KBR Horse Training Information

Exercising Body AND Mind

My Wild Horse is Home;
What Now???

Here is an all too familiar scenario. An adopter acquires a horse and brings it home. Armed with pamphlets, suggested reading materials and helpful advice, the new adopter is looking at a pretty wary animal in a corral and the horse doesn't look all that friendly. At the wild horse adoption the trainer in the round pen seemed to make it all look so easy. So the adopter is thinking, "How do I get those results and where do I start?"

Adopted wild horses are bright and very trainable but for most of these animals their experiences with humans have not been that social and rewarding. They've been herded, processed, placed in chutes, vaccinated, had blood drawn, been freeze branded and in some cases gelded. For the most part their positive social lives have consisted solely of interaction with other horses and about the only good human was the one in the back of the truck that threw hay each day.

These experiences come on top of pretty scary contacts with man in the wild. In addition horses are prey animals and humans are predators. When one thinks about all of these factors, it should become clear why your adopted horse doesn't warm up to you like a puppy from the pound.

While this kind of scenario is an honest reality check, it doesn't mean that your adopted horse won't become gentle, happy in his environment, socially attached to you and if treated right become a more loyal partner than most domestic horses. It's just that each horse has a history as well as strong natural instincts. You can ignore those instincts and increase the horse's stress and discomfort, however the smart handler sets the situation up to use those instincts in a way that that advances the gentling process and avoids situations that generates fear and defensiveness.


Your wild horse does come with a number of advantages. He's not spoiled. He hasn't figured out how to run games on humans. He's not been abused or mistreated. He's knows how to use his body and has had to use his mind to survive so he is well equipped to learn and adapt to his new domestic environment. Wild horses are incredibly adaptable.

Your wild horse is now in a new, strange environment. This usually means that all of his senses are turned up on "high" and his attention is on anyone who enters his space. This provides an excellent opportunity for you, the adopter, to put your best foot forward and show the horse that his new situation isn't really so dreadful as well as encourage him to learn about the benefits and pleasures of domestic life.

Most new adopees are stand-offish


Most adopters don't have round pens. Even of those who do, most people don't have the timing and sensitivity to effectively work a wild horse in a round pen. The tempo in the round pen can quickly accelerate to where all the handler is doing is reinforcing the horse's instinct to run from the human.

Another thing most people don't realize is that the round pen demos at the adoptions are often superficial. They are designed to demonstrate that the horses are smart and will respond to and interact with humans, sometimes even to the point of having a saddle put on and not blowing up when the clinician mounts up. But the round pen clinician doesn't have to trim feet, worm the horse, give shots, untangle mane and tail and doctor up some injury on the horse. You, the adopter, have to do all that stuff so it only makes sense to approach gentling your horse on the basis of developing his confidence in you and developing mutual communication.

So while round penning is beneficial, there is a lot more to gentling a wild horse, and your wild horse can certainly be gentled successfully without the use of a round pen.

An effective round penner
lets the horse move but doesn't
incite it into mindless flight
The objective is to encourage the
horse to interact with the handler

Continue to Part 2;
Approaches that can be Used Anywhere

Return to LRTC Help Desk

Important Note: If you take on the project of developing an untrained horse, everybody will want to give you advice. Don't act on any advice, including the ideas offered in this site, unless it makes sense to you and fits your individual situation. Your abilities and the sensitivities of your horse(s) may differ from the examples given. Be alert and rational with your actions so neither you nor your horse will get hurt. This information is offered as illustrations of what we do and the reader must apply common sense since he or she is solely responsible for his or her actions.

Happy trails!

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