The Art of Doing Nothing – Natural Horsemanship

Natural Horsemanship - The Art of Doing Nothing

Guest Feature :: Everything Horse :: Magazine

The Art of Doing Nothing – Natural Horsemanship

written by Suzie D’Ambrosio, Suzie School Horsemanship

Be honest, how often do you ask nothing of your horse? The art of doing nothing is a pretty powerful something that most people aren’t sure how to do. So, we know doing nothing means doing exactly that…nothing…but it’s such a hard concept for our human brains to understand. Often, we think we’re doing nothing but really we are still, unintentionally, doing something.


Yesterday I spent 11 hours doing nothing with Regalo. That’s a bit extreme granted, but I’ve never been one to do things lightly. Think about how much time your horse spends with his pasture buddies doing nothing. In my herd, Del and Regalo spend their day not asking anything of each other but just being in each others company. I turn up and for however many hours I’m always on the ‘want’. I want to tie Regalo on the yard, groom him, tack him up, ride him, play with him, fuss him and interact with him constantly until I return him to Del where, phew, he gets to do nothing again.

Suzie School - Natural Horsemanship riding

Horses spend a large portion of their days doing nothing with each other. It’s part of their nature and just what they do. The misconception is that if I’m not riding or playing with Regalo that I’m not asking anything of him. Wrong. Asking a horse to be tied and groomed and messed with even if I’m not riding him is still asking him to do something and largely that doing something is for me. Does he want to be tied up? Does he want to be groomed? So the question arises, who am I doing that for? Because it’s not him.

The art of doing nothing is about doing something for the horse, and not ourselves.

Spending time in the company of your horse and not asking a single thing can be a powerful game changer for your relationship. Be like another horse. Just be there but do nothing. The rules are simple:

1) Sit in your horse’s field, corral, pen, stable for 20 minutes a day for 7 days

2) Do not interact with your horse unless they initiate contact. No petting no fussing no talking to or encouraging them to come over. Just do nothing.

3) After 20 minutes get up and leave without saying goodbye.

4) Observe the changes.

When I first did this with Del I was shocked to discover that I could sit in his field for 20 minutes and he didn’t once look at me in the beginning. I did my 20 minutes and left. The following days I started to notice small changes. Day 2 he came and sniffed me. Day 3 he grazed next to me. Day 4 he lifted his head when I entered the field. Day 5 he greeted me at the gate then hounded me the whole time I was in there. Day 6 he followed me to the gate when I left. Day 7 he whinnied for me as he saw me coming. By noticing these small changes I could see the dramatic effect doing nothing was having on Del.

I thought I would have been hounded from day one by him, but the reality was different and made me realise just how much I was doing to interact with him, on a daily basis, without realising it.

When I gave him the choice, he [Del] had no desire to come to me. Ouch! Doing nothing changed his perception of me and strengthened our bond.

When I was doing nothing, I was doing it for him and he felt that. Once the initial 7 days was over I revisited the art of doing nothing from time to time, I then scheduled it in as part of my training. You see, if I’m always expecting him to give to me then I’ve got to give back to him, in a way that he appreciates not in a way that I think he should appreciate.

I haven’t had time to do much with Regalo recently, so yesterday I brought him into the stable and just sat with him doing nothing. Of course, he came over to initiate contact a few times and I reciprocated but other than that I just sat there with my book or my phone or a crossword and was just there with him. The weather was horrible, so it was kind of a better day to do it, rather than a good weather day when you want to be doing stuff.

I was planning to do something with Regalo today and would be asking big of him so I looked at yesterday as putting money in the ‘pony bank’ because today I knew I’d be making a big withdrawal.

For me, my relationship with my horse is a friendship, and I know because of the effort I put in yesterday to being a good friend to Regalo it will benefit me greatly today.

Del spends most of his time doing nothing with Regalo, so it’s no surprise the pair are so bonded. Del spends 24 hours a day giving Regalo what he wants (nothing).

Horses are not designed to be ridden, we’re just fortunate that we can. Horses evolved to graze, mate, play, sleep and do nothing, day by day and that’s all they really want. So, if we’re going to ask them to do stuff for people it’s only fair that we give back to them what they want.

So be honest. How often do you do nothing with your horse?

To learn more from, or about Suzie, visit her Facebook Page

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