The education of a horse is generally included in the words "breaking and training" and is commenced and carried through with the object of making the animal tractable, and subservient to the requirements of man. The time to commence this education is when the animal is young and impressionable, and especially during foalhood; but of course this is not always possible where large numbers are bred, especially in the open, and with but few attendants. Then what might be designated "heroic horse-breaking" has to be adopted with animals perhaps two or three years old, which may never have been handled, and are in a more or less wild condition.
With those in paddock or at pasture, however, and which are under the immediate influence of civilisation, handling should begin soon after birth. Horses differ very much in disposition and temperament - in this respect they are but little, if at all, different to the dog - and their intelligence, tracta-bility, and docility differ widely among themselves. Some are naturally stupid and difficult to teach; others are so nervous and shy that teaching alarms them, and makes them so excited that it is very difficult to secure their attention and confidence; others, again, are stubborn and perverse, and require tact and humouring; while there are others, also, though it may be surmised they are in a small minority, who are naturally, if not vicious, at least recalcitrant and spiteful.
But it must be confessed that, to those men who can understand horse nature and horse character, there is no great difficulty in breaking and training young animals very easily and satisfactorily. Each animal must be handled and humoured according to its temperament and tendency; but it may be laid down as a rule, that kindness and firmness should be the principles governing horse-breaking and horse-training. It only too often happens, however, that the opposite principles prevail, and that all young horses are subjected to the same invariable routine of bullying, beating, and stupefying by noise and worry, no matter how diverse they may be in their temper and intelligence. Hence we need not wonder that there are troublesome horses - animals vicious or unmanageable, which, had they been entrusted to men who understand them, in their early days, might have been most placid and tractable: servants instead of would-be masters. Tact and gentleness should always be preferred to harshness and brute force, in managing young horses.
It is a good plan to accustom the foal to be handled at a very early age; the head, legs, and body being stroked and patted, the feet lifted, and the voice employed to coax and reassure it, a reward in the shape of a bit of bread, a little oats, or anything else tempting, being given immediately afterwards, if obedience is readily yielded. It is well also to accustom the foal to wear a light head-collar of leather or hempen band, close but easy-fitting, and not likely to get entangled in anything. At first this may be worn only for a short time, and in putting it on there should be no force used, as the majority of foals are particularly impressionable, and their first lessons have often a long, if not a lasting effect. By this head-collar he can be held, led about, turned and restrained, gradually and steadily, until he becomes so well accustomed to handling that he will not object to it, and will even like it.
When "haltering" has not been attempted until the animal is weaned, or even later, there is often great difficulty experienced, and much patience and tact are generally required to effect it. In only too many instances it is achieved by brute force, with perhaps a certain amount of cruelty and terrori-sation. "A farmer has a colt he wishes to halter; so he gets his men together and drives the colt into a yard or stable. A man then hangs on to the timid animal by one of his ears and his nose, another man seizes his tail, whilst three or four more men push against either side of the poor frightened beast; then ensues a struggle. The colt, frightened out of his senses, and not knowing what is required of him, fights the half-dozen men clinging to him; he rears, bites, and strikes with his forefeet. The men on seeing this, and the farmer standing near, say he is a savage brute, and must be reduced by savage means. The colt is then beaten with a broom or pitchfork-handle, his tail is twisted, and every means of inflicting excruciating pain is resorted to, which, instead of subduing the animal has the reverse effect - the colt being driven to madness, struggles and fights until he vanquishes his foes. There is then a consultation between the farmer and his men, and at last this ferocious beast is haltered by stratagem; but throughout all his life he is either vicious or extremely nervous and shy, for he will never forget his first introduction to mankind, and the rough usage he then encountered."
In such a case as the latter, the colt (or filly) to be haltered should be quietly induced to go into a yard, stable, or loose box - either by leading, driving, or the enticement of a horse led before him, with a man or two on each side at a little distance to prevent him getting away - everything being conducted silently and soothingly. When in the yard or stable, if a horse has been employed as a decoy, he should be removed and the door closed, only one man being left with the colt, which should be allowed to survey and smell at leisure until satisfied that there is nothing dangerous present. After a time, the man should retire for a short space, and return again to put on the halter. This article should have a "shank" about eight feet in length, with a knot tied in it to prevent its running tight and pinching the head if the animal pull on it. The man must approach softly and slowly, keeping his hands down and speaking encouragingly, until, on reaching the colt, efforts may be made to touch and stroke him, without alarming, until the hand has been worked up the neck towards the head. One hand can pass the "shank" over the neck and tie it round that part; this will give a hold of him, and the halter can then be worked on to the head. After being patted and talked to for a little, a light, but strong, leather head-collar may be placed on the head over the halter, and then he should be watered and fed, and left alone. The head gear is left on, and on the following day he is handled again, a rope is tied to the head-collar, and he may be led round a few times, then tied up - if he is uneasy or struggles, stroking and speaking to him will reassure him, and he will soon become tranquil. After half-an-hour of this, the halter may be removed from under the head-collar, as well as the rope from the latter, and the animal left to himself. Next day this is repeated, after which he may be turned out into a paddock or straw-yard and allowed to amuse himself. It is recommended, as a good practice, to allow colts two or three years old to run in a large straw-yard or field, with the shanks of their "halters" hanging loose, before they are subjected to further restraint, taking care that the headstalls - which, as said before, should be of leather - are properly adjusted, and that the hempen shanks are securely twisted into a coil during the night. This, however, is somewhat risky, as in running about, the animals will be continually placing their fore-feet on the end of the shank, and so tugging their heads, injuring their limbs, or throwing themselves down. It is better either to have the shank, if it is to be worn, coiled up short to the headstall, or tied round the neck and attached to a lock of the mane, to prevent the fore-foot getting through it during grazing or rolling.