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The Real Horse Whisperers
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The Real Horse Whisperers

Everyone knows about the film and the book, I got interested in this subject, i.e. horse whispering, after reading the novel by Nicholas Evans, a few years ago. It was memorable as being a very powerful, emotive story, I am sure anyone who has read it will agree, and much better than the film (as is often the case when a famous book is adapted for the screen). The character of Pilgrim, the injured and traumatised horse in the book, is very well drawn and believable (as are all the human characters), and his bold spirit really comes through from the pages. Animals have diverse and distinct personalities just like people; this is something I have known since I was very young, and horses are highly sensitive and emotional, as any horse-owner knows.

The practice of horse whispering is also known as natural horsemanship, which is a collective term for a variety of horse training techniques which have grown in popularity since the 1980s. These techniques vary but in essence they are all based on the principle of developing rapport with horses, rejecting abusive training methods, and instead using communication methods based on the observation of wild horses. Practitioners of this style of training, like Monty Roberts and Pat Parelli, claim that these techniques are much more gentle and radically different from traditional techniques which use unnecessary force, i.e. as in the tradition of“breaking” horses. However these gentle methods of working cooperatively with the horse are not new, but have their roots far back in history, from classical times, e.g. the 3rd and 4th century BC. These techniques have always had to compete with harsher methods, of the type that were widely in use by cowboys during the era of the Wild West, due to the necessity of having to train large numbers of horses in the shortest time possible. Horse whispering has set out to replace these more forceful methods.

The eponymous character on whom Nicholas Evans' bestselling book is based is said to be Buck Brannaman, a celebrated horse trainer and motivational speaker from Montana, who travels widely and gives talks on horsemanship. He says that the secret of his success comes from his experience of a very unhappy, abusive childhood, which consequently made him able to look at the situation from the viewpoint of the horse who was being “broken”, and so knew that it was necessary to be kind and win their trust. He says:

"Abused horses are like abused children. They trust no one and expect the worst. But patience, leadership, compassion and firmness can help them overcome their pasts."

His methods have certainly had some great results and he sounds like an extremely inspirational individual. It seems quite fitting that he should be immortalised in a film and a book.

I hope that you enjoyed this blog. Your votes and comments are much appreciated.

Picture courtesy of www.imdb.com

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  1. Rene Wright
    Rene Wright
    I haven't read the book or seen the movie, but your blog has inspired me to do so. I did watch the Horse Whisperer a few years back & loved it. I was raised in the "cowboy" way of breaking & training horses. Though none of my methods were as vicious as some in the wild west era, I could definitely see room for improvement so I have read many articles on "horse whispering". Less is way more when you aren't bullying your horse & often times they are curious to know more or to learn more. Great blog & I voted. If you have time, please check out my blog: Building Confidence Takes Time & vote if you liked it. Thank you so much!
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  2. HorseDiva
    I haven't read the book or seen the movie, either - but this subject is one that interests me as well. In fact, I wrote http://www.ofhorse.com/view-post/Is-Horse-Whispering-Real, which looks at a larger history of this now renowned method of caring for horses. I enjoyed your article very much because you look at it from a much more emotional point of view and I voted for you.
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    1. Chestnut Mare
      Chestnut Mare
      Thanks a lot HorseDiva, I didn't realise you had written about it recently too! I just read and voted for your article, brilliant. As you say, mine gives a different viewpoint. Someone else has just written a blog about Monty Roberts, who I mention in mine, which is on the home page. It's good to have a few different takes on the subject.
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  3. Nancy Richards
    A willing partner is far better than an unwilling subject. Every time I work with a horse, I focus on getting them to want to do what I ask, rather than tell them you must. It works far better this way. I voted :)
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  4. naturegirl
    Number seven. I don't understand why you're not on TP yet, to tell you the truth... maybe it's because we happen to see some of the same stuff, you, Anita and I being vegan. Hope not... I mean, there's only so much we can say about humane horse riding. That's why I'm branching out and just talking about horse breeds, care, etc...
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    1. Chestnut Mare
      Chestnut Mare
      Thanks Annie! Is Anita on here as well, and if so, what is her user-name? I don't want to get too repetitious, but I notice someone else wrote a blog about horse-whispering a few weeks ago, and you did one about racing as well! I hadn't seen either of those when I wrote mine though. I suppose we are always going to get a certain amount of duplication with the subjects of blogs, although written from different angles. So I'll try to find a fresh angle for my next one.
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      1. naturegirl
        She's HorseDiva. I just noticed because she copies my way of asking people to vote for me.
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  5. Queenie Gold
    Voted. I love The Horse Whisperer, it is one of my favourite books!
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  6. Lindendrafts
    Watching the movie "Buck" , which is about Buck Brannahan and was made with his cooperation, will, I think, interest anyone who is desirous of gaining a deeper understanding of "horse whispering". It's well done and quite informative. He is truly the Horse Whisperer that Evans wrote about, not Monty Roberts, as Mr. Roberts is fond of claiming. Mr. Brannahan will inspire you to do the best you can for your horse and yourself.
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  7. spirithorserider
    spirithorserider
    While there are "natural horsemanship" (an oxymoron because there is nothing "natural" about a person on a horse) trainers who do fine work, like Buck Brannaman and Mark Rashid, there is a long history of charlatans going back to the 1800s which follows a pretty consistent pattern of fooling the public. Beware of anything referred to as a "method." Good horsemanship has many forms. Some people have a great gift and others are just out to make money.
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    1. jst4horses
      You are right, there are many out to make a buck, sorry about the pun. And there are many who just want to give horses a break and humans a better chance to enjoy life from a horse's point of view.There are very few real horsemen in the world. Many are, like Dr. Robert Miller DVM well known only for his books on foal imprinting. Most vets, even those who do not ride, never won a ribbon and could care less, are closer to true horsemen than riders. During decades of working in huge show and racing stables, I have seen horse no one could handle, when injured or ill, come under the spell of certain vets and just calm down, and seem to know they are there to help. While there are bad vets and bad shoers, some of them are truly horse whisperers.
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    2. jst4horses
      You are right, there are many out to make a buck, sorry about the pun. And there are many who just want to give horses a break and humans a better chance to enjoy life from a horse's point of view.There are very few real horsemen in the world. Many are, like Dr. Robert Miller DVM well known only for his books on foal imprinting. Most vets, even those who do not ride, never won a ribbon and could care less, are closer to true horsemen than riders. During decades of working in huge show and racing stables, I have seen horse no one could handle, when injured or ill, come under the spell of certain vets and just calm down, and seem to know they are there to help. While there are bad vets and bad shoers, some of them are truly horse whisperers.
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  8. jst4horses
    One of the oldest groups of horse trainers and handlers in the world is the Vikings. I saw a documentary on one of the few culturally intact living Viking groups still alive. Their horses live wild, they call them, they come, when it is time to move, they packed up the house, Great-great grandmother, and all the tykes on horses, no bridles, and the whole group of horses and humans moved along to their next better weather, better grazing home. They also need money, since this is 2013, so they are also one of the most world respected equine therapy programs ever! Using ancient methods, as well as some modern ones. A great documentary if you can find it, it was on Animal Planet when I saw it.
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