize the "questions" from the horse. 

By getting a deep understanding for this, has opened a door to knowledge about communication, leadership, teamwork and body language not only between horses and people, but very much between people too. The horses are in fact therefore also the co-facilitators when we run those seminars at Danehill.  See further description under seminars.

The students become “learners” through play.  The horses like to play too. The old saying: when the student is ready, the teacher appears comes to mind. They learn for their own sake. The instructor does not explain in words to children what is going on between her, them and the horses, but do explain that to grown up clients before and after the actual interaction with the horses. Children naturally absorb the horses’ as well as the instructor’s body language, energy, attitude and focus which they subconsciously react to. Thus it is very important to be honest and congruent in words as well as body language how we feel in order to be successful with both the children and the horses in order to build up their trust and create a mutual respect. At the moment I have two  5 year old boys – the youngest students so far. It has taken awhile to build up the children’s attention and focus to ½ hour at a time and important not to "force" it, but continuously keep it interesting, rewarding and fun.  It actually is the horses that "reward" the kids and they LOVE it when that happens, feeling in control with their bod language.  To ALSO “be ahead of “ the child and at the same time “be ahead of the horse” with at least 4 horse lengths in decisions about what we want the horse to do (how fast or slow, to go right or left at which point, to turn etc.), is something I have developed over time. It takes patience and focus from my side too – both to the child AND the horse. Having done it over and over again together and then challenge the child to do it by himself when I feel they are ready is one of the “big moments” in the development of the child. When the child realizes his power and leadership skills giving these huge animals directions with small gestures what to do, when to run fast, slow turn and stop, and the horse actually listens to and responds in action  to what the child asks him to do, is a wonderful  experience.

The students learn to pay attention at all times and think ahead. “Prevention is better than cure”. The most difficult thing to learn is patience with and respect to ourselves – which we also give our students tools to learn. 

To make a lesson with horses  successful stress cannot be part of the day. A stressful  (or in any way tense, frustrated, irritated or angry)  person is NOT considered a  trusting leader in the horse’s mind. If  the person is tense or impatient because the horse is not doing, what the person THOUGHT he asked him to do, the horse will soon be frustrated and   "give up communicating" with this person, since that handler in the horse's mind does not seem to know what they want or doesn't trust himself that the horse in fact WILL listen to his "question".  The horse read's the handler's subconscious mind which often includes not trusting himself. That is reflected in his posture, energy, way of breathing etc. and we cannot lie  or be ambiguous to the horses. That confuses them.  The horse might do what we want them to  if we beat them up or get rough with them– but out of fear - which is very counter productive if we want a good partnership with 51% leadership to the handler. In situations where they are frightened they will not trust the person’s decisions as a protector. - and that can be dangerous (bucking, rearing, running wild etc).

Being on time or a little early is one of several things that  can eliminate some stress. If prepared and thought through well in advance - step for step –  and the student looks forward to a fun successful time, the lesson becomes pleasant for everybody.. I custom make the lessons to the children so it becomes a positive lovely experience for both them and the horses – (and me) - every time .   Many factors can be different from time to time, but we always end on a positive note - both for the horse's and for the handler's sake.

One thing that is important for the success with the kids is that parents or guardians do not interfere or “help” in any possible way from the moment they arrive at the gate. Children like horses can only have one leader over them, otherwise confusion sets in. Parents or guardians can always “follow up” afterwards by asking the students questions and have them -uninterruptedly  while paying full  attention to them -  explain what they did. Having the child explain and maybe even teach the parent what to do, makes them learn even better.   I LOVE it when my students correct ME - and THEY become the teacher. Mutual respect and attention to each other. The interference in the lesson confuses the child. As is the case with a horse: if several people try to tell them what to do, the horse will make his own decision and NOT consider any of them his trusting leader. That is when accidents happen. If the child wants to “show off” to the parent to get the much desired approval and burst of admiration – the  “ego” comes in the way for the focus on the horse and the whole lesson  will be counter productive. In many ways it is the case with adults too when they have an audience.

Ask,  patiently wait for  the response and praise when getting the desired  “answer”  - is the way for the horse – and the handler of the horse - to learn. If the horse didn’t do what we asked first time around, it was because we didn’t ask clearly enough in the horse’s language.  Eventually it becomes “second nature” and the conversation/gestures lighter and lighter and when true unity is established it is merely a thought and the horse will respond. It feels as if the horse is psychic, but what it really is, is that he is reading your subconscious mind that is your true self and directly connected to your body language.






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Under construction, more information to come soon!


Becoming a better leader

Under construction, more information to come soon!



Becoming a better partner to the horse 

Under construction, more information to come soon!