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Good Afternoon friend!
Local historian demonstrates horsemanship
September 26, 2013 Jerry Purvis   

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Photo by Jerry Purvis/Gering Citizen Bernie Miller and his horse, Sport, demonstrate one of the dressage moves that originally came from training horses for use in warfare.

Bern Miller, director of the Pioneer Museum in Bridgeport, was at the Scotts Bluff National Monument Saturday to demonstrate the role of horses throughout history.

Miller, who used to teach history, has been doing demonstrations for the past five years for 4-H and other groups.

“There are a lot of misconceptions about the role horses played in warfare,” Miller said during one of his demonstrations. “Many of the basic training exercises we use today were originally used to train horses in battle.”

One of the exercises, called liberty circles, trains the horse to stay close to its handler at all times. He said all exercises are done in both directions because warriors throughout history had to use both hands in battle.

Miller said horse training goes back to the ancient Nubians, now the country of Nigeria. “They didn’t use halters, but taught their horses to be like dogs and follow them. This has been used in many cultures, including the Native Americans.”

He said the Nubians took the time needed to train horses. As a result, they were recruited Hannibal and their horsemanship played a major role in defeating the Roman Legions.

Other exercises teach the horse to move sideways. While it was used in battle to knock opponents off their mounts, today cowboys use the maneuver to open gates. And another exercise teaches the horse how to pivot on either its front or hind legs.

Miller said it’s also important to “desensitize” horses so they don’t spook and run away. He used as an example the movie “Warhorse,” set in World War I. Horses had to witness battles and hear cannon fire but still remember their training.

Miller’s presentations throughout the day were part of the Legends Weekend events, which included the Harvest Festival at Legacy of the Plains Museum.
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