Nature's View: Horses Helping People ~ People Helping Horses

An Experiential Program That Helps Change Mindsets

By Julianne Rickenbaker

It all started with the idea of helping horses. Hunters, jumpers, Thoroughbreds at the race track, young horses, problem horses - for Bruce Anderson, it didn't matter which breed or discipline - his goal in life was to help horses. As he followed his path with that one idea in mind, he began to realize that while he was helping horses, the horses were in turn helping him as a person. Thus began the evolution of Nature's View, an experiential system that enables horses to find balance between two worlds - "Nature's World", the world for which they were created, and "Man's World," the world which we, as humans, created. By using the system, you are working with a horse's mind, and once you have the mind, the rest of the body follows. As you teach the horse about Man's World (as you know it), you use your own natural mental skills. In turn, the horse will in turn put you back in touch with nature, while allowing you to find balance within yourself and be the best that you can be. The better you are, the better the horse will be.

"Do what I tell you to do" becomes "How can I help you?"
Photo by Dave Robinson


"It's all about changing your mindset. Your job is to help your horse learn about "Man's World." In order to do that, you first need to understand how to go into the horse's world." Anderson 's philosophy is to change the attitude of "Do what I tell you to do" into "How can I help you?" Using Nature's View, he helps people learn to become the alpha in a herd of two (the herd being made up of the horse and the person), as opposed to anything else. "The horse's lifestyle is different in his natural setting as opposed to the environment we bring him into. For example, in the herd, there is a certain pecking order where he has a number of teachers. When we bring him into our world, we need to teach him about the world he is coming into, and become "the alpha" of the herd of two."

Anderson 's thoughts and views come from a combination of years of working with horses based on "trial and error" experiences, as well as tools learned from various clinicians and teachers in the equine world. He grew up on the West Indian sister islands of Trinidad and Tobago , and it was there on the family cocoa and coffee estate that he began his relationship with horses. He learned to ride on the estate, and then represented Trinidad on the National Show Jumping Team. From there he moved on to breeding farms on the islands, in the U.K. and in the U.S. While in England , he earned an agricultural degree and in the U.S. worked with racehorses and show horses in Florida . Then he moved to Camden , S.C. to manage a hunter/ jumper barn. While in Camden , he began specializing in natural round pen work. It was there that Nature's View began to evolve.

Bruce and Marie on the estate.


What is Nature's View?

In the round pen you simulate life in the horse's world. In order to establish yourself as the "alpha", the initial work is based on four tasks: movement, direction, rhythm and track. "In working with a horse, I use my body to apply pressure," says Anderson , "the same way that you use your legs and reins when you ride. In the round pen, your body represents your reins and the pressure you put on represents your legs. In other words, pressure means something, but the horse tells you how much pressure to apply. In this situation, you practice giving up control, thereby being in control and setting the example for the horse. This is a way you can practice your riding, as well as your timing, your feel, and many other things, all without actually riding the horse. It can be the beginning of a step by step process of gaining the horse's trust so that you can build a solid foundation." After the initial work, a systematic approach is used to test the horse's body, first along one side, front to back, then moving to the other side, for one of the ideas in Nature's View is that for every horse, there are two horses, the left and the right. "We do this to test the body in order to find if we get a negative response or one of the three "F's" (freeze, flee or fight) due to a lack of understanding. Depending on the horse's reaction, we can tell if there are issues in that part of the body, mentally transforming "mistakes" or negatives into positives because we know which areas need work. Finally, after the ground work, when you add the saddle, bridle and rider, you have a harmonious relationship and a partner who is ready to work with you. If the initial experience is positive, a solid foundation is laid and a remarkable partnership will develop. During this process a two-fold thing is happening. You think you're there to teach horses, but in the end, they're teaching you about yourself."

Once you have the horse's mind, the rest of the body will follow.
Photo by Julianne Rickenbaker


When Anderson works with a client and horse, he coaches them through a series of "mental pictures" which provides the opportunity to determine which areas of their training may need work. "Many times we teach horses to be dependent on us by telling them where to go and what to do; we always have something attached, whether it is a halter and lead line or bridle and reins. Using Nature's View, we take away these artificial attachments, and by using pressure, one of his natural forms of communication, ask for what you would like, allowing the horse to make choices for himself and learn about consequences if he makes the wrong choices. This allows you the opportunity to simulate life in our world and let him know what can happen to him in it when he makes that mental choice. Having no attachments can be an advantage that can help you to strengthen your "mind power." While you are increasing your mental skills, you are building confidence in your horse and at the same time building your own self-empowerment. This also allows the horse to rely on his natural instincts and gives you the opportunity to practice life skills such as listening, timing, feel, patience, and many more."

While in the round pen, one of the tools is a 35-foot lariat, which can be used as an extension of your arm. This makes it possible to "reach out and touch the horse" without making it necessary to act as a predator, while also preserving your safety. Using the rope also teaches you to "give up control;" in other words, you must "listen" to the rope in order to roll it up. This parallels listening to the horse; after all, the horse teaches us to teach him . Using the rope allows you to practice this mindset.

The first step is to change your way of thinking. If your attitude truly is "How can I help you?" your focus will be on "listening" to what the horse is telling you to do to accomplish your picture. This takes the pressure off of you and allows you to be "in the zone." You have a picture and the horse tells you what to do to create the picture. The more you improve the horse's knowledge, the easier your task will be. This can benefit horses and riders in all disciplines. Jeanne Smith, owner, trainer and manager of Clear View Farm in Landrum , South Carolina has seen the benefits of the work first-hand. "Watching Bruce work with my clients is fascinating. Bruce's intuition allows him to focus in on the weakest areas of the person and the horse. Through his work he produces confidence in those who have low self-esteem, and clarity and commitment to those who are confused. With this solid foundation it clearly makes my job easier."

Using the system, there are five rules.

- Rule #1: There are no rules.

- Rule #2: Your safety.

- Rule #3: The horse's safety.

- Rule #4: Conservation.

- Rule #5: See rule #1.

While following these rules, participants often see that the situations that occur in the round pen often parallel or "mirror" situations that occur in their lives. In working to help the horse, you can also work on changing negative habits that you have acquired and work toward self-improvement. In fact, although the system is used for horse owners and trainers, the system can be used to improve relationship skills for couples or families. For example, in working with the horse, children can learn parenting skills by setting boundaries for their horses. For a career professional, as you learn to be committed to helping the horse stay on track in the round pen, you can envision the parallels to being committed to staying on track in your career. Round pen work using Nature's View can even be used in addition to traditional therapy methods. Mary Lynn Syzmandera, director of the Equine Program at Pavillon Treatment and Renewal Center , has seen positive results with her clients. "Working with Bruce in the round pen brought each individual's patterns and feelings to the surface as they attempted to have the horse complete the task they were given or the task they gave themselves. In each instance, the horse became the mirror for where they were, where they were stuck, or what they were feeling. As a therapist, it is important to me that the client discovers his or her own "monsters." The issues became glaringly apparent to the client who is working with the horse in the round pen and, in this case, to the family members observing the process."

Nature's View can also benefit business/ corporate and school groups with the emphasis on self esteem and teambuilding. Urica Pope, Program Coordinator for the Creative Services Department of South Carolina ETV, recently worked with Nature's View to bring the system to groups of young girls participating in a gender equity program. "There is a valuable lesson to be learned from it," said Pope. "We chose this program because it deals with leadership. We want the girls to work together and with the horse as a team-building program." For Bobbi Kennedy, vice president for continuing education at S.C. ETV, the goal is teaching young girls that they can "take on a complex topic and master it." Kennedy said that the girls don't just learn for themselves but learn how to work as a team, a concept that is a constant theme in the program. In workshops with Anderson using two horses, the girls also covered topics such as anger management, self confidence and how to say "no."

Tech Teams from S.C. ETV working on gender equality with the horse as a metaphor for life. Photo by Julianne Rickenbaker


"The nice thing about this work is that it allows you to be the best that you can be. If you come in here and do something that you are afraid to do, and do it well, you will build your self esteem," says Anderson . "Also, in doing this work, I've found that horses are helping humans find balance in their lives. With horses as a representative of nature, in working with them, people are getting back in touch with the environment through the horse, thereby finding balance in both worlds - "Man's World" and "Nature's World." Give a man a fish, feed him for the day; teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime: but you've got to let him get to the pond. If we stay on the path that we're on, there quite possibly may be no fish left in the pond. Using Nature's View, we can change our mindsets to find that balance." And for Anderson , after all, the goal is to help horses; the best way may be to show that once again, as they did before the Industrial Revolution, horses can play a vital role in our society.

Look who's talking ~ Just listen! Photo by Betty Hall

For more information:

Nature's View

PO Box 1464
Camden , SC    29020

About the author:

Julianne Rickenbaker is the mother of five horses, two dogs and three cats who make their home at Thornfield, an equine facility in Ridgeway , South Carolina . She recently began combining her two loves, dressage and music, and arranging musical freestyles. In her "spare time," she is an elementary music teacher and church musician. She also thoroughly enjoys helping Bruce with Nature's View.