Three Basic Principles of Dressage

Posted on March 12, 2020 by Jerrilee.
Categories: handicap, history, riding, training.

clinic in Chesapeke City
photo: Hassler Dressage

 

from Dressage Today, Charles de Kunffy brings forward the basic principles of training the horse dressage.

As a young rider in Hungary, I remember how three moments of evolutionary breakthroughs made all the difference. Like all young riders, I was impressed when I looked at the sophisticated equine professors that moved with big, round necks, as opposed to thin, inverted racehorse-looking ones. Being pragmatic and used to getting things done quickly, the easiest solution to achieve a round neck seemed to be manipulating the neck so that it appeared to be round. My coaches got on my case, leaving me with a sense of desperation. If not actively working on the horse’s neck, how in the world would I get such a round and tall carriage?

Backed up by my relentless coach, my patient horses soon revealed a most surprising discovery: I could influence the neck’s position from the haunches rather than from the reins. The principle of this discovery is similar to the principle of sweeping dust into a dustbin with a broom. As you sweep, the dustbin travels forward to receive the dust. It has to move in order to receive the dirt being gathered up. Similarly, the horse is gathered up from behind by energizing his haunches and giving him the room through the reins to articulate freely. Trying to achieve collection by working on the horse’s neck cuts the horse off in the front. Confining reins prevents the hind legs from powerfully supporting the rider’s weight and balance by lifting him with suspension. Following this, I realized that a horse consists of three bascules:

The neck (the easiest to access and manipulate)
The back (which takes more knowledge and skill to engage). If a horse has what we called a “warm” back–loose, supple and oscillating–he can lift the rider. It’s almost like sitting on a suction cup; it comes up and supports the rider’s pelvis. On the other hand, if a horse has what we called a “cold” back–low and stiff–the rider achieves nothing other than growing old sitting on it.
The hind end (the haunches should thrust the pelvis forward to lower the croup and to actually articulate at the lumbar-sacral joint). This last bascule is the one that is widely ignored by riders. If it were addressed, one would see many more horses that lower themselves toward the ground in supple strides from elastic joints. Horses with unexercised hind leg joints move stiffly with high croups. Horses with ill-developed muscles, lacking strength and suppleness, might appear to have round necks but remain still disconnected through the topline.

Once I understood to ride the horse’s hindquarters instead of his neck, the second breakthrough came when I realized that riding is a dancing partnership with the horse. Every horse has a certain signature rhythm–a footfall that’s like a fingerprint. Only when a rider aids in the rhythm of the horse’s footfalls will they make sense to the horse. Horses don’t understand banging and poking with legs out of phase with their footfalls, although the rider might use an occasional kick as a wake-up call. A horse that’s pushed out of his signature rhythm will run off and not be able to do relaxed extensions.

So we were asked to get into a rising trot and tell our coach when we found the horse’s perfect rhythmic profile. Once we had established that, we were able to stimulate the horse to more activity without changing his rhythm. This resulted in a dancing, free, forward, suspended and rhythmic movement without the horse being confined in the front.

The third important principle was an understanding of how to keep the horse together without confining his haunches from the reins. My coaches insisted that the reins may be used for a thousand things except to inhibit the haunches or to set the shape of his neck. A well-schooled horse will collect on even sagging reins into a piaffe or school canter. No need to hold him together, only drive him from leg and seat. Consistent and knowledgeable use of half halts educate the horse to understand the leg aids not merely as “go” but also as “energize” without running off.

When thinking about collecting a horse, many riders only think of closing him longitudinally from hocks to bridle. However, one must realize that one closes the horse also laterally from outside leg to inside rein and from inside leg to outside rein, like an X. Half pass and the shoulder-in, for instance, are exercises that utilize this concept of closing the horse laterally. In the half pass, when the horse is closed correctly, he lowers his outside hip and thrusts his pelvis toward the inside shoulder. In the shoulder-in, the inside hock is supposed to reach so deep–not just across but deep forward–that it reaches level with the outside stifle. The rider who fails to close the horse longitudinally as well as laterally will fail to engage him.

These three principles allowed me to train to higher levels. I wish you well in riding your horse in your horse’s native rhythm, closed from behind, strong and seated, elastic and supple.

Book Review

Posted on March 1, 2020 by Jerrilee.
Categories: equipment, health, history, riding, training.
Learning Riding Posture

Learning Riding Posture

“Dude! Did You Just Fall Off?” is a delightful kid’s e-book on Amazon’s Kindle that skillfully and humorously attempts to prepare the horse newbie for their first and, hopefully, subsequent encounters.  It boldly asks:  what would you do if you were invited to go horseback riding, had never even been near a horse, but really wanted to go?

Obviously this is not a common invitation for inner-city dwellers, but for the nearly 30% of rural school children, and even higher percentage of suburban students, a recreational weekend just may indeed include a friend’s offer to see their family’s stabled horse. Facing the reality of being near such a big animal and actually sitting on its back can seem adventurous,  but nearly everyone quickly discovers a sudden level of panic once they become face to face with such a large animal.

This is why we picked the “Dude!” book off the shelf of Amazon. This book stands apart from the plethora of previous books by the way it brings horseback riding into your home and helps you practice balance and posture before you even head out to your friend’s barn. The list of straightening and correcting exercises range from simple body adjustments to learning ready-to-use moves while in the saddle. It had such great ideas plus a wallet saving price of only $2.99. Download it to your phone or tablet and refer to it right on the way to the stable. Personally, we found it just as helpful for adults. Enjoy..

The Little Sorrel Morgan

Posted on February 16, 2020 by Jerrilee.
Categories: breed, health, history, military, riding, training.

Stonewall Jackson’s Little Sorrel Morgan Horse


reprint from Horseandman.com

As the story goes, in 1861 Stonewall Jackson needed a horse in Harper’s Ferry just about the time that a cargo train was seized there that happened to be carrying a load of domestic horses. Fancy that…
The horses were offloaded and led to water where they were observed.
Now, just about everyone said that Thomas Jackson was not the best horseman. So, it stands to reason that he would pick the unruly, fussy, huge and beautiful black STALLION for himself to ride and the sweet little sorrel Morgan gelding for his wife.
After about a day, he ditched the stallion and kept the sorrel for himself.
Legend has it that this little sorrel Morgan was about 15 hands of solid confidence. They say that horse rode into more battles than any other war horse.
And, since Jackson rarely stopped long enough to rest, many soldiers claimed that he slept atop Little Sorrel while he led himself back to camp.
Luckily, Little Sorrel had beautiful gaits and was of the attitude to take care of his rider. (I love Morgans.) And, he had the stamina to boot! Records show that not only did the gelding charge into untold numbers of battle, he often covered over 40 miles in a day. Troops said they never, ever saw fatigue in that horse. Wow!
Not only was he brave, but he was full of personality… Troopers reported that Little Sorrel would lay down on the picket line and receive apples fed to him by the men.
After surviving the war, the gelding was described as a rascal with a mouth that could undo latches, let down bars and liberate every horse in the barn. And like his earlier master, he would lead his command into new fields of opportunity, removing fence rails whenever he wanted.
Jackson was of the opinion that his faith dictated when he would die. Since he believed his death was ordained to happen exactly as God had planned, he never worried about going into battle. When it was his time to meet his maker, he would die then – and not before.
This bravado spread amongst his men which is why they were known as kinda crazy and daredevily. The name “Stonewall” came about because Jackson stonewalled his fears.
That battle chutzpah went for Jackson’s non-churcghoing horse, too. So, I guess Little Sorrel believed what he was told and went wherever his owner asked him to go. A perfect match.
And actually, Little Sorrel was safe. It was Jackson who was shot off of his back by his own men, on accident…
[commentary–Jackson died on May 10, 1863, at a field hospital near Guiney Station, VA, approximately 30 miles from the battlefield at Chancellorsville. Little Sorrel ran off shortly after Jackson was wounded during Chancellorsville, and he was recaptured several days later. He was later returned to Mary Anna, and she eventually sent the horse to the Virginia Military Institute. Little Sorrel ended up spending his final days at the Confederate Soldiers Home in Richmond, as a pet of the veterans who also lived there. He died in 1886 at the age of thirty-six. His hide was preserved, and is on display at the Virginia Military Institute Museum. Little Sorrel’s cremated bones are interred on the parade ground at the Virginia Military Institute.]

The Conestoga Wagon

Posted on February 8, 2020 by Jerrilee.
Categories: breed, equipment, history.
displayed at the National Museum of American History

displayed at the National Museum of American History

The Conestoga wagon was pretty, painted in a bright Prussian blue with white linen tops and large scarlet wheels. They were huge rigs, capable of hauling up to 6 tons of freight, and they would often travel in trains of up to 30 vehicles. When these huge wagons would travel down the road, there was little room for oncoming traffic, and these wagons did not yield.  These large wagons had no seat for the driver, but rather they often had a special board sticking out on the left side for the driver to stand on. Oncoming traffic would have to veer out to the right to make room for the wagon and its driver.So this is where the American tradition of driving on the right side of the road originated!

During this time, the horses were fitted with harness bells. For the header horses there were small soprano bells and the middle or swing pairs had tenor bells. A bass toned bell was fitted on the right wheelers, but the left wheelers had no bells. If a wagon became stuck, help was available but usually with the payment of one or more bell. The bells became important trophies of skill and success for the teamsters. Thus the expression “to be there with bells on” was born!

The Conestoga wagons were a larger version of what became known as the “prairie schooner” used to transport settlers in the 1800’s. The design of the wagon was reduced between 1820 and 1830, modified for family travel rather than heavy commercial hauling. These wagons were traditionally painted in subdued browns and greens, and thus was born the prairie schooners that made their way west.

from Animal-World Newsletter
editor’s note: for March we have the cross Canada chuck wagon tour of Pierre Cloutier on Equi-Tv!

Horses Never Forget Human Friends

Posted on January 17, 2020 by Jerrilee.
Categories: health, history, therapy, training.

sonja rasche
article by Jennifer Viegas
Human friends may come and go, but a horse could be one of your most loyal, long-term buddies if you treat it right, suggests a new study. Horses also understand words better than expected, according to the research, and possess “excellent memories,” allowing horses to not only recall their human friends after periods of separation, but also to remember complex, problem-solving strategies for ten years or more.

The bond with humans likely is an extension of horse behavior in the wild, since horses value their own horse relatives and friends, and are also open to new, non-threatening acquaintances.
“Horses maintain long-term bonds with several members of their family group, but they also interact temporarily with members of other groups when forming herds,” explained Carol Sankey, who led the research, and her team. “Equid social relationships are long-lasting and, in some cases, lifelong,” added the scientists, whose paper has been accepted for publication in the journal Animal Behavior. Ethologist Sankey of the University of Rennes and her colleagues studied 20 Anglo-Arabian and three French Saddlebred horses stabled in Chamberet, France. The scientists tested how well the horses remembered a female trainer and her instructions after she and the horses had been separated up to eight months.
Since “horses are able to learn and memorize human words” and can hear the human voice better than even dogs can, due to their particular range of hearing, the scientists predict trainers could have success if they incorporate more vocal commands into their horse training programs.

Jill Starr is president and founder of Lifesavers Wild Horse Rescue, a non-profit that provides refuge, training and adoption placement for otherwise slaughter-bound wild mustangs and domestic horses.
Starr told Discovery News that she’s observed horses responding well to verbal commands, such as “trot,” but she still feels “horses and people get along better if the person doesn’t chatter, since this causes the individual to have greater awareness of body language that is more familiar to horses.”
She, however, agrees that horses are loyal, intelligent and have very long-lasting memories — of both good and bad experiences.
Starr said, “Horses can be very forgiving, but they never forget.”

What Dewormer Works Best? Part 1

Posted on December 10, 2019 by Jerrilee.
Categories: health, history, therapy.

Article Written by Donald H Bliss, Ph.D  midamericaagresearch.net

Equine Dewormers:
Equine dewormers currently on the market in the USA can be classified into three separate classes of compounds based on the mode of action.
These three major classes are: the benzimidazoles and pre-benzimidazoles (febantel, fenbendazole, oxibendazole, mebendazole and oxfendazole), the macrocyclic lactones (avermectin and moxidectin families), and the tetrahyo-pyrimidines (pyrantel). The mode of action is different for each class of compounds. The benzimidizoles are non-soluble compounds that destroy the metabolism of the parasites by interfering with the cell functions in the parasites and by preventing the uptake of food thus starving the worms to death. The macrocyclic lactones are very soluble compounds and affect the nervous system killing the parasites causing a non-spastic paralysis while the pyrimidines kill the parasites by acting on the nervous receptors causing a spastic paralysis.
All three classes of compound have excellent efficacy against the adult parasites, but each dewormer class has a defined mode of action with a different level of activity against various developing and encysted larvae. The time it takes for larvae missed by treatment to develop into an adult parasite following treatment depends upon what larval stage the product is efficacious against. It takes longer for late L3 larvae to develop into an adult parasite than it will for late L4 larva. This difference can be measured in the time it takes for worm eggs to reappear in the feces following treatment. The longer it takes for eggs to reappear the more effective the product is against both the developing and encysted larvae.
Using products correctly and understanding their characteristics can help keep all classes of products viable. Fenbendazole, for example, is an excellent product when used in a strategic deworming schedule. However, if parasite contamination is allowed to develop in the environment and parasite levels increases in the animals until a high population of encysted larvae are present in high numbers, the efficacy of fenbendazole at the recommended dose is drastically reduced.
Two key issues have been identified with fenbendazole that can affect its efficacy. The first issue is that this compound is not very soluble in liquids such as gastric juices or blood. The second issue is that it kills the parasite by destroying it’s ability to metabolize food. Encysted larvae are in an arrested state with reduced metabolism and reduced absorption of nutrients. Because of fenbendazole’s low solubility and reduced metabolism of the encysted larvae, the product needs direct physical contact to kill these encysted parasites. When fenbendazole is given at 10 times the recommended dose spread over a five-day period it is successful against both developing and encysted larvae (10 mg/kg given daily for five days). By flooding the astrointestinal tract with molecules of fenbendazole, direct contact is made with the encysted larvae successfully killing them.

Equine Parasite Control Part 2

Posted on December 8, 2019 by Jerrilee.
Categories: health, history, therapy.

Dr Donald Bliss of midamericaagresearch.net has published a revealing study regarding de-worming resistance in equines. His facts point out that actual cases of such resistance are very rare and that the appearance of  such resistance is usually the result of existing parasites and their eggs never fully being destroyed. To determine if your horse has resistance to current dewormers, Dr Bliss advises to first implement an active parasite control program that results in ending the egg-to-worm cycle in both the host (horse) and the paddocks and pastures.  The following is his initial program proven effective in stopping the parasite cycle in horses:

“Phase I:  To begin the program, all horses should be parasite-free throughout the winter months and prior to the start of the transmission season in the spring. This includes making sure all animals are free from harboring encysted larvae acquired during the previous grazing season. The goal has multiple benefits, the first is to make sure the animals are free from harmful parasitism during the winter months, the second, is to make sure the animals are not shedding worm eggs at the beginning of the grazing season in the spring and, the third, is to make sure all mares are parasite-free at the time of foaling. The last treatment of the season should take place after the transmission season is over, preferably in December. If post-treatment fecal exams indicate infections are still present after the December treatment, repeated treatment may be necessary including the use of the larvicidal dose of fenbendazole (10mg/kg daily for 5 days). All horses that are heavily parasitized (when fecal worm egg counts are over 300 eggs/3 gm sample) or horses that have not been dewormed on a regular basis should be dewormed with a larvicidal of fenbendazole to remove inhibited larval stages before starting the program.  When fenbendazole is given at 10 times the recommended dose spread over a five-day period it is successful against both developing and encysted larvae (10 mg/kg given daily for five days). By flooding the astrointestinal tract with molecules of fenbendazole, direct contact is made with the encysted larvae successfully killing them.

Phase II: Strategic Timed Spring Dewormings: In the horse, treatment should be timed with the seasonal parasite life cycle on pasture where parasite development in the environment in most parts of the country is the greatest in the spring and the fall.  To reduce the overall parasite contamination of the environment, three spring dewormings should be given one month apart in the spring and again in the fall.  If the animals are parasite-free at the beginning of the spring season, the first treatment should be given approximately 30-days after the start of spring grazing. The repeated treatment works because as animals pick up infective larvae which have over-wintered on the pasture in early spring, these larvae are killed with the first treatment before they can mature and begin laying eggs back in the environment of the horse. The horses continue to pick up more larvae, which are killed by the second and then the third treatment before they can shed eggs again.  By preventing eggs from being shed for the first three to four months in the beginning of the grazing season significantly reduces parasite contamination for the next three months. With horses, three strategically timed dewormings given one month apart will provide approximately six months of safe grazing. The key to the success of this program is that the horses must be free of parasites at the start of the season so that the repeated treatments are simply removing the parasites picked up during each thirty day interval. If the treatments are successful no worm egg will be shed on the pasture for approximately 120 days, i.e., (1) clean to start, (2) three thirty-day treatments which provides 90 days without shedding and (3) another thirty days past the last treatment before mature worms can be present laying eggs into the environment.
Strategic timed deworming treatment should be given three times in the spring and fall one month apart as shown. The class of dewormer used can be interchanged as desired. The last treatment should be given in late November or early December and may include both bot and tapeworm treatment if needed. Each “three-treatment strategically timed regime” provides approximately six months of control thus the spring treatment protects the horses until fall and the fall regime protects the horses until spring. These repeated treatments also help remove encysted larvae which may have survived in the horse through the winter months while preventing more from establishing throughout the entire grazing season by reducing the overall build-up of infective larvae in the environment of the treated animals.

Pasture Control:  Parasites can survive winter or hot summer conditions either as adult, inhibited larvae or infective larvae in the environment. The adult parasite within the horse have a finite life span, however, as the older parasites die off they are replenished by the larvae, new incoming larvae, or larvae that have emerged from the gut wall (in the case of the small strongyles), from the lungs (in the case of roundworms), and from the mesentery arteries (in the case of Strongylus vulgaris). Infected horses then re-seed the pastures with parasite eggs which develop into infective larvae contaminating spring pastures. Animals that enter the spring months harboring parasites begin shedding worm eggs immediately while those which begin the spring season parasite free will not re-contaminate their environment until a new infection has developed from newly acquired infection off spring pastures. As temperatures increase with spring developing, these eggs hatch and develop into infective larvae. The eggs that have been lying in the environment waiting for warm moist weather, many of these eggs will develop around the same time depending upon the weather causing high levels of contamination to occur once.  Pastures not grazed by horses from the beginning of the spring season for at least three months will become “parasite safe” pastures since the over-wintered larvae will have expired by this time and no new worm eggs have been released on the pastures. Any animals moving to “parasite safe” pastures should be dewormed prior to moving.
Treating horses strategically to prevent shedding eggs during the first three months of the season will accomplish the same goal and the existing larvae will disappear by late June or early July and the pastures will be safe from parasites until fall.”

What Was A Fire Horse?

Posted on December 3, 2019 by Jerrilee.
Categories: equipment, handicap, health, history.

firehousephoto from Detroit News, 1910
Fire horses pulled the fire wagons through town and country directly to the scene of the emergencies. As fire companies grew the upkeep of the horses evolved and transformed to reduce response time to fire alarms.
At first horses were stabled near the stations. When the alarm sounded, it took valuable time to unlock the barn, fetch the steeds and harness them to the engine. Before long, the horses lived at the station and the reluctance to accept them was replaced by a deep affection for the noble animals.
The stalls were positioned behind or next to the rigs. In 1871, a quick hitch was developed. Two years later, Charles E. Berry, a Massachusetts firefighter, created a hanging harness with quick-locking hames. His invention was so popular he left the fire department and sold his patented Berry Hames and Collars nationwide.
Not every horse could serve as a fire horse. The animals needed to be strong, swift, agile, obedient and fearless. At the scene, they needed to stand patiently while embers and flames surrounded them. They needed to remain calm while the firefighters fought the blaze. This was the case in all weather conditions and in the midst of a multitude of distractions.  (courtesy firehistory.com)

Info from New Bern Firemen’s Museum:
Fred was part of a horse team that pulled the fire wagons in the early 1900’s. Fred was bought from a Gastonia, North Carolina, man in 1908. For years, he pulled the fire company’s wagon, marched in parades, and competed against other fire horses. He died on the way to a false alarm, apparently of a heart attack, at age 25. His driver, a man named John Taylor, died only a couple of weeks earlier. Fred’s contemporaries — Old Jim and Ben Hurst — were other fire horses whose legends are preserved in stories. The two belonged to Atlantic’s rival volunteer company — the New Bern Steam Fire Engine Company No. 1, which was incorporated just after the end of the Civil War in 1865.
During the war, the Atlantic company basically was inactive, with most of its members away in the fight and Union troops occupying New Bern for three years. After the Confederacy surrendered, some of those Union soldiers stuck around the area and continued their volunteer fire company with about 30 men. The New Bern Steam Fire Engine Company No. 1 would eventually be nicknamed the Button Company after it bought a Button fire engine in the 1880s.

Fred, worked nonstop during the worst fire in New Bern’s history. On the morning of December 1, 1922, a fire sparked at a lumber yard and spread quickly. While firefighters toiled to put out the massive flare-up, a separate fire kicked up in a residential area about a mile away. High winds swept the sparks from house to house, and fires multiplied throughout the predominately black neighborhood. A newspaper account of the event in The News & Observer said flames “spread out like a giant fan” until they reached the Neuse River.

shoeing fire horse,1920's

shoeing fire horse,1920’s

Fire horses were replaced by 1929. The Portland newspaper wrote:
“Despite the thrill of watching motor apparatus roaring to a fire many recall the ‘days of real sport’ when horses started for a fire and deeply regret their passing.The horses will be sent to a farm to pass the rest of their days in easy work.” Feb 16, 1929, Portland Evening Newpaper.
On May 13,1929, the Portland News wrote: “[For the past six years] each night at 8:59, 20 juveniles would gather at the fire station to wait for the nine o’clock horn blow. The fire horses would come in, back into the stable for their run harness and the kids would go to the stable door to watch the big horses made ready. The attraction of the animals for the children has never failed during the last six years.Farewells have been said to the big black horses by more than a score of youngsters in the vicinity and tears were falling fast from the eyes of the kiddies in the neighborhood.”

Clipping Your Horse for Winter Riding?

Posted on December 2, 2019 by Jerrilee.
Categories: equipment, health, history, military, riding.

If your winter plans include clipping your horse’s coat to reduce drying time in cold temperatures,  then here are some ideas on how to use your most creative ideas to highlight your horse’s best features, (or hide the worst!).These horse owners have used drawing and stenciling techniques to transform their horse’s coats into distinctive works of art.   Happy clipping!

From the Barn Manager Blog:

This one of the New York skyline from Natasha’s Equine Spa

One of my favorites from Horse Care Courses:

From Equine Ink comes the military clip!

and the Zebra-esque look (very clever)

and also our equine giraffe coif

 

So if you thought this winter you were planning to clip something similar to this:

Perhaps now your heart is set to design something more like this:

(From the Literary Horse)

or this!

(From Horse Nation)

Good luck!

 

What is a Horse Whisperer?

Posted on November 20, 2019 by Jerrilee.
Categories: history.

nezrova2.jpg
photo of Nevzorova & horse courtesy,Lydia Nevzorova

Near the beginning of the 19th century, the slow and bulky oxen used for farming began to yield to the use of draft horses. The horse’s greater efficiency and speed was welcome but their belligerent attitude was not. Many an agriculturist found themselves in dangerous disagreement with their plow-horse. A collection of horsemen in Scotland collaborated to design a new, and soon to be, powerful profession. They named it simply:  The Society of the Horseman’s Word.

The aim of the “Society” was to gather the local blacksmith, horse tamer, and dealer together under one listing, and offer the public a core of qualified horse professionals. The Society’s fees for membership guaranteed its members a place in the forefront of all public inquiries for horse services.  The public would gain a standardized quality of work and the coveted use of its members’ mystical, ‘supernatural’ power. You see, Society members were taught to practice incantations and rituals to give the impression that magical spells could control cantankerous horses. As local farmers signed on to the Society’s services, they felt the members did indeed fix their recalcitrant horses. In fact, they coined and attached the words  ‘horse-witchers’ to Society members to describe the magical way the horses seemed to settle down during such magical sessions. For instance, a Society member would draw a circle round the horse, then they would chant while shaking a magical object, until at last they would whisper a special ‘word’ into the horse’s ears. The phrase ‘horse-witcher’ then evolved to ‘horse whisperer’ as members modified the sessions to just whispering into the ears of the horses. The popularity of the ‘Society of the Horseman’s Word’ escalated, not only throughout Scotland but into parts of England as well.  When the technique crossed the ocean, the phrase ‘horse whisperer’ became the highest endorsement of a horse professional’s talent.
Of course, the industrialization of the 20th century brought an end to the era of the horse. The invention of the tractor and the car permanently changed the course for horses. Even the cavalry disbanded after the 1940’s, leaving horses to become just another expensive luxury. The Scottish ‘Horseman’s Society’ that had monopolized and ruled the horse industry for so long with its “horse whispering” techniques slipped quietly into oblivion by 1930.

So, was horse whispering actually “discovered” by the Scottish? Only the phrase ‘horse whisperer’ originated from The Society of the Horseman’s Word. It was nearly two thousand years before the Society was even formed that Alexander the Great, and Xenophon the Greek, (both horse masters from around 300-355 BC), showed such compassion and logic in their training that they are considered among the first documented “horse whisperers”.  In fact, Xenophon was the first horse master to write a book on meeting the horse through its ‘soul’.  Fast forward to the mid-1600’s and you find another application of horse whispering techniques. Known only by the name Pietro, a young Neapolitan gained notoriety through his singular success with a wild barb horse named, Mauraco. An intensely dangerous animal, Mauraco was the great ‘untameable’. Many professionals failed with their use of both torture and deprivation to make this black horse submit. It was Pietro who decided to see if a rewards program might gentle him. Through use of treats and kindness, he successfully educated the horse to respond to subtle hand gestures that indicated a certain trick to perform. Mauraco is one of the first known horses who could sit, kneel, lie down, jump through hoops, and even take a glove to someone Pietro pointed toward in the audience. Pietro completely won the horse’s co-operation and gentleness with his rewards method.  He promoted his training technique in public with shows throughout the European Continent. Unfortunately, the trainer was too far ahead of his time. Performing his show in the city of Arles, France,  he induced hysteria in the townspeople. It was black magic, they claimed. The casual hand movements and ear-whispering were putting demons into the horse. The town demanded the horse and master be executed, and sadly, both were burned to death on the spot.

Today’s current use of the term ‘horse whispering’ resurfaced through such individuals as Tom Dorrance and Monty Roberts. Both authors have written excellent books promoting the harmony of horse and rider. They have renewed the message of using intelligence in horse training. Tom’s book “True Unity” is a must read for every horseman. Monty’s book, “The Man Who Listens To Horses” explains: “A good trainer can hear a horse speak to him. A great trainer can hear him whisper.” Monty learned the body language that wild horses use to communicate among themselves, and began using this same horse ‘language’ to teach his horses in training. It was a  revolutionary breakthrough, bridging the gap between the human and the equine, creating a common ground that connects the horse straight to the ‘human intent’.  “Capture their willingness and …make them happy to work” wrote Xenophon of the horse. Here is a definite and clear declaration of both the spirit and origin of the ancient art of horse whispering.

monty-roberts.jpg

Monty Roberts & horse

equi-works

equi-works