Where does the term ‘horse whisperer’ come from? Is this a real line of work? Are there truly people that can calm horses simply by whispering in their ear?
Well, to answer these questions, there was, in fact, a young man with the ability to talk to horses to make them stop being vicious or overexcited. Daniel Sullivan lived in the nineteenth century and would talk to horses to calm them into submission.
He created a name for himself by doing it in public and eventually became sought out by a great number of people who needed this sort of service. The term ‘horse whisperer’ was then coined and used thereafter every time someone claimed to be able to achieve the same or a similar feat.
Eventually, others followed in his footsteps. The two most famous in the United States were Tom and Bill Dorrance, brothers who have had a profound influence on what is known today as Natural Horsemanship.
One of their disciples, Ray Hunt, is perhaps one of the most pivotal characters in the world of Natural Horsemanship. He developed concepts, philosophies and the spirit of the Dorrance brothers and propelled it to an entirely new level. Horse enthusiasts across the world use this horsemanship. He died at 79 years old, in 2009.
His legacy was left to Ronnie J. Ford. He was touched in such a way by Ray Hunt and his philosophy of horse ownership that all he wishes to accomplish is improving the lives of horses everywhere, “one owner at a time”, as he says.
Part of this form of communication with horses, however, is not by whispering to them at all. Ronnie will tell you that he prefers their own method of interaction and this is a far better way to achieve contact with them. Known to stop a nervous horse running in its pen with a simple look, he will tell you that what Ray passed on to him is the knowledge of passing through the mind to make the feet obey. Even though there is a lot of fear of some sort on behalf of the animal, getting to the point is the key and an art in itself.
Although he never truly speaks to them, Ronnie is still known as a horse whisperer. He believes that a horse exhibiting bad behaviour learned it from a human, not on its own. And if the horse learned that, then he can be taught something new to replace the undesired actions.
What is clear, then, is that horse whispering goes beyond the words. Even if this mysterious learning seems oddly like a scam, it isn’t; we just need to listen beyond the whisperer’s voice to hear what is going on.