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Breaking and Training Horses #3

The Horse Blanket

                      BREAKING AND TRAINING HORSES #3

     It would seem from all the books that have been published in
the last 15 years on Roy Rogers and Trigger that nobody has ever
heard of a book written by Glenn Randall, telling us of his life
and days as the trainer of the three Trigger horses, and the many
more horse he trained during his career. Glenn Randall it seems
has never written a book on the subject of horse training period.
Nobody has discovered any "diaries" kept by this man. Even his
own son Corky Randall has it seems, written no book on his
father, or horse training either. It would also appear Corky also
never kept any kind of a diary. 
     What a shame that so much "horse stuff" has been totally
lost for today's world of horse trainers and horse owners. Surely
such books, if they had been written by Glenn Randall and/or his
son Corky, would be treasures and would be in a tremendous buying
market. The secrets of how Glenn Randall taught all those
wonderful "tricks" to the three Trigger horses and the many more
he trained, would be a best seller in the horse world, I'm sure.

     We really know very little as such, about Glenn Randall the
horse trainer. It's only through the efforts of people who were a
little closer to the scene of those days, or have been able to
talk to people who were closer to the scene, or the official
recorded records of birth-date and the like, do we know what we
know about this horse trainer, that was for decades in the
background of the phenomenon that was "Roy Rogers and Trigger."
     It is from books like "Hollywood Hoofbeats" - "Roy Rogers
(King of the Cowboys) - Dale Evans (Queen of the West)" - "Roy
Rogers" - "Roy Rogers Trivia" - "Illustrated History of Trigger"
- "Trigger Remembered" - most obtainable from places like - that we have some of the facts on Glenn Randall.
     He was from Nebraska, born on Christmas Day, 1909. He grew
up on the farm. Apparently his first job away from home was
breaking horses for the Cavalry in the 1930s. He worked for a
while training trotters and pacers. He worked for Tim McCoy's
Wild West show, handling 250 horses or so. It is said he worked
for the Government, training horses at Ft.Warren, Wyoming. He was
a rodeo rider and a rodeo clown for a while.It was in the late
1930s that he moved to California and worked with Thoroughbreds
horses. He eventually got his own training stable and it was
through Hudkins Stable (that rented out horses to the movie
industry) he was introduced to Roy Rogers who was looking for a
horse trainer, around the year 1940/41, because Roy was way to
busy making movies and personal appearances to have the time to
train horses to do "tricks."

     Eventually Glenn would work for a long time, 24 years one
way or another, for Roy Rogers, and would teach Little Trigger
dozens of "tricks."

     Little Trigger was bought by Roy around 1940/41; THE
original Trigger (who appeared with Roy in his first leading role
film "Under Western Stars" was bought by Roy in December of 1943.

     Glenn randall would have a HUGE hand in training not only
those two palomino horses but Trigger Jr. when Roy was finally
able to buy him, the owner introduced Roy to the horse that would
later be called Trigger Jr. when three years old; Roy wanted to
buy him then, but the owner would not sell at that time.

     From what people have heard from others closer to the scene
of those days, Glenn Randall was a horse trainer decades before
his time, as they say. A horse trainer with methods that have
only be catching on in the last 20 years or so (I'm writing this
in 2008). 
     I reproduce for you a relatively short article that appeared
in the small town called Cochrane, 15 minutes west of Calgary,
Alberta, Canada. This article appeared in the Cochrane Eagle,
March 19, 2008.

REVOLUTION calls for RESPECTFUL exchange with horses

by Kathleen Winfield

     There has been a revolution that began in the last decades
of the 20th century and has proceeded without a shot being fired!
     According to Robert M. Miller and Rick Lamb in their book
"The Revolution of Horsemanship" the revolution has "dramatically
improved the relations between millions of people and their
     The basic theme of the revolution states that horses can be
controlled more effectively without the use of force. This was
not a brand new idea. Many times throughout history horsemen have
shown effective, humane, psychological methods of handling
horses, but the majority, of humans often resorted to muscle and
violence to achieve their desired goals faster.
     The term most recognized for the results of this revolution
is "natural horsemanship" although it has gone by a variety of
other names including "resistance-free horsemanship",
"renaissance horsemanship". "progressive horsemanship" and
"down-under horsemanship". This style is meant to be more natural
to the horse but is achieved by humans learning the appropriate
skills and techniques.
     I recently spent four interesting days in a natural
horsemanship clinic conducted by Nettie Barr of Beaverlodge.
     Emphasis was placed on how to use the nature of the horse to
help get our message across to the horse. Skills and techniques
used incorporated using methods of communicating with the horse
that coincided with how the horse itself communicates with other
     Goals of the four days including gaining the respect and
trust of the horse, using the appropriate degrees of firmness and
assertiveness to achieve the desired behaviour in a respectful
manner, and learning how to use the appropriate tools.
     We spent some of the time working in a round pen, a round
corral 50 feet in diameter with the perimeter fence five or six
feet high. You and the horse go in there and proceed with the
exercises. Initially we did all our work at liberty - nothing on
the horse at all. The tool in the person's hand is a short stick
(about four feet long) with a long string attached (about six
feet). The stick and string is not a whip but rather a tool to be
used as an extension of the arm to help in communicating with the
     We learned techniques for sending the horse in the desired
direction at the desired speed, turns, stops and a technique
where the horse "joins up" or "hooks on" to us and stays with us
at any pace we chose in any direction.
     There are a variety of terms used to identify this process
by trainers but the objectives are all the same. As Robert Millar
puts it: "All are based on the principle that controlling
movement in the horse, either by causing it or by inhibiting it,
and controlling the direction and the velocity of such movement,
results in dominance."
     In our relationship with the horse, we are trying to
establish a partnership with us holding 51 per cent of the
responsibility and the horse holding 49 per cent. In the round
pen, this translates to things such as when we ask the horse to
trot at the perimeter of the pen and travel around us, his job is
to keep that pace in that direction until we ask for something
different It is to be done with complete respect and not out of
     It was a good feeling to have 1,600 lb. horse doing what I
asked for confidently and respectfully, to change directions when
I asked and to come in to at the centre quietly and stand there
all by simply using my body language. Nettie is coming back in
April to do another round penning and ground work clinic. 


     Glenn Randall used a lot of this type of training, plus just
the simple tool of repetition, repetition, and more repetition. A
horse learns by over and over again doing the same thing.
     Obviously the more difficult the trick, the more you have to
take it step by step and build up to the finished trick.
     One thing I admired about Glenn was when I read he did not
believe in training horses with "treats" - just lots of praise, a
loving tap or stroke, the warm happy tone of the voice to tell
the horse he's done well. That was the exact way I believed it
should be done, and to the surprise of many, can be done. Most
people have this false idea that you can only teach tricks to
horse if they get a treat afterwards. Believe me, I know from
experience, it is not so.

     LET'S BACK UP A LITTLE. After you have your "wild" or
"undomesticated" horse able to be led around in halter and lead
rope, after you have been able to appraoch him quietly and
gentley, up to the side of his head and neck, after you have been
able to touch his neck and head, around the poll and ears, down
the front of his face, down the neck to the shoulders and on to
his withers. After all this, which takes slow working moves, soft
soothing talk, well you have come a long way indeed. The horse is
fast becoming "paired up" with you. You are no longer a threat to
him. He is seeing you are a friend not an enemy. Your eyes and
his eyes now see each other as friends. No need to rush all this
first hook-up. Might be good to do it many times before moving on
to the next step. The more relaxed and the more confident your
horse is in you, all the better.
     It is probably quite possible to do the next stage in the
round pen. You slowly, with quiet talk, move your hand back along
the horses back, around his chest, slowly down and around the
area where the cinch of the saddle with go. 

     Last time I left off with "trick" number 4, that a WILD
horse has to learn towards being a domesticated riding horse.

     We have come to where we have the horse fully confident that
we as something new to his life, are not going to pounce on him
and eat him up. We are at the stage where most domesticated and
young horses born or raised around humans are at, without a great
deal of work (it can take much longer for the wild horse to get
to this point, depending on his unique personality). We are at
the point when we can groom the horse all over. Where it will not
run away, pull away, pull back, or show the whites of its eyes in
fear. It is now relaxed in out presence and content to have us
brush and stroke it. We have come a long way indeed, and what we
have taught this wild horse is we can say, certain "tricks" of
man and horse - horsemanship!

     The domesticated horse is, if you have not spoilt it as a
youngster, a breeze to do all this with, grooming and touching
all over. You have over time, been doing more and more grooming
and touching with the domesticated horse, so by the time he is
ready for the saddle and riding, all this first phase is old hat
to him.

     Back to what was our wild horse. 

     Next is the saddle blanket. All we do with teaching horses
anything, should first be very slow and basic, build up to it. So
I may just let a horse blanket stay on the top rail of the round
pen, let the horse in and just let him see it, sniff it, walk
passed it. Now, it may fall to the ground if he puts his nose on
it or tries to take it in his teeth. Okay, the horse will
probably jump back, but he will learn the blanket is not coming
after him. So put it back up, or let it lay there on the ground.
Let him do it again, and again, if needs be. Let him get fully
acquainted with this strange object.
     Once you see the fear of it has gone (may take a few hours,
may take an hour a day for any number of days - every horse is
different). Now the next step up is for you to put the blanket up
on the rail of his stall, take it down, put it up, take it down,
when the horse is in the stall of course. Be slow and speak
kindly to the horse as you do it. He's getting used to the
blanket close to him when he's tied in a stall. When in the
stall, move the blanket AWAY from the horse, and turn around
slowly with it; talk soft and gentle all the time your doing
this. Horses can detect the tone of your voice, never under
estimate this; a soothing voice soothes them. After a long day of
trail riding the horses, in the evening, I would often go into
the stable and sing soft songs to them. You can just see them
relax, eyes relaxing, getting droopy, and just enjoying the sound of
soft smooth singing. The opposite is true, if you have loud bang-clang
music on in the stable.

     Going back to blanket training. You can then move to the
round pen, have someone else hold the horse with halter and lead
rope, standing to the horses left of the neck. You can hold the
blanket, move it a little, watch the reaction of the horse, watch
his eyes and ears. When you are confident the horse is not
bothered, is quite relaxed with you holding and moving this
blanket, then slowly, step by step, move the blanket next to
him, rub it over his side just a little. THIS IS NOT "SACKING
OUT" as done by many today, which I do NOT agree with. You are
not FLAPPING the blanket in the air and smashing it into him and
all over him. Many cannot see that doing that kind of "sacking
out" is actually teaching the horse to be scared, having him jump
around like a cat on a hot tin roof. I've seen it all by some so-
called horse breaking trainers, and I've seen too many average
horses just being scared and jumping around.

     You watch his reaction, and in time, slow and easy, with
soothing voice, you can get the blanket onto his back. When you
can, praise him, pat his neck, tell him he's a real fine
boy/girl. Horses can detect your tone of voice.

     My, we have taught trick number 5, to a wild horse. It may
seem such a strange long process, to those who have never had to
teach a real wild horse anything. It is another ball game
completely when you teach a wild horse those first 5 basic things
we take kinda for granted with domesticated, born at home and
around humans from day one, type horses. And believe me, I've
done it, you are very satisfied indeed with those five tricks you
have completed with a horse never before touched by human hands.
I've been in my day on both sides of the fence shall we say, I've
seen and done it from both sides, with wild and domesticated

     Now we have the horse not flinching an eye at the saddle
blanket, next to him, in your hands, or having it placed on top
of his back.


To be continued  

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