Training the colt is the work of D. Magner, out of his book printed in 1876...His colt training methods are guided and aided by common sense applications of control, as will convince the most stubborn and willful horse that there is a power above him to which he is soon glad to submit.
It is all done quietly, no whipping nor thrashing; no mauling, bawling or swearing, as has too often heretofore been the custom in such cases...Herein is one of the great and invaluable manuals on training the colt from Mr Magner, that I have left it in its entirety...
Keep in mind the horse has hardly changed and this proven method is still successfully used today...I hope you enjoy it as I have...
The first impressions made upon the mind of the nervous system of the colt, are the strongest and most lasting...A colt or horse of even good nature, may be made a reckless, kicking maniac...by being greatly frightened, from some cause in itself, perhaps trifling, but forced to notice in such a way as to excite and derange the nervous system.
And when it is seen that even the life of a sensitive horse may be destroyed by being greatly frightened, we can see to what a degree the nervous system can be deranged at times by causes which, if the animal were subjected to the precautionary treatment shown, would excite no fear, and hence no resistance, thereby preventing as well as overcoming easily, what would appear to be an almost insurmountable difficulty.
Equine nature is so constituted that it will submit passively to conditions of resistance or restraint, it cannot successfully resist or overcome, or by producing such impressions upon the mind as will prevent an inclination to resist.
But we see, as in the successful education of the horse, this principle must be so modified, that he will not be injured or abused, not even excited to any extreme, as this would neutralize and destroy the very object of our efforts to make a strong, gentle, submissive servant to our wants, which is our real object to attain.
But the common plan of doing this by attempting to hold and force a horse into harness, and whipping if there is resistance, is from the nature of things, inadequate, defective and cruel, since there is not necessary physical power to do this with any degree of certainty, and the aggravation of the whip, in conjunction with the natural fear of the animal, stimulates resistance, and thus without adequate precaution or power, the difficulty to be overcome is so greatly increased as to cause failure and trouble, the cause of which is usually attributed to a bad disposition.
But if the animal is first made passive to restraint by proper treatment, control becomes simple and easy, since the mind can now be easily won and guided without fear or resistance into such habits as may be desired without exciting resistance or subjecting the animal to injury.
The rudest and most injurious methods of subduing horses are those which tend directly to lower the strength or destroy life. Hence the different methods of taming or breaking horses in general use from time immemorial.
The first account we have of any horse being subdued was that of Bucephalus, in the time of Alexander the Great, about 300 years before Christ. A subject, we are told, presented this horse to the Emperor as a gift, but he (the horse) showing a very vicious disposition.
Alexander ordered him to be taken away, when young Alexander stated what a pity to lose so fine an animal for the want of a little address, adroitly mounted him and rode him off at the top of his speed.
The greatest alarm was manifested for the safety of the Prince, and the joy of all was great when he returned, the horse perfectly gentle, and he safe. This horse became famous for his wonderful sagacity. We are told that when he died he was buried with honors, and a city was given his name.
The same principle of subjection, with slight variations, is still practiced on the pampas of South America, and on our western plains. They catch the wild horses with a lasso, throw him to the ground, saddle and bridle him, and ride him with whip and spur, until completely exhausted and perfectly submissive.
South Americans square off the ends of the hair of the tail, after the horse submits, to indicate that he is broken and again turn him loose. The same principle is in use among the Indians on our western plains, and with equal success.
The Chilians tie a refractory horse in the stable and whip him until he lies down or falls down, usually requiring about forty-eight hours. He is then tried, and if refractory the process is continued until he becomes gentle.
Bleeding, physicking, want of sleep, starving, want of water, intense pain, choking, etc, etc, will enable this end; but, as will be seen, this treatment is not only dangerous but injurious, often breaking down the animal to such a degree as to become comparatively worthless, or made so treacherous as to require being broken over again almost every time used.
The importance of kindness is an essential to true success in making horses of a naturally wild and nervous disposition, safe and gentle.
We see that a horse of a sensitive, plucky nature, may be excited and roused into the most determined resistance or viciousness by a little exciting abusive treatment. That the more the bad part of the nature is excited, the more determined and reckless the resistance.
Excitement heats the blood, blunts the understanding and stimulates the passions, and as a consequence, increased nervousness and resistance is the result. Under such circumstances a horse will go beyond his natural strength in resistance.
Hence, the mustang, or other horse, broken by exciting, exhausting force, such as running, extreme whipping, etc, is not only liable to be seriously injured constitutionally, but soured in temper.
When we remember that the first impressions on the mind of the colt are the strongest and most lasting; that his resistance is prompted by fear and an ignorance of what he is required to do, we see that the first point to be accomplished, is to make him so gentle that he will not try to resist being handled without frightening or abusing him.
Imagine yourself in place of the colt; a timid, innocent, suspicious child, and realize what the treatment of any one should be to enlist your confidence and obedience, and you will see that gentleness, kindness and prudence in not exciting the fears are paramount considerations.
If the colt is afraid of you and resists your control, it is because he apprehends danger from you. Now the quicker you force him the more you must abuse and excite him, hence you must make up your mind to be patient—take your time, following up carefully, one point after another, until there is entire docility, allowing being touched or handled behind as may be desired without exciting fear or resistance.
If possible, have a room or yard, about twenty-five or thirty feet square, or even larger. See that all causes of injury are removed, and get the colt into this enclosure very quietly; if he is wild and nervous, see that no hens, dogs, etc., are in the room.
Say to your friends, it is necessary to your success, and is a condition of your instruction, that you must be alone. Of course the colt must first be haltered. If not very wild, this will not be difficult to do.
But if very wild or vicious, this may be difficult and perhaps dangerous, and you should always carefully guard against injury to yourself as well as your horse, and at the same time you may accomplish your object just as surely, if not as easily.
Take a light pole ten or twelve feet in length, or as much longer as you can use to advantage, if the colt is very wild or dangerous, and drive two nails into it, about eight inches apart, the first about an inch from the end, with the heads bent a little outward from each other.
Take a common rope halter with a running noose, pull the part which slips through the noose back about two feet, and hang the part that goes over the head upon the nails on the end of your pole nicely, keeping hold of the hitching part, which must be as long as your pole.
Your halter is now so spread and hung upon the stick as to be easily put on to the head. If the colt is not excited or frightened, as you extend the halter towards him he will reach out his nose to smell and examine it, and while he is gratifying his curiosity in this way, you can bring the slack part under his jaw and raise the pole high enough to bring the halter over and back of the ears, when, by turning the stick half way round, the halter will drop from it upon the head.
This will frighten the colt a little and cause him to run from you, but this will only cause the slack part passing back of the jaw to be pulled up, and the halter will be securely adjusted. Being haltered, the colt must be taught to submit to its restraints and control.
Take a position at the side on a line with the shoulder, and give a quick, strong pull towards you, instantly letting loose on the halter until you get the same position again. You have the greatest advantage from this position, and by adroitly repeating the pulls as he will bear, until the colt comes without being pulled upon.
Should you pull slow and steady, he will resist and pull against you, and may even attempt to throw himself down; this you will avoid by giving a quick pull, and letting loose instantly. As soon as the colt yields and come round promptly, get on the other side and repeat in the same manner, until he will follow you readily on either side without pulling.
Be careful not to pull ahead until there is prompt submission sidewise. You can then gradually pull a little more on a line with the body until the colt comes promptly in any direction, to the slightest pull upon the halter.
If the colt is of a quick, gentle disposition, he will soon learn this lesson thoroughly; but if very young, or of a slow, sulky disposition, great resistance is likely to be shown for some time.
If the resistance is very obstinate or reckless in character, you may resort to the simple course of subjection, which will soon compel obedience. This you have been taught how to do; if there is not prompt obedience to the second method, being careful not to tie too short, resort to the first, then again to the second, until submissive.
When there is submission from the colt, you should encourage by appealing to the affections. Rub the head and neck, and give presents of something of which fond, until all excitement and irritation subside.
The eye will gradually grow mild in expression, and there will be an apparent indifference to being handled. A coarse, harsh or loud voice is terribly irritating to a sensitive or spirited horse or colt, and must by all means be held in check.
Speak in a gentle natural tone, softened by kind expression, which will do much toward securing the confidence of the animal and repressing his fear. With some colts it will be necessary to repeat the lesson in leading two or three times, to ensure prompt obedience.
When the colt will lead kindly and promptly, he may next be taught to stand hitched.
To prevent the colt learning to pull at the halter, take a piece of strong cord, about a third of an inch in diameter, twenty-two feet long; double it, and place the centre under the tail; bring both ends forward, cross and twist them three or four times over the back, knot them in front of the breast, and pass them through the ring of the halter and tie to the manger or post.
Hitch in this way until the colt refuses to pull back, even if frightened a little; after learning to submit in this manner, which the colt will soon learn to do, he will stand hitched by the common form of halter.
Is the next step in educating the colt, and implies teaching the colt to submit to the restraint and control of the bit, giving as much style to the carriage of the head and neck as the form and temper of the animal will bear.
Put on a common bridle with a smooth snaffle bit, without reins, and allow him to. go as he pleases, in a yard or field, for half an hour or more, which may be repeated once or twice, to make the mouth accustomed to and hardened to the bit.
Next put on a surcingle with check and side reins, buckling the reins at first so long as to bring but little restraint upon the mouth. After being on thirty or forty minutes, take it off.
At each repetition buckle the reins a little shorter, until the head is submitted up and back freely to the check. It seems needless to introduce details of a bitting harness.
Any simple construction of the ordinary kind will answer very well, and the style is so generallv understood that a description here is unnecessary.
The object being to bring such restraint upon the bit that the head will be held up and back most natural and easily, without giving freedom to the head except in the direction of the reins.
Care should be taken to have the throat latch so loose, that there will be no pressure of it upon the throat when checked up.
The gag-runners should be well up near the ears. Care must be taken not to bring too much restraint upon the bit by buckling the reins so short at first, as to endanger causing the colt to throw himself over backwards and break his neck.
It is bad policy to keep a colt checked up too long at a time, as it becomes tiresome, which would cause a resting of the head upon the bit and thus form the disagreeable habit of lugging.
If, however, the colt should fight the restraint of the bit or check, it should be left on till the fit exhausts itself and he shows a disposition to submit to its restraint. Short lessons at first, and gradually keeping on longer as the mouth becomes hardened by the bit and the colt will bear it without fatigue, is the best course.
After the usual course of checking up in this manner, take a piece of cord about eight or ten feet in length, of the common sash or clothes line size, as strong and pliable as you can find. Tie a large hard knot in one end, and about twenty inches from this knot make another tie, passing the knot end around the neck as near the shoulder as possible.
Pass the other end of the cord through both rings of the bit, back of the jaw and back through the loop around the neck, and draw up the slack. Now stand in front of the head, holding the cord tightly with both hands; give a quick, short pull down and back, which will cause the head to be thrown up and back.
Repeat, until the head is given up and back freely at the slightest pull. Now, when the reins are attached to the bit' and pulled upon, the restraint is precisely the same as before; and after repeating this lesson a few times, the head will be freely submitted to the control of the bit, and a beautiful carriage of the head secured, even without a check.
I would say here in this connection, that there is an almost unaccountable stupidity exhibited in the usual method of training colts. There is the greatest care taken not to frighten by having the heels touched for fear of exciting resistance; whereas, this is the very point that should be accomplished most thoroughly in the first place.
The hinder parts should be broken, as it is term, until there is no fear of being touched by anything. This is the first point I look to and accomplish most perfectly, safely and quickly by my second course of subjection, and which is one of the real secrets of my success in driving wild or kicking colts so quickly to shafts without breeching.
Look to this point in the first place, then teach the colt to summit to the guidance and control of tbe bit, and you accomplish by two movements, quicker and better, what it takes so long, and is done so unreliable by the usual course of treatment.
When the colt is gentle and taught to submit the head to the bit, the next step should be to teach submission to the guidance and control of the bit with reins. I would state here that if the colt is well bitted, submitting the head to being checked high, there will not be much inclination to kick or resist, hence, the custom of putting on a bitting harness on a wild colt, checking the head up tightly.
This treatment will work well in most cases; being a powerful means of subjection, the majority of colts or those not very bad, will work to harness quite well by checking up tightly for a. while.
Colts of a sulky, plucky nature are liable to resist it, and throw themselves over backwards.
If the back part of the head should strike the ground heavy in thus falling, there is great danger of the animal being killed, as the back part of the head under where the bridle and halter comes, is where the first bone of the cervical vertebrae (atlas) unites to the head or oxipita ; an apparently very slight concussion or injury at this point will break the neck and destroy life.
This must not be hazarded, and besides it is needlessly cruel. The course I advise in the first place, enables making the colt perfectly gentle with perfect safety in a few minutes, enabling, if even desired, putting the colt in harness and driving with perfect safety, especially if the precaution is taken of driving around a few minutes in harness before attaching to wagon; but if the greatest certainty is desired at the expense of a little patient care, subject to the mild course of bitting in addition, but little more is necessary to do than drive him in harness a few minutes, turning right and left, and stopping until obedient, when he can be easily driven to shafts.
The proper course is to put on the harness with smooth snaffle bit in bridle, tie the tugs into the breeching, run the reins through the shaft lugs instead of the terrets, now getting directly behind the colt you can easily rein and keep him before you in driving until obedient and gentle to 'reins. Of course there must be patience and care in proportion to the temper and natural resistance shown until successful.
If the colt is at all uncertain, it will be policy to work slowly and carefully, as one mismove while attached to a wagon might cause damage to wagon and injury to the colt. The simplest, cheapest and surest plan of teaching the colt to become safe in shafts, is to drive first in poles.
Get three SLENDER POLES, two of them about twelve feet long each, the third about seven feet in length. Lay down the poles small ends forward in the .form of shafts, about twenty inches spart, the back ends about six feet apart. Lay the short piece across about six feet six inches to seven feet from the forward ends, and tie on with pieces of cord.
Hitch the colt into these poles, attaching the tugs to the cross piece by tying with cord, and drive around until there is perfect submission to them, guiding promptly to the reins and submitting to the poles striking the flanks or heels without exciting the least fear.
But in the early driving of colts, great care must be used not to force too freely to back, as this may cause the habit of backing too freely, turning around and running back from the slightest causes of fear of anything in advance, in driving to wagon or sulky.
Great care should be taken not to drive the colt too much at first, and at no time sufficient to produce exhaustion. Neither should his strength be taxed too much by drawing heavy loads, until he has become accustomed to the noise and restraint of the wagon and learned to use his strength as required. Let his drives be moderate at first, both in gait and distance; gradually increasing the distance as he will bear without fatigue.
After learning to walk well, let him trot a little, gradually letting him out faster and a little farther, as smooth pieces of road give opportunity; restrict these little outbursts of speed at first to the limits of a few rods.
Let him dash out a short distance, then gradully slacken to a walk, speaking kindly and encouragingly. After a while, let him out again, pushing, perhaps, a little faster and farther, being careful not to crowd to breaking. It must not be expected because your colt is perhaps a good mover, that he will be a fast trotter.
But if he does show a loose open gait, do not by any means spoil him by attempting too much at first. There is usually too much anxiety to try a colt's speed and bottom, and he is often pushed, overdone, and spoiled perhaps, before his powers are half developed.
A colt must not be crowded too much in educating to harness. He cannot be expected to submit quietly to the irritation and excitement of harness and wagon, or drive like an old horse, without experience and practice. He must grow into the position as it is were, and a reasonable patience and effort is necessary to ensure this.
The great trouble with most people in training colts is, they attempt too much, and thus make haste slowly. The quickest and surest course is that I give. It will always enable working a colt safely at most in a few hours.
It is generally the custom to drive the colt at first in double harness by the side of a gentle horse aecustomed to harness; the colt should be put on the off side. The whip should be held over the old horse, to keep him up to the movements of the colt in starting, but the gait should be kept moderate.
After driving well on the off side, he should be reversed to the near side, there being less danger of becoming frightened from getting into or out of the wagon, or of seeing things while being passed to or from the wagon, by being more from view on the off side, therefore to lessen the probabilities of being frightened, it is preferable at first.
Let the driving be moderate, and the load light, and, by all means, if the colt is of a sensitive or nervous temperament, the greatest mildness must be observed. Loud ''yelling" or cracking of the whip should not be permitted.
A little imprudence of this kind is often the cause of very serious mischief with timid, young horses.
After learning to drive well, teach the idea of backing by pulling on the reins steadily, and saying "back." If there is resistance give a quick, sharp, raking pull, which will move the colt by the pain and force of the bit backward, repeating until there is prompt obedience.
If there is much resistance put on breaking bit, which will soon secure obedience, but under any curcumstances do not make the colt back too freely, especially if the mouth is sensitive.
If the colt is not of a very bad character there will be no resistance to being rode after the first lesson of subjection. If there is, attach a short strap or a piece of rope to the off fore foot, throwing the other end over the back.
Take a short hold of this strap with the right hand, while the left grasps the near rein of the bridle firmly. As the head is pulled around, the horse is made to step sidewise, and the instant the foot is relaxed it is held up by the restraint of the right hand on the strap, which is instantly drawn upon.
The colt is now on three legs, and unable to resist. Jump lightly on the back, press the feet against the belly and flanks. As there is submission release the foot, taking a firm hold of the reins, which should be held short.
Move the colt forward, and as there is an indication of resistance pull upon the strap and reins, which will disable and disconcert the horse from further (mounting the colt.) opposition to being rode.
If the colt will not move forward, request an assistant to lead him by the head for a short time. So long as there is any indication of resistance, keep on the strap. One thorough lesson is usually sufficient, though some colts may require a repetition of the lesson.
When it is desired to mount, let the left hand rest lightly on the mane, a little forward of the withers, holding the reins between the thumb and fingers. Throw the right hand lightly on the back, the body close to the horse.
Now spring lightly upward and forward. The instant of doing so, let the right hand glide forward until the elbow strikes the back bone, when the weight of the body is to be instantly balanced upon the right arm, which will enable sufficient strength to make the spring continuous, and the body is easily brought into a sitting posture.
This is slight undertaking, and a little practice will give the ability to mount the highest horses with apparently wonderful ease. To mount on a saddle, stand by the side, a little back of the stirrup, the face towards the horse's head.
Take a short hold of the reins between the fingers, grasping into the mane at the same time, put the left foot into the stirrup, throw the right hand over the saddle and press it against the off side, throwing the weight of the body on the left foot, and you can lift yourself into the saddle easily.
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If the colt is of an ordinary good disposition this can be done without resorting to special means. Stand well up to the shoulder, put the left hand on the shoulder, pressing forward gently, which will relax the muscles controlling the leg, with the right hand, instantly grasp the foot below the fetlock and lift it up, removing the left hand and bring under the foot to aid the right hand.
To handle the hind feet, let the right hand glide gently from the shoulders back to the hip. At the instant it passes the point of the hip, bring the left forward upon the hip. While doing this, the right hand is being glided down the leg gently, until it strikes the fetlock, when the left hand should be pressed firmly against the body at the point stated, which will relax the limb, and the foot can be easily brought up by the right, the left is lowered and passed down the limb on the back part of the fetlock.
Or the foot can be raised and lowered a few times with the right hand, while the left balances the body by pressing against the hip until there is perfect submission. If there is resistance, take up the fore foot, request an assistant to hold it up for you, while he at the same time holds the colt by the halter or bridle.
Tie the end of a rope or strap around the hind foot, above the fetlock, at the instant of doing which let the hand glide along to the opposite part, until six or eight feet from the foot. At the same time request the forward foot to be let loose, the assistant holding by the halter.
Now pull upon the strap, which will bring the foot forward, and at the instant of attempting to kick, let go, and so repeat until the foot is submitted to the restraint of strap. Then slip behind and pull the foot back, and as before yielding at each effort to kick, let go, until the foot is submitted freely.
Now take the foot from the control of the strap to the hand and handle gently. If there is very determined resistance, tie the end of your long strap around the neck, near the shoulders, pass the other end back between the fore legs, around the hind foot, but under the strap around the neck, and draw up on it, at the same time holding him by the bridle or halter.
The colt may be frightened and jump to get clear of the restraint. Should he act very much frightened, slack up on the Strap until the foot is almost back to its natural position. Then as he will bear, again pull a little shorter, at the same time pulling him round in a circle by the head, until he ceases struggling to get the foot loose.
You may now pull the foot farther forward, and hold it as before, until he will stand quietly. Now step back a little and pass the hand down the hind leg.
Slap the hand upon the leg a little until there is no resistance, then take it in the hands. If there is no resistance, undo the end of the strap and allow the foot a little more freedom; at the same time while holding the foot by the strap, pass the hand from the hip down the leg quietly, rubbing and caressing until able to take it in the hands.
Handle the opposite leg in the same manner, until there is perfect submission. Should the colt resist having the feet handled with much determination, or prove very vicious, the regular subjective treatment will be necessary.
Those of a wildish mustang disposition are the most obstinate; there is once in a while one of this class that will call for pretty thorough and patient treatment to make gentle. They are not only so plucky, but so strong and enduring that they are disposed to resist control of the feet at all hazards.
It is of great importance that colts are treated with great kindness; giving them a bit of horse feed...apples, a little oats, etc., after submitting the feet or being otherwise handled, as the real cause of trouble is fear, and winning the confidence by a little flattery in this way has a powerful effect in disconcerting the attention and winning the confidence, and thus of teaching obedience.
All this is now so easily done when necessary by the ordinary subjective course, that it seems needless to dwell on minor conditions and details; you must bear in mind that bad cases call for a little work and patience, and that you must be not only thorough, but prudent, to be successful.