If you are constantly reading about horses and know a lot of horse facts about them, you probably realize that my seventh book, WHISPERING HOPE, is actually based on the fact that many horse behaviorists today train horses much differently than the majority of horsemen did just several decades ago.
We’ve all read Wild West stories or seen movies in which the cowpoke broke a wild horse by climbing onto his back and hanging on while the poor horse bucked until he was so exhausted, he could hardly stand. What that type of training did was break the horse’s spirit, and the horse learned to obey out of fear. Many bronco busters from the past also used whips, ropes, sharp spurs, and painful bits to make the horses respond, which they did only to avoid the pain.
Thankfully, the way many horses become reliable mounts has changed dramatically. Today, many horses are trained, not broken. The trainer communicates with the horse using herd language. Thus, the horse bonds with his trainer quickly, looks to that person as his herd leader, and is ready to obey his every command.
Thanks to Monty Roberts, the Horse Whisperer, and professional horse trainers like him, most raw or green horses (those that are just learning to respond to tack and a rider) are no longer “broken.”
Horses are now trained to accept the tack and rider in a short time with proven methods of horse whispering. Usually working in a round pen, the trainer begins by making large movements and noise as a predator would, encouraging the horse to run away. The trainer then gives the horse the choice to flee or bond. Through body language, the trainer asks the horse, “Will you choose me to be your herd leader and follow me?”
Usually, the horse responds with predictable herd behavior by twitching an ear toward his trainer, then by lowering his head and licking to display an element of trust. The trainer mocks the horse’s passive body language, turns his back on the horse, and, without eye contact, invites him to come closer. The bonding occurs when the horse chooses to be with the human and walks toward the trainer, thus accepting his leadership and protection.
Horse whispering has become one of the most acceptable, reliable, and humane ways to train horses. Today we have multitudes of rider and horse teams that have bonded in such a special way, both the rider and the horse enjoy each other’s company more than ever could have been imagined.
So, when you’re talking to your friends about horses, always remember to say the horses have been trained, not broken. The word “broken” is part of the horses past that should remain there forever.