I write a lot about my transition from the natural horsemanship* paradigm to that of clicker training, and that inevitably involves the compare-and-contrast aspect that I am never entirely comfortable with. I have spent enough time in an “us and them” mentality state on various topics that I really don’t want to perpetuate it any longer. I know people who combine natural horsemanship with clicker training successfully. I know very good natural horsemanship trainers. I myself have learned from a natural horsemanship trainer per excellence, Ed Dabney, a trainer of highest integrity and one of the best horsemen I have ever met, who shared his knowledge and love of the horse with me generously and with an open heart and who I will always hold in high esteem.

Disagreement on a topic should not be a basis for alienation and hard feelings, but it often is, and more charged the topic the more likely this is to happen. This happened with me and natural horsemanship. I could no longer be comfortable with escalation of pressure. I could no longer espouse dominance in the context of training. I was so adamant that I alienated some people who could otherwise still be my friends.

I want to apologize to all those who happened to be on the receiving end of my struggle and my belligerence. I don’t want to perpetuate the rift, even though my current paradigm is different from yours. What I so adamantly disagreed with is not you, it is not even natural horsemanship per se.

It is me.

Each of us lives in a private world of our own. There is an ongoing exchange with the world at large, but as the input comes in, it lands on the particular landscape of our inner psyche and is perceived accordingly. So when I think about natural horsemanship, I really think about the interface of natural horsemanship and this person called Tanya. I think about my own reflection of natural horsemanship.

So here is the important point that I came to realize. When I say I am not comfortable with escalation of pressure, what I am saying is: “I am not comfortable when I see myself escalating pressure. I am not comfortable with how I feel inside when I do it”. When I say that the word “dominance” makes my blood boil, I am revealing that I have a huge issue with dominance, with my own need to control and to be right, with my impulse to impose my will on the other at all costs, as well as with allowing others to impose on me, and I am saying that I am no longer willing to nurture that part of my personality.

Journey in horsemanship is an inner journey, and different training paradigms have served as incubators for my own personal qualities. I am grateful to natural horsemanship for bringing out a person with a natural horse sense, empathy, and fine observation skills, a person who is assertive but fare, a person who can do and accomplish, a person who is calm and patient, a person who can persist and achieve her dreams against many odds. I am also grateful for bringing out a person who needs to be right, a person who is attached to being in control at all costs, an arrogant one who wants to show off and doesn’t like to lose face. I got to experience some of my best qualities and some of the worst ones, the ones that I really could not live with if I wanted to be in touch with myself.

I suppose if I was not me but a different person with a different inner makeup, I may have continued my growth within the natural horsemanship paradigm. But my personal journey led me to a different container, a different soul incubator: the clicker training paradigm. I can say it was my choice, but it would be more accurate and honest to admit that I followed the path that was opening in front of me thorough well arranged personal and external events. I became a clicker trainer, not because I believe this and that or disagree with this or that, but simply because it is my path.   

My experience with life so far gives me a reason to believe that the Universe is pragmatic and has a one-track mind, in a sense that everything in my life had always lined up for my highest good: the gains, the losses, the surprises, the heartbreaks, the joys and the sorrows. Each has been a gift and a challenge of self-realization and self-knowledge.

Clicker training has become my path the moment it provided the best conditions for my inner growth. And it is really as simple as that.

All paths are just that: paths. They all lead home. This year, I want to embrace the challenge of acceptance. I want to be all right with the things I might disagree with, both within and without. I want to welcome opinions that differ, statements that bring up strong emotions. I want to acknowledge and appreciate all kinds of horse people who cross my path, and if what they do is different from what I do, I want to see how it reflects their unique beauty and goodness and their unique brand of service.

I want to thank my teachers, the ones I knew well or had only met briefly, and Ed Dabney most of all, for doing what you do and being who you are. I bear an indelible imprint of your wisdom, knowledge, and service on my soul and my being.

Whichever paths our souls take us on, we are cells in the grand body of humanity, each serving our own function as only we and nobody else can, and we are never really separate from each other.

In lak’ech**

May 2011

*I use the term “natural horsemanship” to include all the variations on the basic principles that have their origins in the work of Tom and Bill Dorrance and are now practiced by many diverse trainers, including Pat Parelli, Buck Brannaman, Clinton Anderson, and others.


**In Lak’ech: A Mayan expression meaning “I am you and you are me”. Also interpreted as "You are another me" or "I am another you".



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