is an interesting thought.
For every mule, horse, oxen, steer or jackass
used as a work animal down through history - and there were probably millions
- someone had to train or break the animal to work.
animals raised on a farmstead were somewhat gentle, but those raised on the range
or captured from the wild were more like wild animals.
journals or historical interviews record this particular phase of the Old West.
Here and there, tidbits explain how the beasts of burden were trained.
early Spanish trained rookie jackasses and mules by catching and installing heavy
halters and lead ropes, then tying them to big logs.
They could drag the
logs, but not far. They quickly became used to being tied, and to humans bringing
them hay, grain and water.
A second process saw a personal rawhide pack
saddle called an aparejo soaked, cut and fitted to the mule's size and back contours,
then stuffed between the layers of leather with prairie grasses for padding.
mule wore the wet pack saddle until it dried, then he was loaded, placed between
two mule veterans, his lead rope tied to the mule's tail in front with the following
mule's lead rope tied to his tail.
At times, there were rodeos, but a
few long, hot days quickly converted him into a veteran.
of oxen or steers were matched up as yearlings, necked together with a rope swivel
and allowed to graze the range until reaching the proper size for work.
They were always worked together, unless one died or was injured.
were rested until the mate was able to work again. Many refused to work without
their mates and grieved for months when a mate died.
draft horses and mules were also tied to logs until gentled somewhat, and, after
being harnessed, learned to pull heavy poles or logs around a large corral. When
judged ready for work, they were hitched to a wagon in tandem with an older, experienced
animal until they settled down.
It required months of work, proper conditioning
and attitude adjustment before a draft animal became a top recruit to be trusted.
journal, written by a teamster driving tandem freight wagons pulled by six-horse
teams, mentioned briefly how he trained new horses and mules to pull. Once the
rookie was gentle enough to be harnessed and handled, he was tied behind the rear
wagon with a stout rope, then harnessed to pull a log or pole behind as the wagon
He quickly learned to keep up or be dragged, and that it was
easier to pull the log as he kept up.
a day or two of this regimen, he was ready to be introduced to the main teams.
A six-horse group was led by a pair of leaders, followed by the second team and
trailed by a pair of wheelers next to the wagon who were often the largest size
of the teams.
team members were started in the middle teams until they indicated their worth.
If they tried to push forward, a leader would kick him. If he hung back, the wheeler
behind would nip his rump.
the while he was learning, he was urged along by the driver's whip or pummeled
with stones from the driver's bag.
this be the first example of home-schooling?
"It's All Trew"
9, 2010 Column