Gender and Power in Narratives of “Natural Horsemanship”

The Production of “Prey-Identified Masculinity”


  • Erica Tom



It is widely recognized by equestrians that Natural Horsemanship has helped to create better lives for horses, but what are the effects of the discipline among humans? The narratives of the leading exponents of Natural Horsemanship,  Monty Roberts and Buck Brannaman, use ethological language to argue that their background of surviving childhood abuse by their fathers allows them to understand the position of “prey animals,” which includes both horse and woman. I posit that Roberts’s and Brannaman’s narratives produce a “prey-identified masculinity” that allows them, as traditional cowboy types (white, broad and tall), to lead the primarily female followed discipline. An examination of the discourse of Natural Horsemanship illuminates the function of gender essentialism, and yet also demonstrates how gender fluidity is encouraged as masculine and feminine body language is employed by men and women in the discipline.


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Author Biography

Erica Tom

Erica Tom is a scholar, artist, and educator. Currently a PhD Candidate in American Studies at Rutgers University-Newark, Erica also serves as the Director of Performance Arts and Movement Research at the Equine Experiential Organization Belos Cavalos, a 501(c)3 nonprofit in the Bay Area of California. ET’s poetry has appeared in Volt, The Pomona Valley Review, and Women Studies Quarterly. 




How to Cite

Tom, E. (2015). Gender and Power in Narratives of “Natural Horsemanship”: The Production of “Prey-Identified Masculinity”. Humanimalia, 7(1), 59–78.