DbarH Equine Training. Natural Horsemanship.
Medicine Lodge Valley, Dillon, Montana

Origin of "Horse Whisperers" 

The Original "Horse Whisperer" **

How many horse people have heard of the names; "Bull", "Jumper", "Whisper Sullivan", Denton Offutt, Fancher, John S. Rarey, and D Magner?  

"Whisperer Sullivan" who was from Ireland was " discovered" in the later 1800's.   Some thought of him as either a jokester, psychic, or a showman.

He was said to have taken a horse into a barn where no one could see what he was doing with a rank horse and come out with a gentle obedient horse.  He was "secret" with this method.  Exhibiting how he transformed a wild thing into a patient partner.  Horsemen that saw this "phenomenon" say that they saw Sullivan periodically whisper in the horse's ear.  People believed that this man had such powers that whispering was how he got the horse submissive.  

Now lets go back a few years to the 1870's.  There was a man named "Bull" from England who got the horse down on the ground until the horse figured out he can not fight the man and then listened to the man.

Around 1880 "Jumper" another Englishman was more noted for his techniques .  Unmanageable horse were  taken to him from the whole country.  He also did not let anyone see his taming technique.  When horsemen observed the horses that "jumper" had trained they noticed that they all laid down when asked.   

So "Whisper Sullivan" no doubt followed the theory of "laying down" the horse to gentle them. Perhaps with better technique though.

Have you ever watched circus trainers with their animals?  They have to be very in tune to every flick, and movement the animal makes.  One wrong reading and it could mean disaster.  The circus has been around for along time.  What did these trainers know that horsemen  didn't.  Guaranteed a whole lot more. So if you see or hear about a circus trainer be amazed and curious not down grading (posh posh) that they are "just circus people".   They know/knew allot more about communication that we all do.

Denton Offutt, Fancher,  were Americans who also followed their English and Irish horsemen's techniques.  The didn't get as famous either.  Their locality hindered their techniques from getting the word out.  

One American did become well known.  His name was John S. Rarey.  So known that the Queen of England bought 2000 lessons for $50 each to rich horsemen.

Oddly enough Offutt sued Rarey.  Offutt claimed that Rarey "stole" his "secret" method and of all things got the Queen to take lessons based on that method. 

In 1886 D. Magner an American Published as book.  He was know to be the "Father of the Complex Method of Horse and Colt Subjection and Training".

Romantic Words = Hype

It amazes me that more people get bedazzled by words rather than the actual technique of the trainer.  When horse people go to a clinic or demonstration do they feel they will  see a horse whispered at and magically become trained ? Ammm....probably!  If horse people hear a trainers name for the first time what is going to make them spend money at that trainers place?  New horse people that don't know what to look for in a trainer will magnetically go to the two words that propagate business - "Horse Whisperer".  What about these modern "Horse Whisperers" that are " God figures" to beginner horsemen?  They have been said to have discovered and have horse sense beyond anyone trainer ever.  Well...........lets not get carried away!!!

Why have these trainers been so popular and not previous trainers?  Lets take a time line through time.  What is different now then a 100 years ago? One becomes popular through exposure.  In order to get exposure one has to travel, advertise via many many avenues and they have to appeal to the audience.  A 100 years ago traveling was limited, advertising was almost non existent  outside the trainers home area and was word of mouth.  Appealing to the audience was just getting started.  Remember hearing of traveling medicine men who had a cure all for any ailment?  The people believed every word the salesman had to say.  They had examples of people who were "cured" of a aliment.  And sometimes they'd just happen to have a satisfied customer out in the audience to prove what they had was a miracle waiting to happen.

What do we call these "Horse Whispers" then you ask?  The same thing they were called before the touchy feely, romantic movie came out. And that is a  Horseman.  If he has a good reputation then let it be known by his given name.  How do you tell if a horseman is honest and in the best interests of the horse no matter the technique?  The person is humble not a salesman out for the bucks or fame with out regard to others.  This goes for any thing in life.

My Experience with a proclaimed "Horse Whisperer"

Trainer XYZ calls new owner of a horse I had previously trained named Coolhand.  XYZ says the horse is dangerous and need to be canned.  I call Trainer XYZ to find out the problem.  She proceeds to say that this horse is dangerous and needs to be killed.   She says she used "Big Name ABC"'s methods( yes one of the guru's) . I thought to myself - ya right lady!!  I tell XYZ that I want to by him.  She say's I'd be nuts to do so and that he's going to kill someone. She couldn't train him and all he does is buck and gets mean.  By now the red flag is waving high.  If she proclaims to  follow ABC's methods she would 1) could have worked through the problem and 2) why is he having a problem in the first place.  I proceed to tell XYZ that I trained the horse.  She promptly tells me I did a very bad job. I say no I didn't you did something wrong with him.  She being such a professional hangs up.  Her lack of professionalism give her away as a slick mover.  If she was truly a horseman she would have asked what was the "trick".  But she came across as a "slam and Jam" type "trainer". 

 We never know what happened to Coolhand.  Did she wreck him so bad in those 60-90 days that he's mind was beyond fried.  Or did she feel the new owner with blatant lies so she could make a bunch of money by saying the horse went to the canners and then sell the horse to someone else.  This so called "Horse Whisperer"  charged the owner a few + thousand dollars for just those 2-3 months.   

What is my point?  If you go by the romantic words that the trainer says they are you are setting up yourself for a rude awakening.  Always see what the previous horses are like and talk with the other owners of the horses.  And more readily see the trainer in action unannounced at their barn.  NO DEMONSTRATION type functions. 

 I invite you to see how "bad" Coolhand was trained by me by going to his personal training section.  

**Horse Whisper information comprised from J King's Ross's School of Applied Horsemanship - Art and Science of Horse Management. 1945


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Donna Hildreth 1998 - 2009
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