The Modern Art of Taming Wild Horses/Chapter 9

The Modern Art of Taming Wild Horses  (1858)  by John Solomon Rarey
Prevailing Opinion of Horsemen

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It is a prevailing opinion among horsemen generally that the sense of smell is the governing sense of the horse. And Faucher, as well as others, has with that view got up receipts of strong smelling oils, &c., to tame the horse, sometimes using the chesnut of his leg, which they dry, grind into powder, and blow into his nostrils, sometimes using the oils of rhodium, origanum, &c., that are noted for their strong smell; and sometimes they scent the hand with the sweat from under the arm, or blow their breath into his nostrils, &c. &c. All of which, as far as the scent goes, have no effect whatever in gentling the horse, or conveying any idea to his mind; though the acts that accompany these efforts—handling him, touching him about the nose and head, and patting him, as they direct you should, after administering the articles, may have a very great effect, which they mistake to be the effect of the ingredients used. And Faucher, in his work, entitled "The Arabian Art of Taming Horses," page 17, tells us how to accustom a horse to a robe, by administering certain articles to his nose; and goes on to say that these articles must first be applied to the horse's nose, before you attempt to break him, in order to operate successfully.

Now, reader, can you, or any one else, give one single reason how scent can convey any idea to the horse's mind of what we want him to do? If not, then of course strong scents of any kind are of no avail in taming the unbroken horse. For, everything that we get him to do of his own accord, without force, must be accomplished by some means of conveying our ideas to his mind. I say to my horse, "Go-'long!" and he goes; "Ho!" and he stops because these two words, of which he has learned the meaning by the tap of the whip and the pull of the rein that first accompanied them, convey the two ideas to his mind of go and stop.

Neither Faucher, nor any one else, can ever teach the horse a single thing by the means of scent alone.

How long do you suppose a horse would have to stand and smell a bottle of oil before he would learn to bend his knee and make a bow at your bidding, "Go yonder and bring your hat," or "Come here and lie down?" Thus you see the absurdity of trying to break or tame the horse by the means of receipts for articles to smell at, or medicine to give him, of any kind whatever.

The only science that has ever existed in the world, relative to the breaking of horses, that has been of any value, is that true method which takes them in their native state, and improves their intelligence.