The Complete Horse Tamer

by John Solomon Rarey


SINCE issuing our former editions of Mr. Rarey’s book on Horse Taming, some new facts have been published by him, which are embodied in these pages, and make the work still more complete. A careful perusal of the instructions here given, will show how any cool and determined person may break or tame a colt in a manner that will make him docile, stand at the word of command, and obey the voice with as much certainty as ordinarily trained horses will answer the reins. In contrast with the usual mode of training by harsh words, a sharp whip, and cruel worrying, Mr. Rarey demonstrates how easily, quietly and safely horses may be tamed by kindness. For training colts, breaking horses into harness, curing vicious horses, such as kickers and baulkers, this system is invaluable. Indeed, it will give to every courageous, calm-tempered horseman not only the power to conquer any horse, however refractory, but to make the animal affectionate in disposition and ready at all times to he mounted and put in harness, without trouble or waste of time. One great value of Mr. Rarey's system consists in the fact that it may be taught to, and successfully practiced by, persons of little strength - even by boys of fourteen - except where the horse is extremely vicious and powerful. It requires patience, and the habit of dealing with horses, as well as coolness; but the real work is rather a matter of skill than muscle. Not only have boys of eighty pounds weight become successful horse-tamers in England, but even English ladies have perfectly subdued and reduced to calmness fiery blood-horses. Therefore, in dealing with Mr. Rarey's plan we are not wasting our time about a trick for conquering incurably savage horses, but are elucidating the principles of a universally applicable system for taming and training horses for man's use, with a perfection of docility rarely found except in aged pet horses, and with a rapidity heretofore quite unknown.

John S. Rarey is about thirty years of age, of middle height, and well-proportioned figure, wiry and active rather than muscular - his complexion is almost effeminately fair, with more color than is usually found in those of his countrymen who live in cities. He was a citizen of Groveport, Ohio, when he began his successful mode of horse-taming. His walk is remarkably light and springy, yet regular, as he turns round his horse; something between the set-up of a soldier and the light step of a sportsman. Altogether his appearance and manners are eminently gentlemanly. Although a self-educated and not a book-educated man, his conversation, when he cares to talk (for he is rather reserved), always displays a good deal of thoughtful originality, relieved by flashes of playful humor.

Mr. Rarey's system of horse-taming will infallibly supersede all others for both civil and military purposes, and his name will take rank among the great social reformers of the nineteenth century.


THE HORSE is so constituted by nature that he will not offer resistance to any demand made of him which he fully comprehends. He has no consciousness of his strength beyond his own experience, and can be handled by man without force, after a little study of his habits and disposition. Being deficient in reasoning powers, he has no knowledge of right or wrong, of free will and independent government, and knows not of any imposition practiced upon him, however unreasonable it may be. Consequently, he cannot easily decide what he should or should not do. But being naturally of willing and gentle disposition, it remains for man to instruct him in a manner suited to his nature.

The horse is a timid animal; but easily becomes familiar with objects and sounds that are at first disagreeable or frightful. We must therefore accustom him to such as he will be apt to meet with in his daily service. To do this effectually, he should be allowed to examine closely and leisurely such objects as would inspire terror, and to smell them and touch them. A log or stump by the road-side may be, in the imagination of the horse, some great beast about to pounce upon him; but after you take him up to it, and let him stand by it a little while, and touch it with his nose, and go through his process of examination, he will not care anything more about it. And the same principle and process will have the same effect with any other object, however frightful in appearance, in which there is no harm.

I thus establish three principles on which my system of taming the horse is founded, viz.:

First. That any horse may be taught to do any thing that a horse can do if taught in a systematic and proper manner.

Second. That a horse is not conscious of his own strength until he has resisted and conquered a man, and even in cases where he has temporarily triumphed he may yet be subdued ; - that by taking advantage of man's reasoning powers a horse can be handled in such a manner that he shall not find out his strength.

Third. That by enabling a horse to examine every object with which we desire to make him familiar, with the organs naturally used for that purpose, viz., seeing, smelling and feeling, you may place or display the object around, over, and on him, provided that it does not actually hurt him or make him feel disagreeable.

With this introduction to first principles, I will endeavor to teach you how to put them into practice, and whatever instructions may follow, you can rely on as having been proven practical by my own experiments. Knowing from experience just what obstacles I have met with in handling bad horses, I shall try and anticipate them for you, and assist you in surmounting them, by commencing with the first steps to be taken with the colt, and accompanying you through the whole task of breaking.


Go to the pasture and walk around the whole herd quietly, and at such a distance as not to cause them to scare and run. Then approach them very slowly, and if they stick up their heads and seem to be frightened, hold on till they become quiet, so as not to make them run before you are close enough to drive them in the direction you want them to go. And when you begin to drive, do not flourish your arms or halloo, but gently follow them off leaving the direction free for them that you want them to take. Thus taking the advantage of their ignorance, you will be able to get them in the pound as easily as the hunter drives the quails into his net. For if they have always run in the pasture uncared for, (as many horses do in prairie countries and on large plantations,) there is no reason why they should not be as wild as the sportsman's birds, and require the same gentle treatment, if you want to get them without trouble; for the horse, in his natural state, is as wild as any of the undomesticated animals, though more easily tamed than the most of them.


The next step will be to get the horse into a stable or shed. This should be done as quietly as possible, so as not to excite any suspicion in the horse of any danger befalling him. The best way to do this, is to lead a broken horse into the stable first and hitch him, then quietly walk around the colt and let him go in of his own accord. Be extremely deliberate and slow in your movements, for one wrong move may frighten your horse, and make him think it necessary to escape at all hazards for the safety of his life - and thus make two hours' work of a ten minutes' job ; and this would be all your own fault, and entirely unnecessary for he will not run unless you run after him, nor will he try to break away unless you attempt to force him into measures. If he does not see the way at once, and is a little fretful about going in, do not undertake to drive him, just give him a little less room outside, by gently closing in around him. Do not raise your arms, but let them hang at your side, for you might as well raise a club: the horse has never studied anatomy, and does not know but they will unhinge themselves and fly at him. If he attempts to turn back, walk before him, but do not run; and if he gets past you, encircle him again in the same quiet manner, and he will soon find that you are not going to hurt him; and then you can walk so close around him that he will go into the stable for more room, and to get farther from you. As soon as he is in, remove the quiet horse and shut the door. This will be his first notion of confinement - not knowing how he got into a place, nor how to get out of it. That he may take it as quietly as possible, see that the shed is entirely free from dogs, chickens, or anything that would annoy him. Then give him a few ears of corn, arid let him remain alone fifteen or twenty minutes, until he has examined his apartment, and has become reconciled to his confinement. And now, while your horse is eating those few ears of corn, see that your halter is ready and all right, and reflect upon the best mode of operations; for, in horse-breaking, it is highly important that YOU should be governed by some system.


Never use a rope halter. The cords of the rope are hard, and appear to aggravate and excite distrust rather than confidence; but by all means procure a leather halter made of bridle leather, so it will feel soft and pliable to the touch, and to fit tolerably tight on the head, so as not to feel uncomfortable. Before putting a halter upon the colt, he must be rendered familiar with it by caressing him and permitting him to examine the article with his nose. Then place a portion of it over his head, occasionally giving it a slight pull, and in a few minutes he will be accustomed to these liberties, and then the halter may be fastened on properly. To teach him to lead is another difficulty. Stand a little on one side, rub his nose and forehead, take hold of the strap and pull gently, and at the same time touch him very lightly with the end of a long whip across his hind legs. This will make him start and advance a few steps. Repeat the operation several times, and he will soon learn to follow you by simply pulling the halter. The mouth of the colt should be frequently handled, after which introduce a plain snaffle between his teeth and hold it there with one hand and caress him with the other. After a time he will allow the bridle to be placed upon him. The saddle can now be brought in and rubbed against his nose, his neck and his legs; next hang the stirrup strap across his back, and gradually insinuate the saddle into its place. The girth should not be fastened until he becomes thoroughly acquainted with the saddle. The first time the girth is buckled it should be done so loosely as not to attract his attention; subsequently it can be tightened without inspiring him with fear, which if fastened immediately it would most certainly do. In this manner the wildest colt can be effectually subjugated by such imperceptible degrees that he gives tacit obedience before he is aware of his altered condition.


The first time you halter a colt you should stand on the left side, pretty well back to his shoulder, only taking hold of that part of the halter that goes around his neck, then with your two hands about his neck, you can hold his head to you, and raise the halter on it without making him dodge, by putting your hands about his nose. You should have a long rope or strap ready, and as soon as you have the halter on, attach this to it, so that you can let him walk the length of the stable without letting go the strap, or without making him pull on the halter for if you only let him feel the weight of your hand on the halter, and give him more rope when he runs from you, he will never rear, pull or throw himself, yet you will be holding him all the time, and doing more towards gentling him than if you had the power to snub him right up, and hold him to one spot; because he knows nothing about his strength, and if you don’t do anything to make him pull, he will never know what he can do in that way. In a few minutes you can begin to control him with the halter, then shorten the distance between yourself and the horse by taking up the strap in your hand. As soon as he will allow you to hold him by a tolerably short strap, and to step up to him without flying back, you can begin to give him some idea about leading. But to do this, do not go before and attempt to pull him after you, but commence by pulling him very quietly to one side. He has nothing to brace either side of his neck, and will soon yield to a steady, gradual pull of the halter and as soon as you have pulled him a step or two to one side, step to him and caress him, and then pull him again, repeating this operation until you can pull him in every direction, and walk about the stable with him; which you can do in a few minutes, for he will soon think when you have made him step to the right or left a few times, that he is compelled to follow the pull of the halter, not knowing that he has the power to resist your pulling; besides, you have handled him so gently that he is not afraid of you, but rather likes you. After you have given him a few lessons of this kind, at proper intervals, he will be so tame that if you turn him out to pasture he will come up to you to be caressed every opportunity he gets.

While training him in the stable, you should lead him about some time before you take him out, opening the door, so that he can see out, leading him up to it and back again, and then past it. See that there is nothing on the outside to make him jump when you take him out, and as you go out with him, try to make him go very slowly, catching hold of the halter close to the jaw with your left hand, while the right is resting on the top of his neck, holding to his mane. Do not allow anyone to be present or in sight, during your operations, either in or outside the stable. If you are entirely alone, and manage your colt rightly, you will soon be able to lead and hold him as easily as you could a horse already broken.


If the animal you are operating upon seems to be a stubborn or mulish disposition rather than wild; if he lay back his ears as you approach him, or turns his heel to kick you, he has not that regard or fear of man that he should have, to enable you to handle him quickly and easily; and it might do well to give him a few sharp cuts with the whip about the legs, pretty close to the body . It will crack keen as it plies about the legs, and the crack of the whip will affect him as much as the stroke; besides, one sharp cut about the legs will affect him more than two or three over the back, the skin in the inner part of the legs or about his flanks being thinner, and more tender than on his back. But do not whip him much, just enough to scare him; it is not because we want to hurt the horse that we whip him; we only do it to scare that bad disposition out of him. But whatever you do, do quickly, sharply and with a good deal of fire, but always without anger. If you go to scare him at all, you must do it at once. Never go into a pitched battle with your horse, and whip him until he is mad, and will fight you: you had better not touch him at all, for you will establish, instead of fear and regard, feelings of resentment, hatred, and ill will. It will do him no good, but harm, to strike him, unless you can frighten him; but if you can succeed in frightening him, you can whip him without making him mad; for fear and anger never exist together in the horse, and as soon as one is visible, you will find that the other has disappeared. As soon as you have frightened him, so that he will stand up straight and pay some attention to you, approach him again and caress him a good deal more than you whipped him; thus you will excite the two controlling passions of his nature, love and fear; he will love, and fear you too; and, as soon as he learns what you require, will obey quickly.

If the colt is of too mulish a disposition to yield to careful and gentle treatment, as here given, you must resort to the several measures recommended for taming vicious horses, as explained elsewhere in these pages.


If you should want to lead your colt by the side of another horse, you must first put the horse into a stable with the colt. You now attach a second strap to the colt's halter, and lead your horse up alongside of him. Then get on the broke horse and take one strap around his breast under the martingale, (if he has any on,) holding it in your left hand. This will prevent the colt from getting back too far; besides, you have more power to hold him, with the strap pulling against the horse's breast. The other strap take up in your right hand to prevent him from running ahead; then turn him about in the stable, and if the door is wide enough, ride out with him in that position; if not, take the broke horse out first, and stand his breast up against the door, then lead the colt to the same spot and take the straps as before directed, one on each side of his neck, and then let someone start the colt out, and as the colt comes out, turn your horse to the left, and you will have them all right. You can manage any kind of a colt in this way, without trouble; for, if he tries to run ahead, or pull back, the two straps will bring the two horses facing each other, so that you can very easily follow up his movements without doing much holding, and as soon as he stops running backward, you are right with him, and all ready to go ahead. If he gets stubborn and does not want to go, you can remove all his stubbornness by riding your horse against his neck, thus compelling him to turn to the right; and as soon as you have turned him about a few times, he will be willing to go along. The next thing, after you are through leading him, will be to take him into a stable and hitch him in such a way as not to have him pull on the halter, and as they are often troublesome to get into a stable the first few times, I will give you some instructions about getting him in.


You should lead the broken horse into the stable first, and get the colt, if you can, to follow in after him. If he refuses to go, step up to him, taking a little stick or switch in your right hand; then take hold of the halter close to his head with your left hand, at the same time reaching over his back with your right hand so that you can tap him on the opposite side with your switch; bring him up facing the door, tap him slightly with your switch, reaching as far back with it as you can. This tapping, by being pretty well back, and on the opposite side, will drive him ahead, and keep him close to you; then by giving him the right direction with your left hand you can walk into the stable with him. I have walked colts into the stable this way in less than a minute, after men had worked at them half an hour, trying to pull them in. If you cannot walk him in at once in this way, turn him about and walk him around a while until you can get him up to the door without pulling at him. Then let him stand a few minutes, keeping his head in the right direction with the halter, and he will soon walk in of his own accord. Never attempt to pull the colt into the stable; that would make him think at once that it was a dangerous place, and if he was not afraid of it before he would be then. Besides, we do not want him to know anything about pulling on the halter. If you want to tie up your colt, put him in a tolerably wide stall, which should not be too long, and should be connected by a bar or something of that kind to the partition behind it; so that, after the colt is in he cannot go far enough back to take a straight, backward pull on the halter; then by tying him in the center of the stall, it would be impossible for him to pull on the halter, the partition behind preventing him from going back, and the halter in the center checking him every time he turns to the right or left. In a stall of this kind you can break any horse to stand tied with a light strap, anywhere, without his ever knowing anything about pulling. For if you have broken your horse to lead, and have taught him the use of the halter (which you should always do before you hitch him to anything), you can hitch him in any kind of a stall, and if you give him something to eat to keep him up to his place for a few minutes at first, there is not one colt in fifty that will pull on his halter, or ever attempt to do so. This is an important feature in breaking the colt, for if he is allowed to pull on the halter at all, and particularly if he finds out that he can break the halter, he will never be safe.


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