My cousin Craig Hamilton is a noted horse trainer and I called him in Kingman last night to talk about how my fictional character, Ojos de Gringo, might save a "bad" horse. In a nutshell, here's the essence of Craig's approach: "A horse can read your heart from a hundred yards away."
"That opens the door.
"There are three keys: what you do, what he does responding to what you do, and then what you do next.
"I once got a call about a problem horse that the owners were going to put down because he was attacking people and he put one person in the hospital. As I opened the corral gate, I saw this skinny, three-year-old thoroughbred with his head down. He wanted nothing to do with me. I took myself into a position of non-aggression. I sent my heart across that corral with empathy. Under my breath I was saying, "Buddy, I am so sorry. You weren't born this way." It took me several hours, but he finally 'bought me.' I put my heart in my hand and when I actually touched him, that's where the bullshit ends.
"I had a rough childhood. All the best horsemen have that in common. When I walk into a corral with one of these studs I know what they're going through. I was in the same way when I was young. I was at war with the world and I can feel their pain. Like those horses, you eventually have to put some trust in those two-legged bastards. It ain't easy. And, it needs to be said, they are far more courageous than we are.
"Here are the seven aspects to good horse training: listening, respect, acceptance, obedience, faith, love and appreciation. There may be more, but those are the ones that work for me."
"In the end, you could say, horses healed me."