How Do You Know When Your Horse is Listening?
“Not only do we whisper to our horses, but we
actually listen to them and value what they have
to say… when we can accurately read the mostly
silent language of horses, we can begin to set up
a two-way conversation, each respecting the
other’s point of view and living in harmony.”
The Way of the Medicine Pony
If you consider that the basic definition of horse whispering means applying humane methods and good horse sense to the training and handling of horses, the skill of horse-whispering has been around a long time.
When I decided to write about Wolf Olsen, a rodeo cowboy who’d left his girlfriend on the eve of their high school prom, I wanted to find a character whose ideas about how to treat horses (and maybe people) would be as opposed to Wolf’s as possible. I’d seen a few short clips about the legendary Buck Brannaman. A friend in Bigfork, Montana had actually taken a couple of workshops with him. About a decade ago, she showed me a game with her horse. This stubborn little gelding (who had bucked me off days earlier) actually followed her docilely around the pasture, then let her put on his bridle and saddle without being tied to a fence! All because she’d taken the time to play a game of tag with him involving a bandanna tucked into her back pocket. I remembered that game when I decided to create Abby Macready, a horse-whispering Salish girl who leaves vet school to start her practice.
Although Abby never plays the bandanna game with Bullet, Wolf’s incredible roping horse, she does pick up on another horse-healing technique, walking the horse in water after an injury. This technique, another example of treating our four-legged friends with maximum kindness, has been effective in treating both backyard ponies and thoroughbreds. Hooray for horse whispering.
I hope you’ll be just as curious about how Abby tames Wolf.
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