Have you ever heard of a zebra whisperer? Well, there is one, and he trains horses too. Gary Witheford, the legendary British equine expert, can manage to ride a wild zebra that has never been broken before in just 20 minutes. He broke the first wild zebra in 40 minutes back in 1996, brought to him, along with another even wilder one, by a lady who works for Longleat Safari and Adventure park located at Warminster, Wiltshire. She overheard him one night at a local pub boasting with his friends that he can break zebras too. She assured of getting him a zebra but the following morning showed up with two of them at his door.
Witheford, the zebra whisperer who prefers to be called “horseman”, has done four zebras so far. He is primarily a horse trainer who is exceptionally talented at his work. He is capable of breaking in a horse in just 20 minutes, a job that other trainers usually take six to eight weeks to accomplish. Witheford’s genius enables him to break and train any wild equine creatures like donkeys, llamas and, of course, zebras that are exotic and are believed to be impossible to break and to ride. Gary Witheford is a valued race-horse trainer as well; his high profile clients include the Queen of England Elizabeth II, Ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammad and famous footballer Wayne Rooney.
Zebras, whose natural habitat is the African savannah, resemble so much with horses in appearance and in action, other than their exclusive black and white stripe body color. However, they are extremely difficult to manage as they are excessively alert all the time for fear of attacks from lions and hyenas. They are psychologically so constructed that they react to any unfamiliar sound, sight and even smell. They seem to be panicked continuously in order to be alive. The first zebra Witheford broke and trained, called Mombasa, was let racing and rearing around the pen while his whisperer was indirectly controlling him through some kind of pulley. Mombasa was compliant at the end after he got tired and eventually got saddled. Witheford applies the same technique in breaking horses.
Witheford’s new book, If Horses Could talk reveals his attitude towards our equine friends. He “reads” the animals through a keen observance of their body language; how they lick and chew, how they alert their ears and make eye contact with a person mean something to him. He acquires a good understanding of the animal’s type so skillfully that it takes him only 20 minutes to manage a wild horse or any other equine creature for that matter. So after Mombasa came under control, he found a jockey for him. Schoolgirl Nicky Davies was happily riding around the pen on Mombasa’s back that amazed most viewers.
Gary Witheford trained three more zebras after Mombasa and they all ended up living in his farm. These zebras are the most unusual pets people in an English countryside have ever seen. Witheford’s inspiration and skills came from his deep association with horses from his early days. The 54 year old grandfather of three trusts horses more than he trusts people.