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Central Oregon

Horses transformed from wild to willing during ‘Reach Out To Horses’ training event

 'They didn't ask to become domestic. Their world was taken from them.'

SUNRIVER, Ore (KTVZ) -- Three Sisters Equine Refuge partnered with an organization called Reach Out To Horses for an eighth year, spending the past week teaching people how to tame wild horses to be gentle in just a week, with the goal of preparing them for adoption.

Anna Twinney is a "horse whisperer" for ROTH and has been leading the training event, which began last Monday and concluded Sunday evening. The group worked with 16 wild horses, including yearlings, tribal mustangs from the Warm Springs Indian Reservation.

"They have a silent language. The horses speak through whispers. They gesture to one another through every single emotion. So the smallest thing that they can capture from one another's eye is truly what counts." Twinney said Sunday at one of the Bend organization's properties in Sunriver.

Twinney said there is no cookie-cutter approach to gaining their trust, and sometimes it takes just a moment, while other times it could take years.

"They show up in a different way. Some of them will hide in a corner, some will defend themselves. Some can handle that the past is the past, and they're in the present time," Twinney said.

When the horses first arrived, Twinney said they would stand in the back of the pens, fearful. Some of the horses showed signs they would jump out when being approached too quickly.

"Now we look at them, they're going to be forward, coming forward to say, 'Hi, this is me,'" Twinney said.

Twinney also commented that traditional horsemanship is very forceful, involving people roping horses and running them into small chutes. However, she said her goal is help cultivate relationships with the horses where trust is earned.

 "They didn't ask to become domestic. Their world was taken from them. They were picked up and put into a new place, losing everything that they had before them," she said.

Twinney said one of the challenges that comes with training people to tame horses is their knack for making rushed movements. Another challenge, she added, is that people are constantly stuck dialoguing in their heads, while the horses are observing every detail. This, she said, can prove problematic, if someone's body language suggests they're unsure of what they're doing.

Cyndi Davis, founder of three Sisters Equine Refuge, said, "Some of these horses have advanced really well during the week, as in they now have halters on them and they will be ready for their next steps in their new home. Some of them have not advanced, in which case we will hang on to them and keep working with them. We really want to make sure they have a solid foundation before they are adopted."

The training process went each day from sunrise to sunset and involved teaching the horses to yield, to pick up feet and haltering them, amid other teachings.

Davis said the training process is very important and prevents the horses from entering a cycle of getting re-homed or ending up in the slaughter pipeline.

As of Sunday, five of the horses had been adopted.  

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Bola Gbadebo

Bola Gbadebo is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Bola here.



  1. Thank you for this story and I, too, commend the “horse whispers” helping the wild horses adapt to their new home. How sad it was that the frightened horses hid from humans near the rear of the corral. I have seen dogs display the same fear and anxiety in humane society shelters, literally shivering with fear in far corners. It can be heartbreaking. However, it is heartwarming that there are those with compassion and kindness to rescue and comfort these animals.

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