I grew up around horses and was always amazed to watch my father and grandfather
use their special talent. My father would never admit he had an extraordinary gift, but all who knew him could tell
you he did. To him, he was only doing what came naturally and accepted it as a part of life and his heritage.
He always told me that our Ancestors could talk to animals and understand what was in their hearts. It was just part
of being who he is.
Horses have an uncanny instinct when it comes man. There are some individuals
that seem to be able to win over a horse more quickly than others and my father is one such man. It was not uncommon
for a neighbor to bring a stubborn colt to our farm and hand it over to my dad to be "broken." My father always objected
to that term. "A broken horse is worthless," he'd remark, "so let's make a friend instead." After the owner would
leave, my father would begin his ritual to "befriend" the four-legged visitor.
In the beginning, the horse was always nervous and showed the whites of its eyes
as it tried to size-up its situation. My dad would stand at a distance and talk in his low voice, barely audible, and
often not understandable. The horse seldom took its eyes from him while he talked and made slow movements of his hands,
like a snake-charmer's flute. Sometimes my father would sit down on the ground in the center of the corral and continue
to speak in a mixture of a chant and a song. The horse seemed as if it could not take its eyes from him and soon would
inch nearer and lower its head to listen closer to what my father was saying.
Occasionally something would spook the animal and it would turn on its heels and
run to the farthest point inside the fence, but soon curiosity or fascination would overcome it, and slowly it would make
its way back to a spot only a few feet from my father. It seldom took long before the horse was close enough to extend
its graceful neck and flare its nostrils to memorize the scent of this man who held its attention.
Before very much time had passed, the horse and my father were touching and communicating
in some strange method that I never quite understood. Slowly and gently, my father moved his hands over the horse's
body, never stopping his low chant. He'd talk and the horse would snort and nod its head, as if agreeing to some bargain
they'd struck. In no time the horse would follow him around the paddock like it was on a lead rope.
No matter what new step he took, my father would whisper to the horse until it
seemed to acknowledge his words, then he'd continue with the process. First a bridle, then a blanket over its back
and finally a saddle, all the time whispering and talking to the horse as he worked his magic. A step was never taken
until the horse willingly permitted him to continue.
I never saw a horse buck him when he mounted it the first time and it was always
done bareback. Sometimes, but not often, my father would sense the uncertainly of his mount and slip from its back to
retry this step a little later. Most of the time, he only needed to lean forward and whisper gently to the horse to
settle it and urge it to carry him where he wanted to go. He guided the animal with soft words and shifting his body
on its back or nudging it with his legs. It was magic and I never grew tired of watching the Horse Whisperer at work.