Gentling each other

By Connie Orcutt • Published: January 1st, 2018
Category: Animal Airwaves

With wild horses, ‘gentling’ refers to conditioning a horse to respond to a trainer. And with more than 86 thousand mustangs and wild burros in the West — over 3 times the sustainable level — lots of gentling is needed to train some for adoption.

In several western states, some gentling is done by inmates from minimum-security prisons. Under the supervision of experienced horsemen, they learn to earn the trust of scared, stubborn horses penned up, just like they are. They see that a gentle, quiet touch works better than an aggressive one. And at the end of the day, they’re proud of a job well done.

Every few months, the inmates show off the horses to prospective new families. Some inmates want a horse of their own. For others, it’s enough to see the horses ‘paroled’ — and to know that man and horse gentled each other in the process.