The Complete Horse Tamer, Part 2

by John Solomon Rarey


Cause your horse or colt to be put in a small yard, stable, or room. If in a stable or room, it ought to be large in order to give him some exercise with the halter before you lead him out. If the horse belongs to that class which only appears to fear man, you must introduce yourself gently into the stable, room, or yard where the horse is. He will naturally run from you, and frequently turn his head towards you; but you must walk about extremely slow and softly so that he can see you whenever he turns his head towards you, which he never fails to do in a short time - in a quarter or half an hour. I never knew one to be much longer without turning his head towards me. At the very moment he turns his head, hold out your left hand towards him, and stand perfectly still, keeping your eyes upon the horse, watching his motions, if he make any. If the horse does not stir for ten or fifteen minutes, advance as slowly as possible, and without making the least noise, always holding out your left hand. If the horse makes the least motion when you advance towards him, stop and remain perfectly still until he is quiet. Remain a few moments in this condition, and then advance again in the same slow and almost imperceptible manner. If the horse then stirs again, stop without changing your position. It is very uncommon for the horse to stir more than once after you begin to advance; yet there are some exceptions. He generally keeps his eyes steadfast upon you, until you get near enough to touch him on the forehead. When you are thus near to him, raise slowly and by degrees your hand, and let it come in contact with that part just above the nostrils, as lightly as possible. If the horse flinches (as many will), repeat with great rapidity these light strokes upon the forehead, going a little further up towards his ears by degrees, and descending with the same rapidity until he will let you handle his forehead all over. Now let the strokes be repeated with more force over all his forehead, descending by lighter strokes to each side of his head, until you can handle that part with equal facility. Then touch in the same light manner, making your hands and fingers play around the lower part of the horse's ears, coming down now and then to his forehead, which may be looked upon as the helm that governs all the rest. Having succeeded in handling his ears, advance towards the neck, with the same precautions, and in the same manner; observing always to augment the force of the strokes whenever the horse will permit it. Perform the same on both sides of the neck, until he lets you take it in your arms without flinching.

Proceed in the same progressive manner to the sides, and then to the back of the horse. Every time the horse shows any nervousness, return immediately to the forehead, as the true standard, patting him with your hands, and thence rapidly to where you had already arrived, always gaining ground a considerable distance further on every time this happens. The head, ears, neck, and body being thus gentled, proceed from the back to the root of the tail. This must be managed with dexterity, as a horse is never to be depended on that is skittish about the tail. Let your hand fall lightly and rapidly on that part next to the body a minute or two, and then you will begin to give it a slight pull upwards every quarter of a minute. At the same time you continue this handling of him, augment the force of the strokes as well as the raising of the tail, until you can raise it and handle it with the greatest ease, which commonly happens in a quarter of an hour in most horses, in others almost immediately, and in some much longer. It now remains to handle all his legs; from the tail come back again to the head - handle it well, as likewise the ears, breast, neck, &c., speaking now and then to the horse. Begin by degrees to descend to the legs, always ascending and descending, gaining ground every time you descend, until you get to his feet.

Talk to the horse while you are thus taming him; let him hear the sound of your voice, which at the beginning of the operation is not quite so necessary, but which I have always done in making him lift up his feet. "Hold up your foot," you will say, at the same time lifting up his foot with your hand. He soon becomes familiar with the sounds, and will hold up his foot at command. Then, proceed to the hind feet, and go on in the same manner; and in a short time the horse will let you lift them, and even take them up in your arms.

All this operation is no magnetism, no galvanism; it is merely taking away the fear the horse generally has of man, and familiarizing the animal with his master. As the horse doubtless experiences a certain pleasure from this handling, he will soon become gentle under it, and show very marked attachment to his keeper.


In first accustoming a colt to the bit, you should use a large, smooth snaffle, so as not to hurt his mouth, with a bar at each side to prevent it from pulling through either way. This should be attached to the head-stall of your bridle, and put it on your colt without any reins to it, and let him run loose in a large stable or shed, some time, until he becomes a little used to the bit, and will bear it without trying to get it out of his mouth. Repeat this several times, before you do anything more with the colt; and as soon as he will bear the bit, attach a single rein to it, without any martingale. You should also have a halter on your colt, or a bridle made after the fashion of a halter, with a strap to it, so that you can hold or lead him about without pulling much on the bit. Farmers often put bitting harness on a colt the first thing they do to him, buckling it on as tight as they can draw it, to make him carry his head high, and then turn him out in a lot, to run half a day at a time. This is one of the very worst punishments they can inflict on a colt and is very injurious to a young horse that has been used to running in pasture with his head down. I have seen colts so injured in this way that they never got over it.

A horse should be well accustomed to the bit before you put on the bitting harness, and when you first bit him you should only rein his head up to the point where he naturally holds it, let that point be high or low; he will soon learn that he cannot lower his head, and that raising it a little will loosen the bit in his mouth. This will give him an idea of raising his head to loosen the bit; and then you can draw the bitting a little tighter every time you put it on, and he will still raise his head to loosen it. By this means you will gradually get his head and neck in the position you want him to carry it, and give him a nice and graceful carriage without hurting him, making him mad, or causing his mouth to get sore. Horses that have their heads drawn up tightly, should not have the bitting on more than fifteen minutes at a time.


Any one man who has this theory, can put a saddle on the wildest horse that ever grew, without any help and without scaring him. The first thing will be to tie each stirrup strap into a loose knot, to make them short and prevent the stirrups from flying about and hitting him. Then double up the skirts and take the saddle under your right arm, so as not to frighten him with it when you approach. When you get to him, rub him gently a few times with your hand, then raise the saddle very slowly, until he can see it, and smell, and feel it with his nose. Then let the skirts loose, and rub it very gently against his neck the way the hair lays, letting him hear the rattle of the skirts as he feels them against him; each time a little further backward, and finally slip it over on his back. Shake it little with your hand, and in less than five minutes you can rattle it about over his back as you please, and pull it off and throw it on again, without his paying much attention to it.

As soon as you have accustomed him to the saddle, fasten the girth. Be careful how you do this. It often frightens the colt when he feels the girth binding him, and making the saddle fit tight on his back. You should bring up the girth very gently, and not draw it too tight at first, just enough to hold the saddle on. Move him a little, and then girth it as tight as you choose, and he will not mind it.

You should see that the pad of your saddle is all right before you put it on, and that there is nothing to make it hurt him, or feel unpleasant to his back. It should not have any loose straps on the back part of it, to flap about and scare him. After you have saddled him in this way, take a switch in your right hand to tap him up with, and walk about in the stable a few times with your right arm over your saddle, taking hold of the reins on each side of his neck with your right and left hands, thus marching him about in the stable until you teach him the use of the bridle and can turn him about in any direction, and stop him by a gentle pull of the rein. Always caress him, and loose the reins a little every time you stop him.

You should always be alone, and have your colt in some light stable or shed the first time you ride him; the loft should he high, so that you can sit on his back without endangering your head. You can teach him more in two hours' time in a stable of this kind, than you could in two weeks in the common way of breaking colts, out in an open place. If you follow my course of treatment, you need not run any risk, or have any trouble in riding the worst kind of horse. You take him a step at a time, until you get up a mutual confidence and trust between yourself and horse. First teach him to lead and stand hitched; next acquaint him with the saddle, and the use of the bit; and then all that remains is to get on him without scaring him, and you can ride him as well as any horse.


First gentle him well on both sides, about the saddle and all over, until he will stand still without holding, and is not afraid to see you anywhere about him. As soon as you have him well gentled, get a small block about one foot or eighteen inches in height, and set it down by the side of him, about where you want to stand to mount him; step up on this, raising yourself very gently. Horses notice every change of position very closely, and if you were to step up suddenly on the block, it would be very apt to scare him; but by raising yourself gradually on it, he will see you, without being frightened, in a position very near the same as when you are on his back. As soon as he will bear this without alarm, untie the stirrup strap next to you, and put your left foot in the stirrup, and stand square over it, holding your knee against the horse, and your toe out, so as to touch him under the fore-shoulder with the toe of your boot. Place your right hand on the front of the saddle, and on the opposite side of you, taking hold of a portion of the mane and reins (they hang loosely over his neck), with your left hand, then gradually bear your weight on the stirrup, and on your right hand, until the horse feels your whole weight on the stirrup; repeat this several times, each time raising yourself a little higher from the block, until he will allow you to raise your leg over his croup, and place yourself in the saddle. Another, and in some cases a better way of mounting, is to press the palm of your right hand on the off-side of the saddle, and as you rise lean your weight on it. By this means you can mount with the girth loose, or without any girths at all.

There are three great advantages in having a block to mount from. First, a sudden change of position is very apt to frighten a young horse that has never been handled; he will allow you to walk to him, and stand by his side without scaring at you, because you have gentled him to that position; but if you get down on your hands and knees and crawl towards him, he will be very much frightened: and upon the same principle, he would frighten at your new position if you had the power to hold yourself over his back without touching him. Then the first great advantage of the block is to gradually gentle him to that new position in which he will see you when you ride him. Secondly, by the process of holding your weight in the stirrups, and on your hand, you can gradually accustom him to your weight, so as not to frighten him by having him feel it all at once. And, in the third place, the block elevates you so that you will not have to make a spring in order to get on the horse’s back, but from it you can gradually raise yourself into the saddle. When you take these precautions, there is no horse so wild but what you can mount him without making him jump. I have tried it on the worst horses that could be found, and have never failed in any case. When mounting, your horse should always stand without being held. A horse is never well broke when he has to be held with a tight rein when mounting; and a colt is never so safe to mount as when you see that assurance of confidence, and absence of fear, which cause him to stand without holding.


When you want him to start, do not touch him on the side with your heel, or do anything to frighten him and make him jump. But speak to him kindly, and if he does not start, pull him a little to the left until he starts, then let him walk off slowly with the reins loose. Walk him around in the stable a few times until he gets used to the bit, and you can turn him about in every direction and stop him as you please. It will be well to get on and off a good many times until he gets perfectly used to it before you take him out of the stable. After you have trained him in this way, which should not take more than two or three hours, you can ride him anywhere you choose without ever having him jump or make an effort to throw you.

When you first take him out of the stable, be very gentle with him, as he will feel a little more at liberty to jump or run, and be easier frightened than he was while in the stable; but you will nevertheless find him pretty well broke, and will be able to manage him without trouble or danger.

When you first mount a colt, take a little the shortest hold on the left rein, so that if anything frightens him, you can prevent him from jumping by pulling his head around to you. This operation of pulling a horse's head around against his side will prevent him from jumping ahead, rearing up, or running away. If he is stubborn and will not go, you can make him move by pulling his head around to one side, when whipping him would have no effect. And turning him around a few times will make him dizzy, and then by letting him have his head straight, and giving him a little touch with the whip he will go along without any trouble.

Never use martingales on a colt when you first ride him; every movement of the hand should go right to the bit in the direction in which it is applied to the reins, without a martingale to change the direction of the force applied. You can guide the colt much better without it, and teach him the use of the bit in much less time. Besides, martingales would prevent you from pulling his head round if he should try to jump.

After your colt has been ridden until he is gentle and well accustomed to the bit, you may find it an advantage, if he carries his head too high or his nose too far out, to put martingales on him.

You should be careful not to ride your colt so far at first as to heat, worry, or tire him. Get off as soon as you see he is a little fatigued; gentle him and let him rest; this will make him kind to you, and prevent him from getting stubborn or mad.


Take him in a tight stable, as you did to ride him; take the harness and go through the same process that you did with the saddle, until you get him familiar with them, so you can put them on his back and rattle them about without his caring for them. As soon as he will bear them, put on the lines, caress him as you draw them over him, and drive him about in the stable till he will bear them over his hips. The lines are a great aggravation to some colts, and often frighten them as much as if you were to raise a whip over them. As soon as he is familiar with the harness and lines, take him out and put him by the side of a gentle horse, and go through the same process that you did with the balking horse. Always use a bridle without blinds when you are breaking a horse to harness.


Lead him to and around it; let him look at it, touch it with his nose, and stand by it until he does not care for it; then pull the shafts a little to the left, and stand your. horse in front of the off wheel. Let some one stand on the right side of the horse and hold him by the bit, while you stand on the left side, facing the sulky. This will keep him straight. Run your left hand back and let it rest on his hip, and lay hold of the shafts with your right, bringing them up very gently to the left hand, which still remains stationary. Do not let anything but your arm touch his back, and as soon as you have the shafts square over him, let the person on the opposite side take hold of one of them, and lower then very gently to the shaft bearers. Be very slow and deliberate about hitching; the longer time you take the better, as a general thing. When you have the shafts placed, shake them slightly, so that he will feel them against each side. As soon as he will hear them without scaring, fasten your braces, &C, and start him along very slowly. Let one man lead the horse to keep him gentle, while the other gradually works back with the lines till he can get behind and drive him. After you have driven him in this way a short distance, you can get into the sulky, and all will go right. It is very important to have your horse go gently when you first hitch him. After you have walked him awhile, there is not half so much danger of him scaring. Men do very wrong to jump up behind a horse to drive him as soon as they have him hitched. There are too many things for him to comprehend all at once. The shafts, the lines, the harness, and the rattling of the sulky, all tend to scare him, and he must be made familiar with them by degrees. If your horse is very wild, I would advise you to put up one foot the first time you drive him.


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