How To Train The Difficult Horse
The right use of the word "Whoa" and the advantages of throwing a horse in order to train him.
Mr. Gleason showed how to train the difficult horse. He has been giving lessons in New York, and on the night when this particular exhibition was given the first equine brought in to him was a horse that needed to be taught to stop kicking.
The horse's owner wanted to use him with a buggy for her family, but the horse didn't care to have anything to do with a buggy except to smash it with his hind feet and then run away with the pieces. The horse was good looking. He was brought into the tanbark enclosure with only a halter and the harness.
Mr. Gleason said his plan was to make the horse lie on the ground . He stood on the high side and held in his right hand a rope which passed under the surcingle down to the fore leg, as represented in the drawing. Mr Gleason pulled on this rope. It drew the horse's foot up to his body; then he took hold of the halter with his loft hand and pulled the horse's head around to him.
As he did so he placed his right elbow against the animal's side and sang out: "Lie down." The horse was scared at first by this unusual treatment. The pulling up of his fore leg discomforted the horse just a little and he manifested his disapproval of the necessity of standing upon three legs by fighting and trying to kick.
This opposition lasted some three minutes. Mr. Gleason held to his head, and kept it turned, and at last the astonished horse lay down. Then Mr. Gleason let him get up, and repeated the training several times, always using the command "Lie down, lie down, sir!" as he pulled upon the rope and the halter.
But this was only the first step. Horses have no reasoning faculties beyond the limits of their experience.
It is only through an act that something may be impressed upon them. This horse had had his own way with his owner and with everybody until Mr. Gleason had taken him in hand. He had developed the bad habit of kicking; he had kicked viciously whenever anyone tried to command his services, and by kicking he kept himself free. The horse knows this, and he knows it is a power. But here comes a man who, by a harness device upon his fore leg, succeeds in laying him down no matter how much he kicks.
The horse appreciates this, and he realizes that this new man has deprived him of his former power. The conceit is taken out of him; he begins to think that the man is his master. This accomplished, Mr. Gleason's next move is to get the horse to obey the reins and run about without kicking.
It was just a little difficult to get the reins in place on the horse in this experiment, but when it was done Mr. Gleason cracked his whip and sang out to the horse to go ahead. He did go ahead; he ran so fast that Mr. Gleason had to make his long legs move mighty quick to keep up with the running equine.
Then suddenly the horse lifted his heels and began kicking savagely. Instantly Mr. Gleason pulled on the rope leading to the fore leg and calling out: "Take care there, sir!" brought the kicker to his knees.
That fall, following after his attempted kicking, and a number of other falls coming after other attempts to kick, taught the horse that it was not proper to kick, that just as certainly as he kicked he would be tumbled to the ground. It took the trainer some twenty minutes to teach the horse that it was wrong to kick, and that an attempt to kick would be followed by a forced fall.
In his management of the horse Mr. Gleason punished him only for the fault of kicking. The result was that finally the animal saw fit to run around the tanbark quietly and good naturedly. The spectators looked on with interest, but the owner was the most interested. A boy was called up to try to drive the subdued horse. The lad took the reins and everything was all right. Then the owner tried it, and, for the first time, had no difficulty in managing the horse.
Another horse was brought in. This was one that was easily frightened by horses and strange objects. His sire and dam had given him good blood, but his early training had been defective.
The slightest strange object frightened him, and it was not safe to drive him anywhere. When he was brought to the tanbark Mr. Gleason put on a peculiar bridle of his own device, and drove him about as fast as he could follow him. Mr. Gleason carried a long snapping whip, and first taught the horse the meaning of the word "Whoa."
This, he thinks, is the greatest command in horsemanship. As he drove the animal around, stopping here and there before the boxes of the spectators, he said: "It is the habit of almost every person, when driving to use the word 'Whoa' continually.
But I want to say that you should never use the word except when you want your horse to stop. If you are driving along a street and you come to a crossing or a bad place, and you wish your horse to slack up in speed use this language: 'Steady, there, my boy.'
But when you wish him to stop then speak out sharply and firmly, 'Whoa!' If you will practice this in driving you will have your horse in two weeks so that he will understand every command that you give him. You must never give many meanings to one word.
You must never lie to your horse or deceive him. You do deceive him if, when you want him merely to slacken in speed you say 'Whoa,' and then later when you want him to stop and stand still you say 'Whoa.' How can a horse understand just what you want of him if this is the system you pursue? Never say 'Whoa' unless you mean it, and when you say it, see that the horse stops."
Mr. Gleason started the horse around, and drilled him on the true import of the command, 'Whoa!' Beginning on his fright lesson, he said: "You must make your horse understand by examination and experience that the things liable to frighten are really harmless.
You must be sure not to crack the whip for being frightened. Always let your horse face the object of fear, and when frightened remember that the slower you move your horse the more power you have over him. There are times when letting a horse trot is almost as bad as letting him run away."
Two attendants then came into the tanbark enclosure. One carried an open umbrella, the other a bass drum. While Mr. Gleason drove the horse along, the attendant with the umbrella loomed up before the horse and flaunted the umbrella in the animal's face.
It scared the brute and he started to plunge. The instant the trainer saw the horse tremble with fear he snapped his whip sharply and shouted "Whoa!" because neither this nor any other horse can think of two things at once. The animal at once halted and stood stock still.
"You see," said Mr. Gleason, "that the horse is distracted by the umbrella, so I distract him from that distraction by the crack of the whip and the command 'Whoa.' The horse stands there looking at the flaunted umbrella. It is some distance from him, and though it is being waved vigorously, he sees that it does not hurt him. Now I have the man with the umbrella come nearer. He waves it more fiercely. See, the horse is just a little frightened. He...
"Whoa! Whoa!" and crack, snap, whack, goes the whip as the tamer breaks in on his lecture to call the horse from the scare that the approach of the umbrella had caused.
It was a splendid picture of how a man with only his little human strength can overcome a frightened horse about to rear and jump off with all his brute force. The muscles of the shapely neck quivered, the long body heaved, the tendons of the legs stuck out, and the big four-footed beast hesitated in his sudden, fierce demonstration of superior force, and then, trembling under the tension of unexpended effort, became quieter, and at last absolutely quiet. He stood rooted in the tracks; the umbrella was shaking before his eyes, Gleason held the reins loose, and the spectators burst into applause.
And now up and down the tanbark the trainer drives the horse. The fellow with the umbrella runs before the horse and by his side and shakes the umbrella before his eyes and by his aide, but it has no effect.
"Bring on the drum," exclaims Mr. Gleason. When the boy beats it, the brute rears a little, but the whip snap and the word "Whoa!" brings the horse to his calmer senses. He makes up his mind finally that neither the umbrella nor the drum can hurt him.
Then they throw newspapers in his face. Most horses would run away if on a country road, or anywhere, in fact, a bundle of loose papers were thrown at them. This horse, however, did not get the chance to run away. When the first papers were flung at him the word "Whoa!" was sufficient alone, and Gleason did not have to snap the whip once.
Then they tied a string of bells around the horse's belly and a string of tin pans to his tail and set him going. At first the beast acted as if he wanted to kick and tear about, but the exclamation "Whoa!" calmed him. Then Gleason fired off a gun over the animal's head. It startled the spectators and made the horse jump.
"Whoa!" quieted him, however, and after a few more discharges of the weapon the horse stood still without even the reassuring word. This was all pretty good, but Mr. Gleason said he could "go it one better." He took off the head harness, and, calling up his attendants, they went through the noisy performance without the trained horse being in the slightest degree disturbed.