1986 – Tim Jobe began developing the foundations of Natural Lifemanship while working at West Texas Boys ranch in San Angelo, Texas. Prior to coming to West Texas Boys Ranch Tim trained and showed quarter horses professionally. However, he soon found that the kids could not ride his well trained horses. In an attempt to solve the problem, Tim realized that the reason kids could not ride his horses was because he had trained them to do the right thing because they were afraid not to. However, the kids could not intimidate the horses into doing the right thing. At this point Tim realized that he had to train horses to make the right choices because they value the relationship, not out of submission or because they fear consequences. Interestingly enough, this ability to make good choices in consideration of relationships was the same quality that the staff at the Boys Ranch desired for the kids they were raising. Thus began Natural Lifemanship – a model of relationship based on principles that transfer seamlessly between relationships with horses and relationships with people.
While making this transition Tim observed that many kids were successful at the horse barn while struggling in every other area of their lives. At first, he believed it was because of his “amazing talent with kids.” When he finally got over himself, he realized the success was a result of the relationship with the horse, rather than the relationship with him. In an effort to better understand why that success occurred at the horse barn and further realize how kids could transfer that success to other areas of their lives, Tim hired two summer interns. He chose two young women who were working on their psychology degrees and also had experience with horses. The goal of the program that summer was to figure out specifically what it was about the interaction with horses that allowed kids to be successful, and to then help them apply those same things to other areas of their lives. As a result of this inquiry, Natural Lifemanship is principle based. Principles are generalizable, techniques are not. The team realized that for the benefits of the program to transfer from the kids’ relationships with horses to their relationships with other human beings, that the kids would need to be taught relationship principles that were universal and generalizable.
1997 – Tim moved the program to Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch, where he continued to work with at-risk kids of all ages. He also taught Natural Lifemanship principles to staff and houseparents. While working with the boys and girls at Cal Farley’s, he was asked to help form an organization to set professional standards and provide training in the field of Equine Assisted Psychotherapy. This international organization became the Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association (EAGALA), and Tim served on the board for the first ten years of its existence, retiring in 2009.
Natural Lifemanship horse training principles are unique in that they were specifically designed to apply equally to horse and human relationships, resulting in deeply therapeutic work in the mental health field.
At this stage, Tim was frequently asked how he knew whether his approach was working with these hard-to-reach kids. The way he determined this was transfer: If something they were doing in the horse pen were to be considered a successful strategy, it would have to transfer outside the horse pen into every other arena of life. Tim had figured out that what facilitated this transfer was teaching kids not just horse training techniques, but principles of relationship building that could be applied both to relationships with horses and to relationships with human beings.
By the time Bettina Shultz entered the picture, Tim had gained a solid understanding of what was working so well between kids and horses and how that was successfully transferring to other areas of kids’ lives. He had come to understand that what works is the relationship that is built in the round pen, and what facilitates transfer are the principles the kids were learning through the process. The only thing missing was an understanding of why the horse-human relationship and the principles of horse and human psychology were so effective.
Several years into Tim’s development of this work, Bettina sought an internship at Cal Farley’s to fulfill a requirement of her Masters in Counseling program at Denver Seminary. She chose Cal Farley’s because she had heard about the work Tim was doing there and wanted to learn from him. Her requests were initially denied, but her persistence paid off and after about 8 months, she was granted an internship.
As Bettina and Tim started seeing clients together they spent a lot of time talking about what they were doing and why and how it works. They began developing a deliberate language around how they talk about what they do. This is the principle-based language upon which Natural Lifemanship is built and the way it is taught to this day.
After a year of working with Tim at Cal Farley’s, Bettina accepted a position as Program Director for an outpatient EAP and therapeutic riding program in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, where she conducted and coordinated various EAP programs for children and adults and supervised and trained staff in the Natural Lifemanship approach to EAP. It was there that she began to blend therapeutic riding and EAP to help traumatized children in individual and group counseling sessions. It was also there that she spent a lot of time learning about trauma. Upon studying the works of Dr. Bruce Perry and others in the field, she came to realize why the relational, principle-based EAP work she and Tim had been doing was highly effective from a neurodevelopmental perspective.
In 2008 with this trauma-informed lens, Bettina returned to Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch where she provided clinical counseling services to boys and girls, ages 5 – 18. While at Cal Farley’s she utilized many interventions including various forms of expressive and experiential therapies, neurofeedback, HRV biofeedback, and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. She was able to blend many of these therapeutic techniques with Natural Lifemanship and therapeutic riding. She and Tim also utilized the Natural Lifemanship model to teach parenting classes. They continued to develop the Equine Program and refine the training principles of Natural Lifemanship based on the science that was beginning to inform the field of trauma-informed mental health care.
2010 – Word began to spread amongst the EAP community that Natural Lifemanship was a game-changer and demand for trainings across the nation increased. To meet this demand, in 2010 Tim and Bettina left Cal Farley’s to focus on training people in Natural Lifemanship and to build an EAP program in Farmington, New Mexico. While in New Mexico, Tim also did extensive work preparing wild mustangs for adoption through a contract with the BLM. This allowed Tim to test out the Natural Lifemanship principles with untrained horses who had no prior contact with human beings. Training wild mustangs the Natural Lifemanship way was unheard of and proved to be highly successful, further confirming that the model proves mutually beneficial to horses and humans alike.
Between 2010 and 2015, Tim and Bettina continued conducting therapy sessions full time while training others in Natural Lifemanship, part time.
2015 – Thanks to the support of a private lender, beginning in 2015 Tim and Bettina were able to focus all of their efforts on growing the Natural Lifemanship organization to meet the rapidly increasing demand for a refreshingly relational and powerfully transformative approach to helping people heal, grow and learn with the help of horses. In the fall of 2015 Natural Lifemanship’s first team members were hired.
2016 – The NL website was rebuilt with the goal of providing a robust online learning platform. The Natural Lifemanship Certification process was initiated and the first certification students started. The Fundamentals of NL manual was written. National boards approved NL as a provider of CE hours. Additional trainers were developed and host sites throughout the country were engaged so that people interested in learning this model would not have to travel far to attend a 3-day experiential workshop. In addition to offering training events almost every week of the year, NL has partnered with various organizations and schools to train their staff and help them integrate NL’s trauma-informed, developmentally sensitive, science-based principles for cultivating connected relationships.
2017 – NL hosted its first conference, offered its first online course and expanded its offerings of in-person trainings and online learning content. NL was also invited to contribute chapters and articles to books and compendia, most of which are currently in press.
2018 – The Fundamentals of NL was revised to include an online portion and a 2-day, rather than 3-day, live event. This has allowed many more people to attend the trainings over the weekends and also benefit from the ability to review the instructional portion of the trainings repeatedly at their convenience through the online lessons. NL has also developed four new trainings and is now offering Advanced Certification. The roster of NL trainers who travel about the country doing trainings has grown to 18 highly qualified therapists and equine professionals. A book of the model is underway, and the website is undergoing redevelopment to create a better experience for students and customers.