The Holistic Horsemanship curriculum
for Working Horses
Can Holistic Horsemanship be applied to Working Horses? Absolutely!
Discover Horse & Heart's very own programme of harness training through true Horsemanship.
When I started my own journey in "Horse Whispering", I had a passion for working horses as a dream of an ideal lifestyle.
But the world of Natural Horsemanship is very much centred around riding, and that is what all the courses available out there are about.
So I delved deeper into working horsemanship alongside my Natural Horsemanship training, to see if the two could meet.
What I found was that just like with riding, there are some – and perhaps many more – true masters in the working horse world, and I learnt a great deal from the traditional approach itself.
And, just like for riding, the bridge to Natural Horsemanship is one of approach and communication – and the working skills are improved a thousandfold when those principles are applied into the training.
I spent the following 3 years developing a training programme adapting the Natural Horsemanship skillset to the specific needs of work in harness, testing it on older, experienced horses as well as on young novice horses – and mules and donkeys.
To this day, True Partners is the only complete training curriculum in Holistic Horsemanship for Working Horses.
This programme was inaugurated in France in 2011 under the name Cheval Partenaire and was adopted by the Biodynamic Agricultural College in Sussex. It has since been running regularly for groups of horse drawn professionals – farmers, market gardeners, horse loggers, vine growers and horse drawn road travellers – with tremendous success.
The benefits of this approach are much bigger than I had even hoped for... creating happier and safer working partners, equine and human alike, everywhere it travels.
Join the Holistic Working Horse revolution... become a True Partner to your working horse.
From beginner all the way up to professional standard, the curriculum follows the same step by step apporach for thorough education as the Levels Programme for riding, and includes all the foundation Modules in equine communication and education – this time leading to working in harness.
The programme includes:
- Ground skills
- Equine Ethology & Psychology
- Positive Leadership
- Desensitisation (overcoming fear)
- Practical skills (trailer loading etc)
- Natural Husbandry and care
- Preparation to specific tasks and equipment
- Working in Harness – Naturally
Foundation Programme of 6 Courses
Over a 2 to 3 year period
For your own group – 3 to 8 paticipants
At your own venue with your own horse / mule / donkey
Or with the Horse & Heart herd
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Who is it for?
This programme is aimed at anyone who wishes to learn how to work with a horse in harness, whether as a hobby or as a professional.
It takes the horse and handler through every step of education from scratch to work-ready, and provides professionals with a unique and thorough toolkit for the education of their horses.
Horsemanship means learning true horse language – how to become the horse's teacher, and, in their eyes, their "lead horse" – so as to become True Partners at work.
The True Partners programme is suitable for all types of work in harness; whether agricultural, forestry or road, as the foundation skills are the same and the refinements for each practice are covered in the last Modules.
The foundation skill set of this programme is essential for anyone who handles or keeps horses, and is a beautiful journey of connection and partnership for a fulfilled horse drawn experience!
As this approach is based on true equine communication and genuine mutual respect, as well as a thorough understanding of learning patterns, has been shown to be much safer than conventional practices.
The journey can then be taken further to professional level of horse training and instructorship.
The programme starts with the science of equine ethology – understanding horses in their natural setting – and equine psychology, then gradually moves on to integration in the herd and relationship building, including Liberty and rope work, leading to draft work and, optionally, on to horse training for any discipline.
Personal growth is also part of the programme, as emotional intelligence and resilience are essential to achieve the attitude of positive leadership required for interacting with horses.
Each module is an in-depth study taught to the highest scientific standards, and hands-on skills are developed to refinement level. This programme is a path of mastery and excellence exploring knowledge, skills, and self understanding to a deep level. More than a technique, it is a way of life.
All modules are available for adults & children, with age-adapted teaching style.
The first modules take place in the Horse & Heart herd, and thereafter you can follow the curriculum either with the Horse & Heart herd or with your own horse.
No previous experience is required to begin the journey.
This is the ideal place to take your horse gently through learning harness work, and for you to learn the skills you will need when you are out there working together.
You can take this programme with any breed of horse, mule or donkey, whatever your goal. Learning how to work in harness is a very valuable skill to any horse for their emotional and mental fitness, as well as for the unique connection it creates with their handler – even if the actual workload will vary according to their physical build.
Having a real purpose together is something horses respond incredibly well to, and which motivates them to bond with a person on a much deeper level than any other equestrian discipline.
It is also suitable for horse drawn professionals who wish to learn new and finer communication and trainging skills, and a deeper understanding of equine psychology adapted to their work.
Or if you simply wish to explore and discover horses without having to ride, this is an amazing way to do so.
If you do have an horse drawn or equestrian background your ease around horses and your hand at the tasks will be useful. Do be prepared however to let go of a lot of habits and beliefs and to learn again, and from the start, a completely new approach and technique.
Please remember that if you are starting on the Holistic Horsemanship journey, you are the student and your horse is your teacher – although you will learn new skills together. It is advised to follow the programme with an experienced horse who is comfortable around people – and to get to Level 7+ before taking on a young or troublesome horse.
However, if you've already got a young or difficult horse then do come anyway! – you will have the opportunity to practise with school horses before handling your own horse.
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You will need to gather together a group of people who can meet at regular intervals for the courses.
The course fee is for the whole group – payment shares are organised between group members.
Your group can be composed of participants (with horses) and specators (without horses, they take part in all the theory classes, simulations and games and personal growth activities and can watch and ask questions during hands-on sessions).
Groups are kept small to ensure the best level of personal attention, quality of teaching, and group dynamics.
Participants : 8
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a 2 to 3-year learning programme in set course packages
Course 1 - 3 Days (Horse & Heart herd or trusted herd)
Herd & Liberty Approach, meet horses in their natural environment. Equine Ethology and Psychology, care of horses in a natural setup.
Course 2 - 5 Days (with your own horse or school horse)
Basic Handling at Liberty, Communication through Feel, Groundwork in head collar, Principles of Equine communication & Learning.
Course 3 - 5 Days (with your own horse or school horse)
Communication through Energy, Advanced Groundwork, Communication at Liberty, Desensitisation (overcoming fear and introducing new items & situations), Advanced Handling & Husbandry.
Course 4 - 5 Days (with your own horse or school horse)
Advanced Communication & Desensitisation, Preparation to Harness tools & skills, work in long lines, teaching patterns, teaching Responsibility, Trailer Loading, Principles of advanced training.
Course 5 - 5 Days (with your own horse or school horse)
Working in Harness Naturally, focused skillset for specific disciplines, Planning your Training programme.
Course 6 - 3 to 5 Days (with your own horse or school horse)
Recap, Refinement to specific tasks, Troubleshooting, Creating your own goals.
Students receive their certificates.
This programme takes you and your horse through the curriculum up to Level 6 / 7 (see Levels below), covering all the Levels Modules in a balanced way.
Courses typically take place at 3 to 6 months intervals, for a completed programme over 2 to 3 years. This rhythm allows for students to practise the learning outcomes with their horses at home between courses, so that they are ready for the next level introduced on the next course.
The first course takes place in the Horse & Heart herd, thereafter students work with their own horses. It is possible however to follow the entire programme with a school horse too, if you are ok to go at your own pace with exercises as and when you see your horse.
This foundation programme is a solid and thorough training for horse drawn enthusiasts and professionals of all disciplines, taking you and your horse through all the harness skills, up to the point of learning the actual job.
Further courses can be organised for those who wish to continue to higher levels. Some further training will need to be taken with specialty professionals.
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The Curriculum – by Theme
Includes theory module: Equine Psychology part 1 ; introduces Horsemanship Ethics
A Natural Approach: Introduction - Ethology & Liberty – (Horse & Heart herd or trusted herd)
Includes theory module: Equine Psychology part 2
a) Advanced Herd Connection (Liberty) – (Horse & Heart herd or trusted herd)
b) Natural Equine Husbandry & Nutrition – (Horse & Heart herd or natural setup)
Level 3 - Training principles:
Including theory module: Psychology of Learning part 1
a) Overcoming Fear - Desensitisation
b) Horse Language in practice: Energy & Rhythm - Responding to Intention
c) Horse Language in practice: Energy & Touch - Responding to Feel
Natural Handling for Vet & Hoof Care / Equine professional practitioners & Horse owners* - 3 to 6 Days
* this module can also be offered as a stand alone
Level 5 - Rope work & Liberty - Preparation to Harness:
Including theory modules: Psychology of Learning part 2 ; Equine Temperaments part 1 ; Creating a Training Plan
a) Advanced Energy & Touch / Energy & Rhythm - Responding to Feel & Intention / Trailer Loading
c) Advanced Desensitisation
Includes theory module: Equine Temperaments part 2
a) Liberty with Purpose
b) Foundation to Harness (specific)
c) Preparation for working in unknown environments
a) Working in Harness Naturally
b) Wild Pony Training (subject to venue) - 5 Days
c) Young Horse Training (subject to venue) - 5 Days
Level 8 - Finesse – Balance, Lightness, Calm & Harmony:
a) Liberty in Finesse - 5 Days
b) Harness in Finesse – all disciplines - 5 Days
c) Training in Finesse - 5 Days
Your Path – tailored coaching to Mastery - Custom
Depending on your chosen area of specialisation this can be tailored in partnership with other instructors & horse drawn professionals.
LEVELS 1 & 2 take place in the Horse & Heart herd (no guest horses) or in a herd that the instructor knows well and where the setup is suitable.
From LEVEL 3 onwards, courses can either continue in the Horse & Heart herd, or take place at your own venue, with your own horses.
From that point on it is also possible to bring your own horses to the Horse & Heart centre for the courses if some of the participants in your group wish to carry on working with the Horse & Heart herd.
True Partners is offered as a set course package
of 6 courses incorporating all Modules up to Level 6 /7,
delivered at 3 to 6 months intervals over a period of 2 to 3 years.
See our Foundation Programme for more info!
Certificates of Attendance are delivered for full attendance to a workshop or course.
Certificates of Completion (optional – L3 onwards) can be applied for by demonstrating each task of a level with one's own horse.*
Certificate of Mastery (optional): Students demonstrate the tasks for each level with 3 horses representing all learning temperaments + show one creative goal of their choosing.*
* For Completion and Mastery levels, tasks must be performed with a horse who has been trained by the student, not with a school horse. Completion of a level includes having followed the complete theory lessons as well as showing the practical tasks.
These certificates are optional – only for students who request them – and students can take as long as they and their horse need to complete them at their own pace. Students who wish to carry on to professional level must complete Mastery standard for all levels.
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What to expect
Unless specifically specified modules can take place either with the Horse & Heart herd or at your own location, with your own horses.
When working with your own horse you will need to have your own tack – including harness and tools.
School horses from the Horse & Heart herd come with their tack.
However, all students must provide their own equipment for themselves (appropriate clothing and footwear, specific tools and protective equipment where necessary).
Groups are from 3 to 6 people. If working with the Horse & Heart herd you might have to share a horse with another student.
Select your course theme, location and length (when applicable) upon booking.
When you create your own group, the sessions are totally tailored to your group's rhythm and needs (horses's and humans') and the curriculum may be jiggled around to accommodate what is best for you.
When attending a course module the lessons are structured in levels covered in depth including practical skills, theory classes, personal growth practices, group supported learning and co-coaching.
In each session students are given new tools of horsemanship and we make sure that these are understood correctly and applied safely.
The students then take them home to work on as homework and we keep working on them together until they are fully assimilated and students are ready to move on to the next level.
Students may take the time they and their horses need to explore the learning outcomes and there is no pressure to keep up as everyone can wok on their own tasks within a level. Themes can be revisited over several courses before moving on to the next module.
All of the curriculum's levels & themes apply to children as well although the learning outcomes covered may be more flexible depending on the children's learning rhythms and needs.
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- If you are new to horses or to this approach, follow up to Levels 3 /4 in the Horse & Heart herd before working with your own horse;
- If you are already experienced in Natural Horsemanship or have owned horses for a long time, to complete L1 & 2 in the Horse & Heart herd (recommended as courses rather than short sessions) and pick up from there with your own horse.
Please be aware that educating a young horse, a wild horse, a stallion, or a troubled horse with behaviour issues requires skills of an advanced level (L8+). If you are learning this approach please choose an easy and experienced horse as your partner. The horse is the teacher, they need to have the stability and maturity to take on that role for you.
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« This course has opened up a completely new path to me – based on respect for the horse. I wasn't expecting anything quite so deep. It was a wonderful surprise, and a wonderful gift. » Emmanuelle
« I am a professional horse drawn contractor and I learnt the trade from my grandfather who has been doing it all his life. He sent me here because he thought I would learn something unique – and I don't think he had imagined quite how much that would prove true. I have learnt so much about horses – whom I had known and worked with all my life! – and I can't wait to come back for more! This is truly exciting, and absolutely unique. » Valentin
« I am amazed at the lightness and finesse I have achieved with my horse, I finally feel that we can make progress! I have learnt so much about my own energy and how it affects my horse. The quality of teaching was astounding. » Jessica
« This course has been like a veil lifted from my understanding of horses. I have been working with horses in agriculture for years but I now apply the principles I learnt from Marie and the results are already showing. It feels like my mare has been transformed... and it's a great joy for me. Thank you! » Laurent
« This is the proof that there is a gentle, intelligent approach to working with horses. Amazing. Thank you! » Alain
« My favourite moment... when I suddenly realised that my horse was enjoying working with me. » Cédric
« Firstly, I am astonished by the noticeable change that can be achieved in such little time in our work with the horses. I have also loved the group dynamics, it was a very bonding experience and a lot of fun! And finally, I enjoy the double-learning effect – some for the horse, some for oneself. I always feel that we leave a little wiser to the world at the end of each module than when we arrived. » Annabelle
« Well, what a surprise... I never expected such depth and such wonder – and I am a professional horse logger. I now use these skills every day, and people wonder where I learnt this magic touch! Everyone should be doing this course before they handle horses. » Fred
« The course content was much much richer than I ever expected. More than a technique, we have learnt keys of communication and I now feel that I have true partnership with my horse. » Marie-Pierre
« Finally – solutions! When you give a demo, it's as if you suddenly switch the light on. All of a sudden, everything is clear! » Patrick
« I have had to wait to grow up and become a farmer for my dream of true connection with horses to come true! This course is a complete reset, a deeply moving experience and an incredible standard of teaching. Thank you for this unique gift, I leave with a full heart and a fantastic skill set that will stay with me forever. » Valérie
« My horse is much calmer and listens to me now – we have a much better relationship and I now have the keys to work through things that come up. It feels natural! » Jocelyne
« The quality of teaching is absolutely impeccable, with a richness of educational tools (theory, simulations, hands-on, meditations...) delivered at the perfect rhythm for optimal processing– I'm impressed! » Pascal
« This course has been one of the most transformative events in my life. It is like there is "before" and "after" – it has completely changed my outlook on horses, on life, on myself – and my relationship with the world. I value and cherish it every day. » Laura
« I now know where I am going... at last. » Pierrot
« I am trained in Natural Horsemanship but this is a whole new level.. of everything. Horsemanship, self-development, approach to life, teachmanship too... This is an extraordinary opportunity, and absolutely fundamental. » Albane