By Bill Burleigh of Laramie River Ranch
Some places have a powerful influence on our lives. Laramie River Ranch is one of these places. On occasion, extraordinary people pass through and leave an indelible mark of their own. One of these people is Dr. Robert Miller.
As a young man, I read Western Horseman magazine. I’d turn first to the comics and enjoyed the humor of Dr. Robert Miller. Doc Miller’s comics were delightful, but his “Vet’s Corner” feature was a must read. He illuminated for me the mysteries of horse health. This year Western Horseman named Dr. Robert Miller recipient of their 2012 Western Horseman Award.
In his practice, Dr. Miller observed big differences between horses he handled at birth and those without much human contact. The handled horses were “less fearful, gentler and easier to handle; in fact, they seemed to recognize him days, weeks or months later.” At the time, horsemen felt it was best to leave the colt to itself if at all possible. Bob turned this idea on its head, handling the horse for up to two hours at its birth while the mare bonded with its foal. The results were immediate and striking – the foals were confident, unafraid, and easily desensitized to human interaction.
At 60, Miller retired from his practice and took up full time study and promotion of his methods. He crossed paths and exchanged ideas with the greats of the horse world including Billy Linfoot, Ray Hunt, and Pat Parelli. His book “Imprint Training for the Newborn Foal” was groundbreaking. His video “Early Learning” was an incredible influence on our practices at LRR. We’ve used Bob’s imprinting methods on every foal born on the ranch. Ironically, we were using Bob’s techniques before we realized he was one of “The Two Bob Millers.”
In 2006, we had the pleasure of meeting Bob and his charming wife Debby on the ranch. They returned with family to one of the places that had influenced Bob’s career. We were sure to thank Dr. Miller for the many ways in which he had touched our lives and the lives of our beloved horses. This year we congratulate Bob as he adds Western Horseman’s Award to the many accolades which he truly deserves.