Wednesday, September 11, 2019

What is it About a Horse Whisperer? by Rhonda Frankhouser

Okay, on the scale from 1 to 10, how sexy is a horse whisperer? To me, maybe a 50. Especially when Robert Redford played the part. Mercy.

Copyright to the owner from the motion picture, The Horse Whisperer

The art of communicating with horses is an age old art form, performed, unfortunately, by fewer and fewer experts as time goes on. The technical definition of horse whisperer, according to, is, "horse trainer who adopts a sympathetic view of the motives, needs, and desires of the horse, based on modern equine psychology." 

I've researched the techniques used by a few working horse whisperers, though I'm sure there are a million more that I could share. 
Steve Harris - Photo rights to owner.
Well known horse whisperer, Steve Harris', main premise is not to break the will of the horse, but rather to use the gentle side of force. Thanks to a fabulous article by Jack Dunigan, The Gentle Side of Force, here's a summary of his techniques.
1. Establish a partnership between the rider and horse by showing you're a confident leader.
2. Establish two-way communication by talking face to face.
3. Establish who is the leader and who's the follower by being associates, rather than buddies.
4. Maintain a connection by spending time and being present.
5. Prove you're trustworthy by repeating behaviors to show your integrity.
6. Test respect by not 'demanding' but 'asking' them to follow.
7. Clarify what you want by being very clear with directions.
8. Once respect and enthusiasm is established between horse and rider, then ride and enjoy the symbiotic relationship.
Mark Rashid - Photo rights to owner.
Another approach comes from multi-published, horse whisperer, Mark Rashid, who employs the simple technique of 'don't fight, and be clear', to create a mutually respectful relationship between rider and horse. In his interview with PBS/ATL, NATURE Horse and Rider, he shares the following:
1. The rider must truly understand what it is they want from their mount before 'asking' the horse to follow direction. 
2. Recognize the horse's good behavior and build on that, rather than focusing on bad behaviors.
3. Horse's don't usually willingly disobey, they often misunderstand. Be sure to be 'speak the same language' and be clear what you're asking them to do.
4. Be certain the horse is healthy and not suffering from an ailment that would aggravate the training. (i.e. mouth or foot issues).
5. Use a steady stream of affirmation language to communicate what you want the horse to do and to be sure he/she understands. He suggests repeatedly using "good" for wanted behavior and "no" for unwanted behaviors. 

As luck would have it, my childhood neighbor, a delightful, strong, silent construction worker, transformed into an amazing horse whisperer working with our horses on the farm. This Nevada native, was born into the incredible horse-savvy Spanish Basque culture. One minute he was a jokester, but when he climbed on to the saddle of the meanest gelding in the barn, his attention was strictly focused on the fidgeting animal. 

We all stood around the pen, amazed as the horse settled down, perked his ears back, and followed the commands by this very quiet, very calm, very confident rider. I was sooooooooooooooooooooo envious how he could make that ornery horse do whatever he wanted. Even more so when he dismounted and the gelding followed dutifully behind without nipping or lunging (as was his favorite thing to do with me).

So really it seems, creating a good relationship between horse and rider is more about respect and trust, rather than the command of the rider over the mount. Come to think of it, that's a good adage for all relationships. Wouldn't you say?

Have you ever seen a horse whisperer in action? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

After fourteen years in hospice care management in central California, Rhonda Frankhouser now writes full time from her lovely Atlanta, Georgia home. Rhonda's award-winning Ruby's Ranch Series, earned a finalist honor in the Uncaged Review Raven Awards; a second runner up in the prestigious InD'Tale Magazine RONE awards and a Book and Benches, Reviewers Top Pic ~ Books of Distinction award. Her follow up Shadowing Souls Series and Let Yourself Believe Series, have captured the attention of both romance and mainstream readers alike. Rhonda is a happily married stepmom to three beautiful daughters; two adorable pugs and a lazy Labrador named Dutch.

Check out Rhonda's Award-Winning Ruby's Ranch Series on Amazon. Book 1 will be FREE on Freebooksy September 14-16. Check this link on September 14th to get your copy!!!

Christmas at Ruby's Ranch - A Novella will be available soon!


Andrea Downing said...

Rhonda, I wonder if you ever watch RFD or The Cowboy Channel? Lots of Horse Whisperers there. Nice post! thanks for sharing.

Licha said...

Hi, I have never seen a horse whisperer in action, but I bet it is something to see. I am always in awe of how some people have their animals trained and how they do it. I would think it has to do with a lot of respect for the animal and also letting the animal know that the person is the leader. Thank you so much for sharing this post on horse whisperers, that would actually be very interesting to see how a person trains an animal bigger than themselves. I enjoyed reading this post.Have a Great rest of the week. God Bless you.

Elizabeth Clements said...

I love your blog. I read the book two days before I saw the movie and was eager to see how the movie handled that traumatic opening scene with the horse and semi scene. I loved the movie but didn't like that they changed the storyline 3/4 through. That aside, I love the movie, the scenery, and Robert Redford. I have a couple other books about real horse whisperers and now I want to dig them out and read them again. Thanks for a great article.

Rhonda Frankhouser Books said...

Thank you all for your comments, and great insight. I appreciate you all more than you know.