Horse taming and training has come a long way from the old time cowboy breaking methods which resulted in horses that would submit to aggressive, pain inducing force. Horses trained using harsh and frightening methods might be usable to chase cattle within a couple of days, but those horses would always be liable to react badly to something that frightened them more than the cowboy-type trainer did.
A horse trained with intelligence and trust will put its life in the hands of a good rider, even accepting the rider's guidance in the face of frightening situations. Intelligent, patient, gentling, on-going horse training and care is considered the best system for any horse person who respects and loves his or her horses.
What follows here is an article about horse taming from the mid 1800's that starts by saying that the law of kindness is the controlling principle and that the horse is governed by instinct which admits of a successful appeal to his intelligence. But, then there's the concept that in taming the horse, we must make a strong appeal to his intelligence, and this can only be accomplished by harsh methods that can be read towards the end of this article.
Teaching the horse to lie down
The horse to be tamed should be led into a close stable. The horse trainer
should be previously provided with a stout leather halter; a looped strap to slip over the animal's knee; a strong surcingle, and a long and short strap - the first to fasten round the forefoot which is at liberty, and the second to permanently secure the leg which is looped up.
In the first place, if the horse is a biter muzzle him; then lift and bend his left foreleg, and slip a loop over it.
The leg which is looped up must he secured by applying the short strap, buckling it around the pastern joint and forearm ; next put on the surcingle, and fasten the long strap around the right forefoot, and pass the end through a loop attached to the surcingle; after which fasten on a couple of thick leather knee pads - these can he put on in the first place if convenient. The pads are necessary, as some horses in their struggles come violently on their knees, abrading them badly.
Now take a short hold of the long strap with your right hand; stand on the left side of the horse, grasp the bit in your left hand; while in this position back him gently about the stable until he becomes so exhausted as to exhibit a desire to lie down, which desire should be gratified with as little violence as possible; bear your weight firmly against the shoulder of the horse, and pull steadily on the strap with your right hand; this will force him to raise his foot, which should be immediately pulled from under him.
This is the critical moment; cling to the horse, and after a few struggles he will lie down. In bearing against the animal do not desist from pulling, and pushing until you have him on his side. Prevent him from attempting to rise by pulling his head toward his shoulder.
As soon as he is done struggling, caress his face and neck; also, handle every part of his body, and render yourself as familiar as possible.
After he has lain quietly for twenty minutes let him rise, and immediately repeat the operation, removing the straps as soon as he is down; and if his head is pulled toward his shoulder it is impossible for him to get up. After throwing him from two to five times the animal will become as submissive and abject as a well-trained dog, and you need not be afraid to indulge in any liberties with him.
A young horse is subdued much quicker than an old one, as his habits are not confirmed. An incorrigible horse should have two lessons a day; about the fourth lesson he will be permanently conquered.
If the training is repeated several times, he can be made to lie down by simply lifting up his foreleg and repeating the words. "Lie down, Sir", which he must be previously made familiar with.
The following rules will serve as a guide to the amateur operator, and should be strictly observed.
First: The horse must not be forced down by violence, but must be tired out till he has a strong desire to lie down.
Secondly: He must be kept quiet on the ground until the expression of the eye shows that he is tranquilized, which invariably takes place by patiently waiting and gently patting the horse.
Thirdly: Care must be taken not to throw the horse upon his neck when bent, as it may easily be broken.
Fourthly: In backing him no violence must be used, or he may be forced on his haunches and his hack broken.
Fifth; The halter and off rein are held in the left hand, so as to keep the head away from the latter; while, if the horse attempts to plunge, the halter is drawn tight, when, the off-leg being raised, the animal is brought on his knees and rendered powerless for offensive purpose.
The operation of teaching a horse to follow a man and also to cure him of kicking and balking, should he preceded by the throwing down process, and in bad cases by the choking operation, as the animal is thus rendered gentle, tractable, and officiously obedient to whatever he can be taught to comprehend. This subsequent educational course is necessary in order to render the reformation permanent.
How to break colts
The following instructions with relation to the management and breaking of colts, and the subsequent operations upon obdurate and ungovernable horses, were originally written and published some three years ago, and are an important part of the system, although coming more particularly under the head of horse training, rather than taming.
If a colt is properly broken in his first encounter with people, the necessity for a method of taming, other than that used for wild horses, would never have been experienced, therefore these instructions are peculiarly valuable.
How to halter, saddle and bridle a colt
In breaking a colt, we should first endeavor to make him conscious of what is required of him. Fettering him with a halter for the first time, placing the saddle upon his back, fastening the girths, are all matters of paramount importance, demanding the greatest degree of patience, perseverance, and intuitive knowledge of his idiosyncrasies.
Before putting a halter upon a colt, he must be rendered familiar with it by caressing him and permitting him to examine the articles with his nose.
Then place a portion of it over his head, occasionally giving it a slight pull, and in a few minutes he will be accustomed to these liberties, and then the halter may be fastened on properly. To teach him to lead is another difficulty. Stand a little one side, rub his nose and forehead, take hold of the strap and pull gently, and at the same time touch him very lightly, with the end of a long whip across his hind legs.
This will make him start and advance a few steps. Repeat the operation several times, and he will soon learn to follow you by simply pulling the halter.
The process of saddling and bridling is similar. The mouth of the colt should be frequently handled, after which introduce a plain snaffle between his teeth and hold it there with one hand and caress him with the other.
After a time he will allow the bridle to be placed upon him. The saddle can now be brought in and rubbed against his nose, his neck and his legs; next hang the stirrup strap across his back, and gradually insinuate the saddle into its place. The girth should not be fastened until he becomes thoroughly acquainted with the saddle.
The first time the girth is buckled it should be done so loosely as not to attract his attention; subsequently it can be tightened without inspiring him with fear, which if fastened immediately it would most certainly do. In this manner the wildest colt can be effectually subjugated by such imperceptible degrees that he gives tacit obedience before he is aware of his altered condition.
The proper way to bit a colt
Farmers often put a bitting harness on a colt the first thing they do with him, buckling up the bitting as tight as they can draw it, to make him carry his head high, and then turn him out in a lot to run a half day at a time. This is one of the worst punishments that they could inflict on a colt, and very injurious to a young horse that has been used to running in pasture with his head down.
A horse should be well accustomed to the bit before you put on the bitting harness, and when you first bit him you should only rein his head up to that point where he naturally holds it, let that be high or low; he will soon learn that he cannot lower his head, and that raising it a little will loosen the hit in his month.
This will give him the idea of raising his head to loosen the bit, and then you can draw the bitting a little tighter every time you put it on, and he will still raise his head to loosen it.
By this means you will gradually get his head and neck in the position you wish him to carry it, and give him a graceful carriage, without hurting him, making him angry, or causing his mouth to get sore.
If you put the bitting on very tight the first time, he cannot raise his head enough to loosen it, but will bear on it all the time, and paw, sweat, and throw himself. Many horses have been killed by falling backward with the bitting on; their heads being drawn up, striking the ground with the whole weight of the body. Horses that have their heads drawn up tightly should not have the bitting on more than fifteen or twenty minutes at a time.
How to harness the colt
You should, by all means, have your harness made to fit your horse, especially the collar. Hundreds of horses have been spoiled by collars that do not fit as they should.
A little attention to this matter beforehand will facilitate your progress very much. Take your harness into the stable; go through the same process that you did with the saddle, letting the colt examine your harness satisfactorily; then put it on carefully; and after you have it all complete, then put on your lines; use them gently, as he is rather skittish, until he is used to them a little; then lead him back and forth in the stable until he does not seem to mind the fitting of the harness to his body; then take hold of the end of the traces and pull slightly at first, increasing your strength until he will pull you across the stable back and forth; then hitch him to whatever you wish him to pull.
How to hitch up the colt
This should be done with great caution, first let him examine the buggy or sulky in his own way of examining objects; then carefully hitch him up; have everything safe, let him start the buggy empty, and pull at first in that way; then get in, and let him take it slow, and he will not he near so apt to scare, and by degrees you will be making a good work horse.
If you want to have a horse that will be true to pull, and that thinks he can pull a mountain, never hitch him to any thing that he can not pull, and after he is used to pulling, he just thinks that he can pull anything, because he always has, and he does not know anything about his strength beyond his experience.
The type of bit and how to accustom a colt to it
You should use a large, smooth, snaffle bit, so as not to hurt his mouth, with a bar on each side to prevent the bit from pulling through either way. This you should attach to the head stall of your bridle, and put it on your colt without any reins to it, and let him run loose in a large stable or shed some time, until he becomes a little used to the bit, and will bear it without trying to get it out of his mouth.
It would be well, if convenient, to repeat this several times before you do anything more to the colt; as soon as he will bear the bit, attach a single rein to it, without any martingale. You should also have a halter on your colt, or a bridle made after the fashion of a halter, with a strap to it, so that you can hold or lead him about without pulling on the bit much. He is now ready for the saddle.
How to mount the colt
First soothe him well on both sides about the saddle, and all over, until he will stand still without holding, and is not afraid to see you anywhere about him.
As soon as you have him thus gentled, get a small block about one foot or eighteen inches in height, and set down by the side of him, about where you want to stand to mount him; step up on this, raising yourself very gently; horses notice every change of position very closely, and if you were to step very suddenly on the block, it would be very apt to scare him; but by raising yourself gradually on it, be will see you without being frightened, in a position very near the same as when you are on his back.
As soon as he will hear this without alarm, untie the stirrup-strap next to you, and put your left foot in the stirrup and stand square over it, holding your knee against the horse and your toe out, so as not to touch him under the shoulder with the toe of your boot. Place your right hand on the front of the saddle, and on the opposite side of you, taking hold of a portion of the mane and reins, as they hang loosely over the neck, with your left hand; then gradually bear your weight on the stirrup, and on your hand, until the horse feels your whole weight on the saddle.
Repeat this several times, each time raising yourself a little higher from the block, until he will allow you to raise your leg over his croup and place yourself in the saddle. There are three great advantages in having a block to mount from.
First, a sudden change of position is very apt to frighten a young horse who has never been saddled. He will allow you to walk up to him and stand by his side without scaring at you, because you have wonted him to that position, but if you get down on your hands and knees and crawl toward him, he will be very much frightened; and upon the same principle, he would frighten at your new position if you had the power to hold yourself over his back without touching him. Then, the first great advantage of the block is to gradually accustom him to that new position in which he will see you when you ride him.
Secondly, by the process of leaning your weight in the stirrups and on your hand, you can gradually accustom him to your weight, so as not to frighten him by having him feel it all at once.
And, in the third place, the block elevates you so that you will not have to make a spring in order to get on the horse’s back, but from it you can gradually raise yourself into the saddle.
Subsequent educational lessons in horse taming.
How to subdue a kicking horse
A kicking horse is the worst kind of a horse to undertake to subdue, and more dreaded by riders and drivers than any other; indeed, it would not be too much to say that they are more dreaded than all the other bad and vicious horses put together. You often hear the expression, even from horse jockeys themselves, "I don’t care what he does, so long as he doesn't kick."
Now, a kicking horse can be broken from kicking in harness, and effectually broken, too, though it will require some time to manage him safely; but perseverance and patience by this rule will do it effectively.
When you go to harness a horse that you know nothing about, if you want to find out whether he is a kicking horse or not, you can ascertain that fact by stroking him in the flank where the hair lies upward, which you can discover easily on any horse; just stroke him down with the ends of your fingers, and if he does not switch his tail, and shake his head, and lay back his ears, or some of these, you need not fear his kicking; if he does any or all of these, set him down for a kicking horse, and watch him closely.
When you harness a kicking horse, have a strap about three feet long, with a buckle on one end; have several holes punched in the strap; wrap it once around his leg just above the hoof; lift up his foot touching his body; put the strap around the arm of his leg and buckle it; then you can go behind him, and pull back on the traces; you must not fear his kicking while his foot is up, for it is impossible for him to do it.
Practice him in this way for a while, and he will soon learn to walk on three legs. You should not hitch him up until you have practiced him with his leg up two or three times, pulling on the traces, and walking him along.
After you have practiced him a few times in this way, take up his foot as directed; hitch him to something, and cause him to pull it a short distance; then take him out; caress him every time you work with him. You will find it more convenient to fasten up his left fore foot, because this is the side you are on.
After you have had him hitched up once or twice, you should get a long strap, put it around his foot as before directed (above the hoof and below the pastern-joint); put it through a ring in your harness; take hold of it in your hand; hitch him up gently, and if he makes a motion to kick, you can pull up his feet and prevent it.
You should use this strap until you have him broken from kicking, which will not take long. You should hitch a kicking horse by himself; you can manage him better in this way than to hitch him by the side of another horse.
How to break a horse from scaring
It is an established rule in philosophy, that there is not an effect without a cause, and if so, there must be some cause for the scaring of a horse. The horse scares either from imagination or from pain. Now, it is a law of his nature, that if you convince him that any object will not hurt him, there is no danger of his scaring at it, no matter how frightful it may be in appearance.
To exemplify this, take a horse that is very easily scared at an umbrella; take that horse into a tight stable where you can have his attention, take him by the bridle, and hold the umbrella in your hand; when he first looks at it he will be afraid of it, and if he could he would soon be out of its reach; but hold it in your hand, let him look at it and feel it with his nose a few minutes, and then you can open and shut it as you please, occasionally letting him feel it with his nose, and soon he will care nothing about it.
In the same manner you can break any horse from scaring at things that may look frightful to him, logs, stumps by the roadside, or anything that you may wish to carry on him. If you wish to make a trial of this theory, just take a horse into the stable, and let him examine the frightful object a few minutes after his mode of examining things, and you will be perfectly satisfied.
We have tried horses that would not suffer you to take an umbrella on them shut, and in fifteen minutes could open and shut it at will, and they will pay no attention to it. There is something peculiar in the horse (though it is because he has not the faculty of reasoning).
You can take an object that he is afraid of, take it only on one side, let him examine it on that side only: do not let the other eye see it; he will be broken on one side, and, as soon as the other eye beholds it, will be afraid until he looks at it and touches it with his nose; then he will be broken on both sides.
How to teach a horse to follow you
Take him into a large stable or shed, take hold of the bridle or halter with your left hand, have a long switch or whip in your right, after caressing him a little put your right hand over his shoulder with the whip extending back so that you can touch him up with the whip applied gently around his hind legs.
Start up a little, give him a gentle tap with the whip, walk him around the stable, saying to him, "Come along boy" or call him by his name, taking him around the stable a few times, holding him by the bridle.
After you have taken him around in this way a few times, you can let go of his bridle, saying, "Come along boy," and if he stops, tap him up with the whip gently, and in a short time he will learn that you want him to follow you; then gradually get before him, have him to follow you around the stable in this way a few minutes, then he will understand what you want him to do.
After you have taught him to follow in the stable, take him into the stable lot. Teach him to follow you in there a few minutes; then you can take him into the public road or street, and he will follow you there, and in a short time he will follow you wherever you want him to. You should often pat him, and caress him, and give him to understand you do not intend to hurt him, and he will soon like to follow you.
Men often get their horses afraid of them and keep them so, and it is their nature to keep out of danger when they apprehend it, after the manner of arriving at conclusions. The way horses arrive at conclusions is generally from experience.
How to teach a horse to stand without hitching
After you have taught your horse to follow you, stand him in the center of the stable, begin at his head to gentle him, gradually working backward. If he moves, give him a gentle cut with the whip, and put him back in the same spot from which he started. If he stands, caress him as before, and continue gentling him in this way until you can get around him without making him move. Keep walking around him, increasing your pace, and only touch him occasionally.
Every time he moves, put him back in the same place; go still farther from him. If he moves, give him a cut with your whip, place him back in the same place. If he stands, go to him frequently and caress him. Do not let him stand too long, but make him follow you around in the stable. Then stand him in another place and proceed as before.
After you have him so that he will stand in the stable, take him out in the lot and place him there, and in a short time you can place him anywhere without hitching. You should not practice him longer than half an hour at a time.
On balking horses
If you have balky horses, it is your fault and not the horses'; for if they do not pull true, there is some cause for it, and if you will remove the cause the effect will cease. When your horse balks, he is excited, and does not know what you want him to do.
When he gets a little excited, stop him five or ten minutes; let him become calm; go to the balky horse, pat him, and speak gently to him; and as soon as he is over his excitement he will, nine cases out of ten, pull at the word; whipping and slashing and swearing only make the matter worse.
After you have soothed him a while, and his excitement has cooled down, take him by the bits; turn him each way as far as you can; pull out the tongue; soothe him a little; unrein him; then step before the balky horse, and let the other start first; then you can take him anywhere you wish.
A balky horse is always high-spirited, and starts quick; has his pull out before the other starts, by standing before him, the other starts too. By close application of this rule, you can make any balky horse pull.
If a horse has been badly spoiled, you should hitch him to the empty wagon, and pull it around a while on level ground; then put on a little load, and increase it gradually, caressing as before, and in a short time you will have a good horse that will work without troubling you.
An excessively harsh form of horse taming follows.
An extreme method of taming a horse involved interfering with its breathing. So here is how the article laid out this brutal method.
It is an undisputed fact that the battles of all animals (except such as are garnished with horns) are fought by seizing each other by the throat. A dog that has been thus held by his antagonist for a few minutes, on being released, is often so thoroughly cowed that no human artifice can induce him to again resume the unequal contest.
This is the principle upon which horse taming is founded. Choking a horse is the first process in taming, and is but the beginning of his education. By its application a horse becomes docile, and will thereafter receive any instruction which he can be made to understand. Teaching the animal to lie down at your bidding, tends to keep him permanently cured, as it is a perpetual reminder of his subdued condition.
It requires a good deal of practice to tame a horse successfully; also a nice judgment to know when he is choked sufficiently, as there is a bare possibility that he might get more than would be good for him.
We advise persons not perfectly familiar with a horse to resort rather to the strapping and throwing down process (unless he is very vicious) described below; this, in ordinary cases, will prove successful.
It is the fault of most people who have owned a horse to imagine that they are expert in his management; while, on the contrary, many professional horsemen are the very worst parties to attempt his subjugation. Unless a horse person has a good disposition he need not attempt horse taming.
Retire with the animal to be operated upon into a close stable, with plenty of litter upon the floor (tanbark or sawdust is preferable.)
In the first place fasten up the left foreleg with the arm strap, in such a manner that it will be permanently secured. Then take a bread strap and buckle and pass it around the neck just back of the jaw bone.
Draw the strap as tight as possible, so tight as to almost arrest the horse’s breathing. The strap must not be buckled, but held in this position to prevent slipping back.
The animal will struggle for a few minutes, when he will become perfectly quiet, overpowered by a sense of suffocation; the veins in his head will swell; his eyes lose their fire; his knees totter and become weak; a slight vertigo will ensue, and growing gradually exhausted, by backing him around the stable, he will come down on his knees, in which position it is an easy matter to push him on his side, when his throat should be released.
Now pat and rub him for about twenty minutes, when, in most instances he will be subdued. It is only in extreme cases necessary to repeat the operation of choking. The next lesson is to teach him to lie down, which is described below in the account of the second method of taming. No horse can effectively resist the terrible effect of being choked.
It must be constantly born in mind that the operator must not be boisterous or violent, and that the greatest possible degree of kindness is absolutely essential. When the horse is prostrated he should be soothed until his eyes show that he has become perfectly tranquil.
Another harsh horse taming method
Buckle or draw a strap tight around the neck, lift a fore leg and fasten around it the opposite end of the strap, the shorter the better. In this plan the horse is made the instrument by which the punishment is inflicted.
When he attempts to put his foot down his head goes with it, and he thus chokes himself; care should be taken that he does not pitch on his head, and thus endanger his neck.
Taming a horse without resort to straps
Secure the horse with a stout halter to the manger. If extremely unruly, muzzle him. Soothe him with the hands for a few minutes until he becomes somewhat pacified. Then seize him by the throat, close to the jaw bone, with the right hand, and by the mane with the left.
Now forcibly compress his windpipe until he becomes so exhausted that, by lightly kicking him on the forelegs, he will lie down, after which he should be treated as previously described. The process requires courage in the horse tamer, and also great muscular strength.