Tim Jobe began developing the foundations of Natural Lifemanship in 1986 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. The kids could not intimidate them into doing the right thing. At this point Tim realized that he had to train horses to do the right thing because they thought it was the right thing to do. Thus began his transition into the horse training process that underlies Natural Lifemanship.
While making this transition he noticed 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 ladies 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.
He continued to develop the program at West Texas Boys Ranch until he moved it to Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch in 1997, where he continued to work with at-risk kids of all ages. He also utilized Natural Lifemanship with 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 he 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.
Nine 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 developmental neuroscience 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.
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, adding further evidence of the validity of the model as mutually beneficial to horses and humans alike.
Bettina and Tim have since returned to Central Texas, where they continue to conduct therapy sessions in collaboration with Spirit Reins and train mental health workers, parents, educators, leaders in the community, and organizations in the use of their model. In 2016 they launched a certification program for mental health and equine professionals using the NL model of Trauma-Focused EAP (TF-EAP).