How to break a wild horse

Cariboo pioneer to publish his memoirs

Pioneer Charlie Faessler has been busy writing his memoirs and they will be published in his book

Pioneer Charlie Faessler has been busy writing his memoirs and they will be published in his book

When I was in my teens, I worked for a family named Chapman who bought the section of land north of our place on Bridge Lake. When the Chapmans decided to move, they sold off their horses and abandoned the farm.

I liked that place and hoped it would remain vacant, so I could buy it some day. It was good farmland and it would be a perfect place for a guiding business in the future.

When I was 18, I went to Wells and worked underground at the Island Mountain Mine to earn the money to buy it. At the end of thatsummer, the 320 acres was mine, at $3 an acre.

Earlier, I had bought a mare named Bess. She had a colt waiting for me when I got home from Wells.

Then I bought Pat, a three-year-old colt from Uncle Ernie. He would weigh about 1,600 pounds when full grown. He was a mismatch for my other, smaller horses.

I thought of looking for a horse around his weight, so I could have a big team. Dad thought I was getting too many horses, but the extra feed I’d be able to grow would be more than another horse would need.

In March 1943, Cecil Higgins suggested Bill Whitley might have a horse for sale. I could ride down with Cecil as he was still trapping in that area. The day we set to go, I saddled up my sorrel mare and headed out across Bridge Lake on the ice, the shortest distance to the Higgins place.

At about the middle of the lake and without any warning, the mare’s head went down and her back snapped. I had to stay in the saddle. If she dumped me, it would be a long way back. She bucked six times in a straight line, and then settled down for the rest of the day.

In the morning, Cecil and I rode out on the old 70 Mile road to the Whitley ranch. Bill Whitley had no horses for sale, so I went on to Dave Hutchison’s ranch. Harry Leavitt, a neighbour of ours, was working there, feeding cattle. I told him I was looking for a good workhorse.

Hutchison had a Percheron stallion that weighed about 1,800 pounds. He had sold a few of the Percheron’s colts.

Hutchison’s horses been brought in off the range during the last two months of winter and had recently been turned out in the Thompson River area, where the ground was bare.

Harry said a black gelding in the group would be big enough to match the horse I had at home. The trouble was, he was six years old and had never seen a saddle or a harness.

A horse that old that had spent most of its life on the range might not be easy to break. However, I had ridden that far so I thought I might as well have a look at him.

In the morning, we saddled up and rode down to the river in search of the horses. It didn’t take long to find them. I paid particular attention to what they were eating. There was no green grass yet and the dry grass didn’t look very appetizing.

The black gelding was there. After looking him over, I decided to take the gamble. He didn’t want to leave at first but suddenly, he looked down the trail we came in on and lined right out, heading toward the ranch.

I said to Harry, “There’s one smart horse. He remembered the feed at the ranch was a lot better than what he was getting here.”

When the horse got to the ranch, he walked straight into a corral.

We decided to halter the black horse and see if he knew how to lead.

We led him first by hand and that worked all right. Then I led him behind my saddle horse and that worked fine. A good feed of hay was his reward.

The only thing I was apprehensive about was he hadn’t been on good feed for some time. On the way home, if he got tired of being led, he might decide not to go any further and there would be nothing I could do. I decided to take a chance and bought him.

The next morning we headed for home. There wasn’t much to think about so I decided it would be a good time to give the horse a name.

He would be paired up with the big gelding named Pat so what more appropriate than to call him Mike, after the radio show, Pat and Mike. By the time we arrived home, I was sure Mike was a strong horse to travel all that way, considering the poor feed he’d been on.

Dad didn’t see the new horse until morning. He was not impressed when he saw a six-year-old, unbroken to either saddle or harness. Itwould be up to me to have this horse ready for spring work.

The first day, I put a collar on him and fitted the harness. This was fine. I then put on the bridle. There was a little difficulty getting the bit in his mouth. He spent some time trying to get rid of it.

The next day, Mike was fed and watered. Then we played for awhile. The harness was put on. I rattled the tug chains to acquaint him with the noise. He didn’t like the bit in his mouth anymore than the first day, but it would have to be part of his life from then on.

I realized I would have to make a chinstrap to prevent the bit from going back and forth with no control. The same as you would needfor a saddle horse.

The following day, I started to drive him with two lines from the bit and down each side. I backed him up several times.

When you first drive horses, it is important to teach them to back up, before they are hooked to a sleigh or wagon. Once they are hooked up, it seems to be confusing for them because they have to use thebreaching to force the vehicle back.

The next morning, I tied his halter shank to a ring on Pat’s hame. If he acted up, it would hold him back. Mike pranced around some at first. Pat laid his ears back as if to tell his new partner to smarten up.

It was important now to back up and to make a lot of turns together. I was able to drive forward a greater distance each time.

Now, it was time to hitch them up to the sleigh. Harry Leavitt had told me to be sure and run a rope from Mike’s halter and tie it to the sleigh. This would discourage him from lunging.

I hooked the horses up, drove them to a field where there was plenty of room for turning and they walked back with no problem at all. I felt it was well worth the time spent. I had a team ready for work.

As for saddle horses, if you see a horse being broke to ride in a Wild West movie, they will saddle the horse and quickly mount up. They let the horse buck. If you are fortunate enough to stay in the saddle until the horse has bucked itself out, they consider it mastered and well on the way to being broken.

This may work for one in 10, but most likely you would be doing this many more times and you will not have a horse you can trust.

To gain a horse’s trust, first lead it around with a saddle on. Do not have a tight cinch at first. Tighten it in stages. Mount the horse first in a chute, where it can’t buck. Lean in the saddle in all directions. Get off and pat the horse.

Talk to it to earn its confidence. Most horses are willing to do what you want if you can get the message across.

Depending on how the horse responds, you might want to put some weight in the saddle, up to 50 pounds at first. Lead it around, and then increase the weight to 100 pounds. If the horse does not like the weight, turn him in tight circles until he gets used to it.

You should ride the horse in a round corral. Make lots of turns to get the horse used to the bit. You will soon have a horse you can trust.

At first it may help to have another horse and rider with you when you ride any distance. All this may not be necessary with a tame colt that was raised around the barnyard.

When it was time to start the spring work, there was a fair-sized manure pile that had to be moved. It was time to have Mike lay into the collar and pull some heavy loads. I started out with light loads and before long; we were hauling all that could be loaded on the wagon. From there we did some discing and plowing on the home place to plant oats and barley. I also plowed a six-acre field on my own land and sowed it to oats.

Then I talked to Ellis Granberg at the school picnic. Ellis said he was looking for someone to help hay his meadows at Lone Butte. I was interested and asked if he could use an extra team. He had a look at Pat and Mike and said he’d hire them, too. I was off to cut my first slough hay.

At the meadow, I dropped the cutter bar and headed south towards a creek. Some distance from the creek the meadow began to get soft. The horses were nervous so we made a sharp turn and headed east. Norman came along with his team of heavier horses. He went out much fartherthan I did in the meadow. I figured I should be able to do the same.

But Mike’s hooves were a little smaller than those of the other horses. At a soft spot, his feet broke through and he went down. He struggled at first and then just lay there.

I had no idea of what to do. I thought if I were to slap the other horse, the loud noise might help. Somehow, it worked. Mike managed to crawl out of the soggy spot.

This would not be the first time Mike bogged down. He would get excited if the footing anywhere was soft.

During guiding season, Mike worked on the hunts. The only problem was, he was a fast walker. He was always getting ahead of the hunters,so he had to be held back for the other horses to catch up.

Sadly, we lost him one hunting season. He was tethered out with a 30-foot rope. He had straddled the rope with his hind legs. Something must have scared him and he leaped forward, snapping his head back over his shoulders and breaking his neck. One very good horse reduced to a meal for the bears. He would be hard to replace.