Moving documentary on prisoners who break wild horses

Originally published at:


Are the horses under warranty?

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Looks like they are not “breaking” the horses the old bronco busting way but using the “join up” technique which Monty Roberts and Buck Brannaman have developed and made popular. Join up requires a level of observation and maturity in the relationship between human and horse that bronco busing did not require.

A fine film about the process is “Buck” a documentary directed by Cindy Meehl, Cedar Creek Productions, 2011

This section I transcribed from the film might give you some of the sense of why this method builds intelligence in both human and horse:

from 20:50 - 22:50
Let’s say the horse needed you to be firm. There’s a difference between firm and hard. Let’s say I needed to take a hold of the horse with twenty pounds. The way I go about getting to 20 pounds is going to have a lot to do with whether you’re successful or not.

Hold on to that. [Hands Robert a rein] I’m going to pull on you some so don’t let me get it away from you. OK, so close your hand on that or it’s gonna come away from you and don’t give to me.
Let’s say I needed to pull on this horse about that hard. [Pulls easily and steadily] The way I took a hold of you wasn’t really offensive, wouldn’t make you afraid.

But let’s say I was abrupt and had the hands like a butcher and I took a hold of the horse like that. [Jerks] Now I’m pulling about like what I said but it’s how I got there. Be ready. [Jerks} It’s how I got there that could be rude to the horse.

Now watch Robert closely. [Jerks] I’m just riding with bad hands. [Jerks] [Feints a jerk] Ah, you brace. I didn’t hit ya. Why did you do that? He’s protecting himself. Once I’ve done this a few times [jerks] with him he’ll brace all the time. Like that. See him brace. You can’t help yourself. And I’m even telling you you’re going to do it and you still can’t help it.

But if I took a hold of him like this, [Eases into a pull] you might give to me and then I give to you. But it’s the way I go about it and whenever you’re ready maybe you’d give to me. Otherwise I’ll just wait here. [Rein taut between them] Nobody’s going to get any lunch today. [Rein slackens as Robert softens] When you started to soften, so did I. And you both feel together. If you were real sensitive to me when I feel of you here you’d already be giving.

That means something to my horse. That’s what a soft feel, that’s what I do to get a soft feel right there. And I want you to get at least get a mental picture of what a horse operating on a feel is, where hopefully it looks good to you, that you’ll want that, that you’ll strive for that.


That’s almost kind of spooky, it’s very similar to my experience learning how to walk my dog.

I didn’t know I was doing it wrong, just that he was always tugging and lunging against the leash. Then someone showed me how she did it, and after watching for just a few walks, I found myself “listening” intently to the way he pulled on the leash, and it felt more like a negotiation somehow. I should’ve guessed that horse people were already onto this dynamic.

(what’s it going to take for management to get this memo?)


I have been doing aikido for over 35 years and this is a fundamental and continuous lesson in that martial art. If you meet force with force, you get stuck. If you relax and use the point of contact as a pivot point, you can move even the strongest person easily, (provided you have learned a few other lessons as well).

It’s something akin to the startle response I think.

Management will never get the memo. Womanagement, however, may be more susceptible to recognizing the possibility.


Please let’s nobody tell PETA about this, mkay??


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