The Art of Taming and Training Wild Horses
The Art of Taming and Training Wild Horses – Experiments with the Robe.
If you want to satisfy yourself of this characteristic of the horse, and learn something of importance concerning the peculiarities of his nature, etc., turn him into the barn-yard, or a large stable will do, and then gather up something that you know will frighten him; a red blanket, buffalo robe, or something of that kind.
Hold it up so that he can see it; he will stick up his head and snort. Then throw it down somewhere in the center of the lot or barn, and walk off to one side.
Watch his motions, and study his nature. If he is frightened at the object, he will not rest until he touches it with his nose. You will see him begin to walk around the robe and snort, all the time getting a little closer, as if drawn up by some magic spell, until he finally gets within reach of it.
He will then very cautiously stretch out his neck as far as he can reach, merely touching it with his nose, as though he thought it was ready to fly at him.
But after he has repeated these touches a few times, for the first (Though he has been looking at it all the time) he seems to have an idea what it is. But now he has found, by the sense of feeling, that it is nothing that will do him any harm, and he is ready to play with it.
And if you watch him closely, you will see him take hold of it with his teeth, and raise it up and pull at it. And in a few minutes, you can see that he does not have that same wild look in his eye, but stands like a horse biting at some familiar stump.
Yet the horse is never well satisfied when he is about anything that has frightened him, as when he is standing with his nose to it. And, in nine cases out of ten, you will see some of that same wild look about him again, as he turns to walk from it.
And you will, probably, see him looking back very suspiciously as he walks away, as though he thought it might come after him yet. And, in all probability, he will have to go back and take another examination before he is satisfied.
But he will familiarize himself with it, and, if he should run in that lot for a few days, the robe that frightened him so much at first, will be no more to him than a familiar stump.
Suppositions On the Sense of Smelling.
We might very naturally suppose, from the fact of the horse’s applying his nose to everything new to him, that he always does so for the purpose of smelling these objects.
But I believe that it is as much or more for the purpose of feeling; and that he makes use of his nose or muzzle, (as it is sometimes called.) as we would of our hands; because it is the only organ by which he can touch or feel anything with much susceptibility.
I believe that he invariably makes use of the four senses, seeing, hearing, smelling and feeling, in all of his examinations, of which the sense of feeling is, perhaps, the most important.
And I think that in the experiment with the robe, his gradual approach and final touch with his nose was as much for the purpose of feeling, as anything else, his sense of smell being so keen, that it would not be necessary for him to touch his nose against anything in order to get the proper scent; for it is said that a horse can smell a man the distance of a mile.
And, if the scent of the robe was all that was necessary, he could get several rods off. But we know from experience, that if a horse sees and smells a robe a short distance from him, he is very much frightened, (unless he is used to it,) until he touches or feels it with his nose; which is a positive proof that feeling is the controlling sense in this case.
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