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Breaking Horses: Cowboys and Psychologists

  • Date Submitted: 08/02/2010 08:50 PM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 73.8 
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Breaking Horses:   Cowboys and Psychologists
There is a very small percentage of people who have actually experienced the process of starting a horse under saddle, or “breaking” it.   When asked about how to achieve a horse that is able to be ridden, an uneducated person might reflect back on old Western movies they have seen where a cowboy jumps on a wild horse and rides the bucking bronc until it stops.   Then, suddenly, the horse knows its job and is easy to ride.   There, actually, are two main ways of breaking a horse:   training through fear, much like the cowboys of the West, and training through trust, which uses a more psychological approach.
The first style of starting a horse is the rougher, “cowboy style,” much like what is seen in the movies.   This style has been around for many years, and only altered slightly throughout time (Wise, par. 2).   The goals of training this way are to produce a mount that can be saddled, will carry a rider, and can be guided using basic aides.   The approach is to force a horse to perform by using its natural “flight, fight or surrender” instincts.   (In the wild, if a horse is attacked, it will first attempt to fight the predator off of it, then run away.   If the horse is caught, and fighting is not effective, it will surrender, or give up.)   Here, the trainer becomes the predator, the horse is his prey.   When it falls into “surrender mode,” the handler is considered to have made an accomplishment in training; he thinks he has taught the horse.
The first few days of using this method are extremely stressful for the mount.   The animal is put into a round pen, usually only having knowledge of being led by a halter and lead rope.   The trainer will snub the horse to the side of the pen by running the lead through a tie ring, or around a post.   Immediately it is saddled, then released in the pen.   Much like a wild horse having a mountain lion jump on its back, the horse reacts by bucking, rearing, falling over, and running off...

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