Soft touch gentles wild mustang

Renowned horse trainer gives demonstration in Craig

— Curt Pate could have ridden the young mustang into the sunset Tuesday night. While explaining his every move to a crowd gathered outside the Country General Store in Craig, Pate broke a 3-year-old wild mustang stallion. He appeared to speak directly to the mind of the horse and added humor to his efforts as the crowd watched, impressed with Pate's abilities. The horse that once ran wild and free throughout Nevada was fit for riding in less than two hours.

A well-known horse trainer, Pate displayed his skills to a crowd of about 30. Pate is sponsored by Central Tractor and has been traveling throughout the United States, Canada and Sweden demonstrating his way of controlling a horse.

Pate explained what he needed to do first with this mustang.

"I will go right toward him and get him used to having things around his body," Pate said. "The hardest part with a mustang is getting the saddle on him and once that happens we are home free."

It all started with a nylon rope as Pate began to control the hind-quarters of the horse; trying to make its legs cross over. From there, he used a different methods such as rubbing and patting the horse, using a buggy whip to touch the horse behind the shoulders and on the stomach, placing and replacing the saddle blanket over the back of the horse, roping the horse and guiding the rope where the saddle would eventually go, and finally placing the saddle on and riding the horse around the oval ring.

Pate used patience, respect toward the horse and little force. He believes his secret to breaking horses is common sense and his method is not that different from other horsemen.

"The horse will tell you what to do," Pate said. "When working with a horse I start with my rope, which I use as an extension of my arm, then my hands, saddle blanket, saddle and then me."

There has not been a demonstration in which Pate was not able to eventually ride the horse he was breaking. Although he would have liked to have more time with the mustang (the demonstration was set for two hours), Pate was able to climb aboard the saddle after 1 1/2 hours. Pate believes it is unfair for the horse and the rider if enough time is not allotted for proper break-in.

When asked if he was ever scared of the horse, Pate said, "I am always aware of being safe." He said people get hurt when they take chances. Pate knows the consequences of injury and is "afraid of getting hurt so that I can't do it anymore." Safety is his main concern for himself, the horse and the people around him.

"It is my fault if I get my head kicked off," he said. "Not the horse's or anyone else's."

According to Pate, breaking in the mustang went well, without problems, and he believes the stallion will be a good horse.

"It never ceases to amaze me with what you can do with a colt," he said.

Pate arrived in Craig Monday after a Sunday demonstration in Lincoln, Neb. Coming from a rodeo background, he has been working demonstrations like this one for about eight years.

Born on a ranch in Helena, Mont., Pate gained recognition after both the book and movie "The Horse Whisperer" were released. The theme was modeled after him, but Pate does not let that interfere with his life and he prefers not be called a horse whisperer.

"It doesn't matter what you can say, but what you can do," Pate said. "I just do whatever I have to do to get on the horse."

He did say that Robert Redford is pretty good around horses.

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