Sunday, April 25, 2010

Horse keeping

I've had some questions about how Alexander Nevzorov keeps his horses and about his controversial views about horses living in herds versus a more human-oriented stable situation. I know this is a topic that people hotly disagree over.

Alexander, in an article he wrote (which I cannot find and exactly quote at the moment), called horses living in a herd a "degenerate" situation. (Oh, I know I'm going to catch it for misquoting here!) Let me explain what I understand him to mean by this. Imagine a pack of undomesticated dogs/wolves living in the wild. Now picture a teacup poodle. These are both "dogs" and they share enough genetics that they could interbreed, but a poodle living a "wild" existence would seem absurd. We have bred dogs for generations to fit our human notions of what we humans have wanted. As a result, these dogs need to be taken care of, and indeed if I may be so bold as to generalize, they enjoy the perks of living with humans.

Horses have not been subject to as extreme selective breeding as dogs but they certainly have been living alongside humans for nearly as long. Most horses can live what seems to be a fairly comfortable existence with minimal human intervention as long as the natural resources are plentiful and predators are kept at bay. Many of us think that we're doing our horses a favor by trying to mimic their wild existence with big pastures, herdmates, and minimal human intervention.

We must all ask the question and answer for ourselves, what is most fulfilling to the horse. A teacup poodle would probably feel very vulnerable and upset trying to fend for himself, just as a child "turned loose" in the wild with other children wouldn't have the same perks as one who is raised by adults who are looking out for his needs. A wild existence for the human child or poodle could be called "degenerate".

Can we know for sure that horses prefer a more wild existence? Alexander has given his horses the equivalent of a Taj Mahal living situation, with large, deeply bedded stalls, plentiful hay, runs, turnout area where they get turned out in groups that get along, and a large, heated manege. These horses don't need to fend for themselves, they are completely cared for and as a result, don't spend energy searching to fill their basic needs. They can devote their time and energy towards learning what Alexander is teaching. In this case, haute ecole and Latin. I, for one, am glad that Alexander has taken on this exploration. It takes a person with extreme patience and genius to explore the limits of equine consciousness and intelligence.

My own horses live more of a wild-type existence. This is what fits in my life. I can do some haute ecole elements with them, but will most likely never achieve the level that Alexander has. Due to my horses' living situation, their focus will always be split between looking out for themselves and paying attention to what I am doing with them.

For me, I try to call it what it is and explore what I am able to explore in the moment.

Today's exploration included a lot of yawning from Patrik.

I wish I had known what I know now when I first had Sundance 16 years ago. And I'm sure in another 16 years I'll be in a completely new place that I can't even imagine now. One moment at a time.


  1. Thank you Stormy for writing about this.

    Alexander& Lydia and their forum has been big influence in my way. I have had best of advices in there about starting out in new way.

    "Can we know for sure that horses prefer a more wild existence?"

    We can know for sure what horses prefer, when we give them freedom to choose. That I don't know if Nevzorov's horses have had. "Would you like to go out and play with your mates or come and learn some Latin?" If they would choose Latin, then I'd be impressed.

    I would love to hear more about your last thought; maybe you could write Sundance's story too?

  2. Here's the quote:
    "Besides the rebuilding of the horse’s entire musculature, herd living makes a horse very primitive and stupid, and returns the horse to the world of primitive ideas and manners."

  3. I still have to add, that I don't even feel like I would be able to educate my horse, I think my horse is educating me. Maybe some day that will change, who knows.

    If anything, I have learned that there's always more to learn.

  4. "Besides the rebuilding of the horse’s entire musculature, herd living makes a horse very primitive and stupid, and returns the horse to the world of primitive ideas and manners."

    I have been thinking about that quote before, but as it came up here, it's maybe a good time(and place) to discuss this?!

    I think I understand what Alexander wants to tell with this sentence, but doesn't it feel little artificial to you?

    How can really herd-life make horse "very primitive and stupid" if this herd-life is really his nature, his horse-sense and these "primitive ideas and manners" (like who's the leader, where's the danger, hey guy you are in my personal space without invitation etc) make the true horse living in the nature.

    I think even if we want to teach the horse some "better" ideas, at least we should respect the ideas he naturally posesses!? Or how you see it?

  5. Oh my word, this is interesting! I like Nevzorov better now - it makes him more human, having such endearingly quirky ideas. But it is a valid viewpoint. In the Garden, the animals' faces are turned at least equally toward man as toward each other, and a purely wild existence is indeed some kind of degeneration. Also, in Genesis, there is no record of God having created male and female from the same creature, as is the case with man. He seems to have created male and female animals separately, which, while they are obviously more alike to each other than to man, makes them no more connected to each other than to man. Even if you don't, as I do, take Genesis as bona fide history, as a myth it still makes the same point - the original animals are not "bone of my bones, flesh of my flesh" to each other in the same way as the original man and woman are to each other.

    Where I would potentially take issue with Nevzorov is (not really in fact knowing where he is coming from - Stormy can help out) that he seems to be taking a very Apollonian view of things - that he will stamp his superior knowledge upon nature, without necessarily being very receptive himself to the wisdom emanating from the creatures to him. I've linked it before, and I'll link it now - there's a very interesting article on about the Inner Light or Shechina (related to the Feminine), which will rise to the fore in the Era of Peace. "There is a time-yet-to-come, when the secret of the Inner Light will be revealed. Then the Mother of Life will sing loud without bound." I think this inner light lives in nature also and that horses can speak to us of it. Anyway, here's the article:

  6. I would love to see a coffee table book of the Nevzorov horses and how they live! When can Lydia take the pictures?!

  7. So, he thinks of horse herds as kind of like "Lord of the Flies"?

  8. The fact that we succeeded through (gentile or violent) coercion in stripping the horse of its natural rights and had him –in the best of cases- adjusted to his new lifestyle is not a worthy explanation - I think it is just rationalization.
    Interestingly, the more “human” slave owners held the same rational to justify their needs/exploitation. And others justified genocide of entire people that they thought “unworthy” based on their customs, lifestyle etc…

    What is the goal of this “new” natural horsemanship awareness? Will the goal be limited to delineate between riding the captive horses V/s not riding the captive horse? Is it about establishing the scope of its intelligence or re-evaluating the consequences of perpetuating its captivity?

    If one would translate your four level of relationship rider/horse from a pure horse point of view, I think it could look like that:
    Man Made Horse
    Enlightenment - Conditional release - Stage 4
    Consideration - Half way detention - Stage 3
    Coercion - Jail - Stage 2
    Exploitation- Labor camp - Stage 1

    The ultimate goal would probably be (as for all captive beings) emancipation and freedom. But I guess re-empowering the horse, reinstating its natural rights is probably unrealistic.
    Human traffic has not even been eradicated!