Driven by a lifelong passion to connect with horses on the deepest possible level, Josh Nichol has been honing his unique Relational Horsemanship approach to horse training for over two decades. In his early years, Josh studied in the U.S. under world-class mentors who had him starting colts and learning the art of the working cattle horse. He continued to develop his skills through activities as varied as rodeo pick-up work and the study of Classical Dressage. As he explains, "My personal focus has been on blending an understanding of the functional training of the working cowboy with the High School approach of the Classical system. My ongoing desire is to continually honour both the mind and the body of the horse in order to allow both peace and proper function."
Josh brings key aspects of his varied background together in his Relational Horsemanship training, which is based on the core principle of building a deep connection with our horses by continually striving to meet their mental and physical needs. When we make this the foundation of our horsemanship, we create a positive learning environment for both horse and rider without any need for force. Josh believes that by fostering understanding, softness and lightness in the horse -- instead of the tensions that so often result from dominance-based training -- we empower our horses to feel and give their very best.
Working with clients ranging from trail riders to Olympic competitors, Josh has gained an international following among horse owners and equine professionals alike. While his highly regarded live clinics continue to draw students from around the globe, Josh now also has a popular online training program that allows anyone seeking to advance their horsemanship to learn his methods.
Josh is a regular contributor to Horse Canada and has had many articles published in other magazines such as EQUUS and Western Horse Review. He has been featured in events as diverse as “The Horse” Exhibition at the Nevada Museum of Art in Reno, and The Mane Event in Red Deer, AB. He also gives team-building seminars for businesses and other organizations, works with equine-assisted therapy groups, and now has protégés of his own going out into the world to teach his methods. Ultimately, Josh aims to help both horses and people make the changes necessary to become their best possible selves by finding connection, joy, and freedom in both body and spirit.
Josh's 2021 Presentations
- Lightness vs Softness - Groundwork & Riding in the Round Pen
- We often value "light" responses from our horses when they respond quickly to aids and cues. However, a "light" response becomes problematic when horses move their bodies quickly but hold onto tension mentally and internally. A "soft" response occurs when a horse relaxes internally and feels okay about what is happening; therefore, I want my horses to be light and responsive after they soften and feel at peace internally. Watch this live clinic session where we start to help the OTTB mare soften internally and make a mental change!
- Once you have met your horses' needs and they feel calm, you can now teach your horses to move more athletically. In order to promote free and "through" movement, you must learn the progression of working your horse's shoulders, poll, and hindquarters. Watch this live clinic session and learn how we shape the OTTB mare's balance to enhance "basic posture" (the ability to support the weight of a rider smoothly).
- Groundwork is a great opportunity for us to teach horses how to turn off their defensive back muscles and engage their core muscles. The cool part of this work is that, when we help horses soften under pressure and release their tensions, they start to value our input and reach for us to connect with them. Watch this live session for a magical moment in the middle of the clinic when the OTTB mare steps in to connect with Josh.
- When we ride horses in a relational way, it is important that they feel engaged and empowered by the work. In this lesson, Josh describes the difference between "held frame" and "self-carriage" so that we begin to understand why self-carriage helps horses maximize their full potential. Watch this final clinic session with the OTTB to see Josh ride the mare and help her learn how to achieve self-carriage by paying more attention to the seat and leg aids (instead of her face and the reins).