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Willis J. Powell

Willis J. Powell wrote a book, Tachyhippodamia; on The New Secret of Taming Horses to which John Solomon Rarey's work, Taming of Wild Horses, was appended for publication. This book was issued before Powell died in 1848, but no publishing date is stated in the book itself. A later reprint was in 1872, in Philadelphia, by the W.R. Charter publishing house. It can still be purchased as a rare book and as reprinted by the University of Michigan. Powell mentions the Irish "horse whisperer," Daniel Sullivan in the preface to his own book and says that Sullivan may have possessed the same method. (p. v) Later in that same book he recounts how he heard of a man who had lived a century earlier and who had a secret method of taming horses. He says that he then resolved to discover the method for himself.(p. 17) Since he earlier mentioned that Sullivan had lived a hundred years before him it seems likely that he thought he had rediscovered Sullivan's method.

Powell traveled from Louisiana to Mexico where he lived for about 12 years, and then to Cuba, Guatemala and California, taming horses. He apparently made a good living doing so. He also was a polyglot, speaking five languages: English, French, Greek, Latin and Spanish.[1] This fascination with languages may account for the title of his book.

(Information for this brief account was provided in a communication to Wikipedia by a lineal descendant of Powell, Mr. Michael Haugh. It has been complemented with Powell's own book.)[citation needed]

The method

Powell says that the way became clear before him when he first realized that horses only offer resistance to humans because of fear. In order to tame a horse one must first quell their fears. To communicate calm and safety to the horse, nothing is more powerful than soothing touch. Once the horse is feeling safe it can become accustomed to things that might otherwise cause it alarm.(p.33f)

Powell outlines steps by which an untamed horse may be approached without arousing alarm,how it may next be touched on larger and larger portions of its body. The same procedure of desensitization is to be followed in regard to all things in the horse-human environment that might cause unneeded fear. Finally, any fear of a saddle is handled in the same way. (p. 33-46)

Other sources of information

Tachyhippodamia; or, The New Secret of Taming Horses

Tachyhippodamia on-line revised edition


  1. ↑ Tachyhippodamia, Willis J. Powell, p. 22


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