Rational Horse Training

Horse Training - Not Horse Taming

New systems of horse training that were respectful of horses and yet produced great results were written about in local newspapers in the 1800's. This system was a new way of horse driving training that allowed the teams to be driven without reins, bridles or traces, etc. Mr. Rockwell, the advocate and instructor in this system, concluded by giving the audience an exhibition of his skill, and announcing the opening of a school of instruction for the benefit of both horsemen and their equines. 

The exhibition came off one afternoon at Tunison's Hotel, on the Coney Island Road, and attracted to that popular resort a large attendance of the equestrian fancy, owners of fast teams and others interested in horses. The exhibition was made with three horses, a span of very handsome bays attached to a light wagon, and a colt driven single.

These were driven first with reins, the rest of the harness consisting of the bit and surcingle, color, head stall, bridle and traces being dispensed with. 

In double driving instead of the pole and traces, double shafts are substituted, which is claimed to be an improvement on the pole and traces. The ease with which these horses were handled, with less than half the usual amount of harness, demonstrated that for all light purposes, a great saving in leather may be effected.

The most interesting portion of the display was in driving horses without reins. The horses were attached to the wagon by the surcingle only, their heads being entirely free. They were guided by the motion of the whip which the driver held above them. They were guided by the eye, the whip being the line of communication between horses and driver, and the horses followed the motion of the whip as a ship obeys the turn of the rudder. Not a word was spoken except to catch the attention of the horse if the animal happened to have it diverted.

The horses were guided right and left and turned with the nicest precision, and stopped with the utmost promptness, simply by the motion of the whip.

All this the reader may say was a very interesting exhibition, but these horses were trained to it and you have only to step into the first circus that comes along to see horses trained to do feats more strange than this.

But Mr. Rockwell closed his exhibition with an explanatory lecture, from which it appeared that this exhibition was merely designed to show what could be accomplished by a rational system of training horses.

He had made horses his family and training them his business; his system was to treat the horse as an intelligent animal, and to govern and guide him through his intelligence rather than by brute force. His argument was that a horse acts upon his experience, what he does at one time he will attempt again; if he attempts anything and fails he will not try it again. Thus his bad habits may be corrected, and he would undertake to break a horse of any bad habit in a short time.

Mr. Rockwell further explained that his system was not horse taming, but rather horse training. He did not subdue or conquer a horse, by throwing down, exhausting him and breaking his spirit, but simply educated him. To make his system a practical benefit, he proposed to instruct horsemen so that they could practice it, and train their horses as he did. He claimed to do no more than others could do by the same means. His methods were simple and guided by the light of reason.

In regard to the time taken to train a horse, Mr. Rockwell said the colt he had exhibited and which had been driven without reins, had had only five weeks training. Horses with more settled habits might take more or less time, but by his system he would undertake to cure a horse of any nasty habit. The pair of bays he drove, and which were models of docility, had each been given to vicious propensities, but had been reformed by his educational system and become the exemplary equines the audience beheld.

A class of instruction has been formed by Mr. Rockwell at the Riding School, rear of the Mansion House; and a fee of five dollars secures admission for a gentleman and his family with instruction in the rational system of horse training.

Last evening, in the presence of a large number of gentlemen and ladies, Mr. Rockwell gave an exhibition of his method at the Riding School.

An unbroken colt was the first subject treated, and was induced to yield implicit obedience after brief persuasion. A long, lean and rather unfriendly looking animal of no educational advantages and some bad habits was next taken in hand and taught manners in a few easy lessons by Mr. Rockwell. It would hardly do justice to this gentleman to give a detailed description of his process, and without the illustration the description would be of little practical value; it is merely necessary to say that the process is simple and effective.

It commends itself for the gentleness of the treatment of the horse. It appears to require no great physical strength or any unusual quality in the trainer, and any horseman, can practice the system once it is fully understood, and it is simple enough for any understanding. The only condition imposed is that the horseman shall control herself under all circumstances, otherwise one can hardly expect to control the less intelligent animal.

Believing the system worth the attention of people who own, or are involved in the handling of horses, we have devoted this much space to the subject. The exhibition on the road is to be repeated this afternoon, and a lecture of instruction and explanation given at the Riding School this evening.