I wanted to share my experience of the first ever clinic I did with Gracie. Nadia had come to my stables before and done a similar clinic. My friend had watched it and was absolutely blown away by Nadia and her methods. I was finding Gracie hard to manage in hand a lot of the time so thought it would do us well to give a natural horsemanship clinic a go.
Who is Nadia Shaleh?
Nadia Shaleh is a french natural horsemanship trainer. She studied the techniques of Andy Booth. Andy Booth created ‘Horseman Science’ which is his very successful method of natural horsemanship that is very popular here in France. Nadia is a qualified ‘horseman science’ coach and travels around France giving demos, teaching clinics and training horses.
Andy and Nadia’s social media pages are in French but Andy does have an instagram page where he has done many videos in English as he is in fact Australian! Search for @horsemanscienceinternational on instagram to find them. You can thank me later!
Horseman Science in a nutshell
I really can’t explain how much I love this. But I can explain what is it! Andy Booth created ‘Horseman Science’ after seeing American horse whisperers such as Pat Parelli and wanted to put their techniques together with equine ethological sciences to come up with a way to better understand the behaviour and learning capacities of the horse. Basically it combines horse learning theory with the know how of horsemen.
Horseman Science therefore teaches humans how to train their horses by taking into account the psychological and physical capabilities and limitations of the horse, which enables you to build a real trusting relationship with your horse in a calm manner.
Why I wanted to do the clinic with Gracie
I remember having my mind blown as a teenager when I was lucky enough to go to a Monty Roberts demonstration and it really changed the way I wanted to act and train with my horse. But as I was competing at the time, natural horsemanship was not widely used so I stuck with some of the stuff I learnt from Monty but then over the years have had many other instructors and rode other peoples horses that had other ways of doing things. Some of which I liked and some that I didn’t. I don’t want to bully Gracie into doing things and whip her to make her do stuff.
As I am now a horse owner again. I wanted to learn some calm and precise ways to teach Gracie how to behave. The clinic was mainly in hand which appealed to me as this is where I have nearly all my problems with Gracie, with one ridden session on the final part of the second day.
The thing I was struggling with the most with both Gracie and Mya (my previous part loan horse) was that I felt I had to be so assertive with them all the time it was tiring!! I’m not saying that I am not assertive now I have learnt some of Nadia’s techniques but as I am now better educated I don’t need that constant state of assertiveness. It is only when we are doing a technique and then we are to relax again.
How did it go?
So those in the know, know that Gracie is only 5 years old and only recently backed. She really has nearly zero life experience as she still lives at the stables she was born at & apart from going to stay with my instructor for a month last november she has not done a lot. Really nothing at all since April when she was turned away and I had an abdo operation.
The first day was half a day of theory which sounds boring but I actually loved finding out the theory of Andy Booth’s techniques before putting them into practice. Then in the afternoon we went into the indoor arena to do our in hand session. Bear in mind Gracie has never even been in a group lesson before! So let’s say she was a little spooked/excited to be in the arena with 7 other horses she doesn’t know.
Gracie the show horse!
As Gracie was being the most ‘difficult’ Nadia used her for her demonstrations. It was incredible. She quickly stopped messing about and did everything Nadia asked of her. It was amazing to see Nadia work with her and great as she had done the exercises before I came to have a go with her!
What did we learn?
So in hand we learnt all sorts of exercises that we can continue to do at home. We learnt how to get the horses to lower their heads on command, reverse, walk around me and on the second day we built up to the horses trotting with us as an exercise to do if you wanted to start doing liberty work with your horse. It was great. All the techniques used pressure and release, so as soon as the horse did what you asked you stop and praise the horse.
All the emotions
I have to share with you that I was an emotional mess at the end of the first day. A long day of learning new things in a foreign language was tough. But also I had realised I had been in denial a bit about how difficult Gracie could be to handle sometimes. Nadia had said how great it was that brought Gracie to the clinic as she really needed it. So as well as being so tired I felt so proud of us getting out there and doing our first clinic. Despite me only being 8/9 weeks post abdo surgery and Gracie only being ridden twice the week before in preparation in the previous 4 months. It felt amazing to be able to spend this time with Gracie after missing out on so much time with her after my operation and during all the covid restrictions.
Day 2: Riding in a halter
On the second day it was more in hand stuff in the morning, which I loved as we were able to practice the things we learnt from the previous day and learn a few more. Then after lunch was the ridden part. Now I had prepared to ride in my bridle but Nadia and my friends said I should try in the halter so I did!! For the first half an hour I felt like I had no brakes and did not feel comfortable. But actually after that I realised that Gracie was being amazing. By the end of the session we were trotting around comfortably in an outline. I could not believe it. My baby horse who I hadn’t ridden for 4 months is now allowing me to ride her around in a halter. She seemed to really like bitless as she is very sensitive in the mouth. I felt so proud her and proud of us. What a little team we had become! I ended the clinic full of confidence and excitement for our future ahead and thinking my friend had been right. That money I had spent on the clinic the best money I had ever spent for Gracie.
Whats happened since the clinic?
I now no longer get angry or panic if Gracie pushes me when I am leading her. Actually she rarely tries to do this anymore. I have learnt the techniques to handle her better and it has made our partnership blossom! I am more calm and confident so she is too. I trust her more and want to buy her a bitless bridle to continue what we started in the clinic. I will also continue doing some in hand work with her every now and again as I love how much closer we have become because of it.
If you ever get the chance to do a clinic like this. I throughly recommend it! Honestly without sounding too dramatic it has changed my life with Gracie for the better and I am so glad I put myself out there and did it even though I did not know Andy Booth’s techniques before or had really practiced any sort of natural horsemanship with Gracie. The other girls who did the clinic were so nice and Nadia is incredible.