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.
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