How did Indians break horses, as opposed to the cowboy way?

Paul Gordon

St. Thomas, ON, Canada

Indians usually did not use saddles. Some of the ways they broke horses was to run them into deep water and let ’em buck until they wore themselves out. Indians also loped the horses in deep sand, when possible, up a steep grade, until the horses were too tired to buck—that always took the starch out of them in a hurry. I’ve tried all those methods myself, and each one makes a horse lose interest in bucking pretty fast.

Cowboys had (and have) many ways to break horses. A favorite was blind-folding the animal with a jacket before getting on and “pulling the blind” just when the cowboy’s butt hit the saddle.

They might also tie the bronco to a tree without water, so he can feed for a few hours before the cowboy saddles him. Or they tied down the horse until he was saddled, then jumped into the saddle as he was turned loose and standing up. Bronc busters, like any other specialists, had their favorite ways of breaking a horse.

Once in the saddle, a bronc buster did his best to keep the horse’s head up. If he was thrown, he’d get back on as quick as possible, so the horse wouldn’t think it won the fight.

One bronc buster offered this piece of wry wisdom: “The trick to breaking horses,” he opined, “is, after you get bucked off, keep gettin’ back on ’til the horse gets bored.”

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