The Modern Art of Taming Wild Horses/Chapter 21


Take up one fore foot and bend his knee till his hoof is bottom upwards, and nearly touching his body; then slip a loop over his knee, and up until it comes above the pastern joint, to keep it up, being careful to draw the loop together between the hoof and pastern joint with a second strap of some kind to prevent the loop from slipping down and coming off. This will leave the horse standing on three legs; you can now handle him as you wish, for it is utterly impossible for him to kick in this position. There is something in this operation of taking up one foot that conquers a horse quicker and better than anything else you can do to him. There is no process in the world equal to, it to break a kicking horse, for several reasons. First, there is a principle of this kind in the nature of the horse: that by conquering one member you conquer to a great extent the whole horse.

You have perhaps seen men operate upon this principle, by sewing a horse's ears together to prevent him from kicking. I once saw a plan given in a newspaper to make a bad horse stand to be shod, which was to fasten down one ear. There were no reasons given why you should do so; but I tried it several times, and thought that it had a good effect - though I would not recommend its use, especially stitching his ears together. The only benefit arising from this process is, that by disarranging his ears we draw his attention to them, and he is not so apt to resist the shoeing. By tying up one foot we operate on the same principle to a much better effect. When you first fasten up a horse's foot he will sometimes get very mad, and strike with his knee, and try every possible way to get it down; but he cannot do that, and will soon give up.

This will conquer him better than anything you could do, and without any possible danger of hurting himself or you either, for you can tie up his foot and sit down and look at him until he gives up. When you find that he is conquered, go to him, let down his foot, rub his leg with your hand, caress him, and let him rest a little; then put it up again. Repeat this a few times, always putting up the same foot, and he will soon learn to travel on three legs so that you can drive him some distance. As soon as he gets a little used to this way of travelling, put on your harness, and hitch him to a sulky. If he is the worst kicking horse that ever raised a foot you need not be fearful of his doing any damage while he has one foot up, for he cannot kick, neither can he run fast enough to do any harm. And if he is the wildest horse that ever had harness on, and has run away every time he has been hitched, you can now hitch him in a sulky, and drive him as you please. If he wants to run, you can let him have the lines, and the whip too, with perfect safety, for he can go but a slow gait on three legs, and will soon be tired, and willing to stop; only hold him enough to guide him in the right direction, and he will soon be tired and willing to stop at the word. Thus you will effectually cure him at once of any further notion of running off. Kicking horses have always been the dread of everybody; you always hear men say, when they speak about a bad horse, "I don't care what he does, so he don't kick." This new method is an effectual cure for this worst of all habits. There are plenty of ways by which you can hitch a kicking horse, and force him to go, though he kicks all the time; but this doesn't have any good effect towards breaking him, for we know that horses kick because they are afraid of what is behind them, and when they kick against it and it hurts them they will only kick the harder; and this will hurt them still more and make them remember the scrape much longer, and make it still more difficult to persuade them to have any confidence in anything dragging behind them ever after.

But by this new method you can hitch them to a rattling sulky, plough, waggon, or anything else in its worst shape. They may be frightened at first, but cannot kick or do anything to hurt themselves, and will soon find that you do not intend to hurt them, and then they will not care anything more about it. You can then let down the leg and drive along gently without any further trouble. By this new process a bad kicking horse can be learned to go gentle in harness in a few hours' time.