The Modern Art of Taming Wild Horses/Chapter 1

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Founded on the Leading Characteristics of the Horse.

First.—That he is so constituted by nature that he will not offer resistance to any demand made of him which he fully comprehends, if made in a way consistent with the laws of his nature.

Second.—That he has no consciousness of his strength beyond his experience, and can be handled according to our will without force.

Third.—That we can, in compliance with the laws of his nature by which he examines all things new to him, take any object, however frightful, around, over, or on him, that does not inflict pain—without causing him to fear.

To take these assertions in order, I will first give you some of the reasons why I think he is naturally obedient, and will not offer resistance to anything fully comprehended. The horse, though possessed of some faculties superior to man's, being deficient in reasoning powers, has no knowledge of right or wrong, of free will and independent government, and knows not of any imposition practised upon him, however unreasonable these impositions may be. Consequently, he cannot come to any decision as to what he should or should not do, because he has not the reasoning faculties of man to argue the justice of the thing demanded of him. If he had, taking into consideration his superior strength, he would be useless to man as a servant. Give him mind in proportion to his strength, and he will demand of us the green fields for his inheritance, where he will roam at leisure, denying the right of servitude at all. God has wisely formed his nature so that it can be operated upon by the knowledge of man according to the dictates of his will; and he might well be termed an unconscious, submissive servant. This truth we can see verified in every day's experience by the abuses practised upon him. Any one who chooses to be so cruel, can mount the noble steed and run him till he drops with fatigue, or, as is often the case with the more spirited, falls dead beneath his rider. If he had the power to reason, would he not rear and pitch his rider, rather than suffer him to run him to death? Or would he condescend to carry at all the vain impostor, who, with but equal intellect, was trying to impose on his equal rights and equally independent spirit? But happily for us, he has no consciousness of imposition, no thought of disobedience except by impulse caused by the violation of the law of his nature. Consequently, when disobedient, it is the fault of man.

Then, we can but come to the conclusion that, if a horse is not taken in a way at variance with the laws of his nature, he will do anything that he fully comprehends, without making any offer of resistance.

Second—The fact of the horse being unconscious of the amount of his strength can be proven to the satisfaction of any one. For instance, such remarks as these are common, and perhaps familiar to your recollection. One person says to another, "If that wild horse there was conscious of the amount of his strength, his owner would have no business with him in that vehicle; such light reins and harness, too—if he knew he could snap them asunder in a minute and be as free as the air we breathe;" and, "That horse yonder, that is pawing and fretting to follow the company that is fast leaving him—if he knew his strength, he would not remain long fastened to that hitching post so much against his will, by a strap that would no more resist his powerful weight and strength than a cotton thread would bind a strong man." Yet these facts, made common by every-day occurrence, are not thought of as anything wonderful. Like the ignorant man who looks at the different phases of the moon, you look at these things as he looks at her different changes, without troubling your mind with the question, " Why are these things so?" What would be the condition of the world if all our minds lay dormant? If men did not think, reason, and act, our undisturbed, slumbering intellects would not excel the imbecility of the brute; we should live in chaos, hardly aware of our existence. And yet, with all our activity of mind, we daily pass by unobserved that which would be wonderful if philosophized and reasoned upon; and with the same inconsistency wonder at that which a little consideration, reason, and philosophy would make but a simple affair.

Third—He will allow any object, however frightful in appearance, to come around, over, or on him, that does not inflict pain.

We know from a natural course of reasoning, that that there has never been an effect without a cause, and we infer from this, that there can be no action either in animate or inanimate matter, without there first being some cause to produce it. And from this self-evident fact we know that there is some cause for every impulse or movement of either mind or matter, and that this law governs every action or movement of the animal kingdom. Then, according to this theory, there must be some cause before fear can exist; and, if fear exists from the effect of imagination, and not from the infliction of real pain, it can be removed by complying with those laws of nature by which the horse examines an object, and determines upon its innocence or harm.

A log or stump by the road side may be, in the imagination of the horse, some great beast about to pounce upon him; but after you take him up to it and let him stand by it a little while, and touch it with his nose, and go through his process of examination, he will not care anything more about it. And the same principle and process will have the same effect with any other object, however frightful in appearance, in which there is no harm. Take a boy that has been frightened by a false face, or any other object that he could not comprehend at once; but let him take that face or object in his hands and examine it, and he will not care any thing more about it. This is a demonstration of the same principle.

With this introduction to the principles of my theory, I shall next attempt to teach you how to put it into practice; and, whatever instructions may follow you can rely on, as having been proven practically by my own experiments. And knowing from experience just what obstacles I have met with in handling bad horses, I shall try to anticipate them for you, and assist you in surmounting them, by commencing with the first steps to be taken with the colt, and accompanying you through the whole task of breaking.