Do Westerns accurately show how horses are saddle broken?

-Carl Justice
Bluefield, West Virginia

I heard an old cowboy say, “The trick to breaking a horse is to climb on and keep getting bucked off until the horse gets bored.”

What works and what doesn’t is hard to say because a lot depends on the personality of the horse and the cowboy doing the training. The old-time bronc busters often had several horses to break and didn’t have the luxury of patience and time to prep the animal to be ridden. That being said, some ranchers and foremen would fire a cowboy on the spot for being cruel to a horse.

Some bronc busters had luck with the gentle touch, while others rode ’em until they were broke. I think, then and now, they would all say, “Whatever ya do, don’t break their spirit.

Marshall Trimble is Arizona’s official historian and vice president of the Wild West History Association. . His latest book is Arizona’s Outlaws and Lawmen; History Press, 2015. If you have a question, write:  Ask the Marshall, P.O. Box 8008, Cave Creek, AZ 85327 or e-mail him at

Tex Crockett stayed on his bucking horse, South Dakota, in this Ralph R. Doubleday taken at a rodeo in Cheyenne, Wyoming. – True West Archives –

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