The Modern Art of Taming Wild Horses/Chapter 7

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EXPERIMENT WITH THE ROBE.

If you want to satisfy yourself of this characteristic of the horse, and to learn something of importance concerning the peculiarities of his nature, &c., turn him into the barn-yard, or a large stable will do, and then gather up something that you know will frighten him—a red blanket, buffalo robe, or something of that kind. Hold it up so that he can see it, he will stick up his head and snort. Then throw it down somewhere in the centre of the lot or barn, and walk off to one side. Watch his motions, and study his nature. If he is frightened at the object, he will not rest until he has touched it with his nose. You will see him begin to walk around the robe and snort, all the time getting a little closer, as if drawn up by some magic spell, until he finally gets within reach of it. He will then very cautiously stretch out his neck as far as he can reach, merely touching it with his nose, as though he thought it was ready to fly at him. But after he has repeated these touches a few times, for the first time (though he has been looking at it all the while), he seems to have an idea what it is. But now he has found, by the sense of feeling, that it is nothing that will do him any harm, and he is ready to play with it. And if you watch him closely, you will see him take hold of it with his teeth, and raise it up and pull at it. And in a few minutes you can see that he has not that same wild look about his eye, but stands like a horse biting at some familiar stump.

Yet the horse is never so well satisfied when he is about anything that has frightened him, as when he is standing with his nose to it. And, in nine cases out of ten, you will see some of that same wild look about him again, as he turns to walk from it. And you will, probably, see him looking back very suspiciously as he walks away, as though he thought it might come after him yet. And in all probability, he will have to go back and make another examination before he is satisfied. But he will familiarize himself with it, and, if he should run in that lot a few days, the robe that frightened him so much at first will be no more to him than a familiar stump.