Monday, June 8, 2009

1st Time Horse Owner Adopts Wild Mustang

Recipe for disaster? According to many, yes. But it's a scenario that gets played out over and over again.

She's never owned a horse before.

She visits the Wild Horse Corrals.

"That one's a pretty one."

You're cringing, aren't you? Admit it!

A few weeks ago I received an email from someone in the Puget Sound region asking if I'd be willing to take in her mare. She tells me the story; she visited the corrals, spotted the lovely buttermilk buckskin, and had to have her. The lovely mare was five years old...and bred, of course. The following spring this new to horses owner found herself with a black colt alongside the now six year old mare.

Of course, I've long advocated that an open mind and willingness to learn will get a newbie in the horse world farther than a closed minded person with 40 years of horsing around behind them. I asked a few questions, wondering just what I was going to be faced with. The mare had been ridden, but the owner was just to that spot where she couldn't really progress. The mare was a bit bracey, she said, and had gotten in a bit of a habit of racing off when they were cantering down a trail.

Well...okay. Let's see what we can do.

The owner came out to visit me and see where her pretty little mare would be living, and then said she'd like me to take both of her horses, if I could.

Well...okay, let's give it a try.

And so it came to pass that Jupiter, a pretty buttermilk buckskin mare (now 11 years old) and her black four year old son have come to live with me for a month in hopes of getting a bit of an education.

The first thing I'll tell you is that these two horses have exceeded my every expectation. They unloaded from the trailer just as nicely as any professionally trained horse would...or better. Their ground manners are impeccable and they respond willingly to each request to move this way or that.

The biggest hang up they've both got is a fear of ropes dragging around their legs. Being that I've got long split reins that hang down past the elbows, this simply will not do. So this is where we began our lessons.

In addition, Jupiter has never worn a bit. Stubborn, that sweet looking girl is! She clamps her teeth tight and refuses to let her muzzle be handled. Or at least, that was her plan. Persistence has paid off on my end. I just stand there at her head and refuse to give up, rubbing her muzzle and eventually slipping fingers inside her mouth. She threw her head around quite a bit at the thought of the bit, so I substituted her rope lead. Much softer on the teeth and surely safer for me when she began flinging her face into the air.

A few days of working without the bit and as of yesterday it's slipping in and out. She plays with it a lot, of course, as is only natural for any horse just introduced to a bit. I stood on her left side, lifted up the right rein and began playing with direct pressure, pulling her nose to the right until she began to turn around. Her hips slipped under my arm and her tail swished past my body as she followed the pressure of the rein, stopping when she found herself facing me.

She appeared a bit stiffer to the left than right, so I tied the left rein to the saddle. Not tight, just a bit of tension. The right rein was left loose so that she could tip her nose to the left easily.

This was not an exercise Jupiter liked, but as I walked away and behind her, she learned to follow and that giving to the pressure was easier than fighting it. Before long she was standing contentedly with her nose tipped just enough to avoid the pull, which is exactly what I wanted her to do.

Up until now, Jupiter's mom has ridden in one of those rope halters tied with a rope in mecate fashion. This is a great way to start a young horse, but one of the things Jupiter's mom wanted was support in transitioning to a bit. This is a smart, smart move on her part. An educated horse is one that will have more options in it's life. We can all say we'll keep our horses forever, but for some of us, forever for us isn't the life of the horse. We need to give them every opportunity to be successful in life should we find ourselves in a position of needing to rehome them.

Jupiter learned a lot today. I rode her with the bit and asked her to give to a pressure she's never felt before. At first she tried to avoid me, but we soon worked out the sticky gears and were trotting circles, giving to the bit, stopping nicely and even, just a little, bending around the leg. And on top of that, she wasn't frightened of the long reins slapping about her elbows and legs.


Jeanette said...

She really is pretty. Sounds like Jupiter is on the right track now. I certainly agree we do need to teach our horses as much as we can to enhance their resume. And, from personal experience, that plan does work! We never thought we would be considering re-homing our horse. But even though she is on the small side and quite a spit-fire when she wants to be, she found a wonderful home thanks to her solid training!!!
The added benefit, while we are not interested in re-homing them we can enjoy all the 'bells and whistles'.

lucky kachina dancer said...

I'll admit that I did cringe, but she is a beautiful horse, and I can see how someone would fall in love with her instantly.

But it sounds like Jupiter has a pretty good mind and attitude, and I think she's in the best possible place she can be.

Strawberry Lane said...

Right away, I was irritated that another horse was going to someone that knows nothing.

Jupiter is very, very lucky to be put into the hands of someone that knows what they are doing, and how to treat her.

Now, Jupiter will be both beautiful and well trained.

Connie Peterson said...

You do such GREAT work with those horses. Jupiter is lucky to have found you! And what about her son? Is he going to be as good?

Tracey said...

Listen, y'all...Jupiter's momma has done a terrific job with her and her son, Moon! I'm beyond impressed. They've got better manners than most professionally trained horses. I just can't say enough for the start she's given them.

Jupiter has been on many trail rides east of the Cascades, so I'm not hopping on a super greenie, just one that needs a little tweak here and there, and some grease to loosen up the tight spots.

Can't say enough for the job that was done beforehand. Really cannot find fault. At all :>

Breathe said...

I can't believe she was able to get this horse to such a great place.

What do you think the run off are about? What will you do to work on that?

boryan said...

Uh, as Jupiter's "mom", I'll try not to be offended by these comments, esp. Strawberry Lane's, but I think you have misinterpreted Tracy's post. I don't believe anywhere in there she indicated I was an idiot, that the horses had been poorly trained or that they were not being treated right. Jupiter has been ridden on trails 2-3 times a week for about 3 years now, she goes on multi-day wilderness rides (in a hackamore) and as Tracey said, both horses have impeccable ground manners. They did not get those due to neglect or idiocy. It is true that I had never had a wild Mustang before, but that must be true for everyone at some point right? I may not be a professional trainer, but I am not "someone that knows nothing." And Tracey never indicated that. I think most people with horses know their limitations and most have someone else help with some of the training. I'm fortunate to have found Tracey and I think she's doing a wonderful job with the bits and helping them with their rope fears. So let's read her blog in the spirit in which it's written and not assume facts that are not in evidence.

Tracey said...

Since I've only just climbed on, I can't say exactly what is triggering the run off. I believe it's just excitement (although, she's not highly excitable) and wanting to get going. Not at all unusual when a horse gets to cantering along a trail.

The rope halter doesn't allow for as much direct rein to get a horse's nose around and stopped; instead it gives them something to press up against, similar to a tie down that you'd see on a barrel racer. I suspect that's the key to her being able to get just a little bit away from her owner.

I'm looking forward to getting a few more rides on her, then getting her out on some trails to see how she's progressing.

Tracey said...

Looks like we were posting at the same time,Bo! ((hugs)) I'm sure no one meant anything by it. You're a wonderful example of how things can go RIGHT in these situations, and the reason I like to post success stories. You're one of those horse owners that trainers love. As Curt would say, "Highly coachable."

nikki said...

Who could resist that beautiful face? I love her coloring and I'll bet her son is just as gorgeous. I would love to hear the rest of their story and the adopters experience. To me it would be more challenging to adopt a mustang and then have her foal shortly there after. More so if she is a protective mustang mama.

Can't wait to see how they come along in their training. It's always nice to have someone to turn to for help when you get stuck with training.

Mrs Mom said...

Kudos to the owner of those wonderful horses. Taking on such a challenge is a HUGE deal, and it sure sounds (and looks) like some mega KUDOS are in order here. You are setting a great example for other new horse owners out there. And you can't go wrong with Tracey. ;)

Looking forward to hearing how they progress! Many happy trails to you!

boryan said...

Yes her son(moon) is gorgeous, although pitch black not buckskin. He's bigger than her, probably due to nutrition from the time he was born. He's a sweetheart and has great action. She was a good mother, but never got in my face about Moon, she just accepted we were a threesome.

Her kind of running away with me I think is as Tracey said about the hackamore and I think she's quite competitive and always will go into a faster gear if other horses are racing. I've had her, at a full gallop, lean over and try to bite the horse next to her as if to disable the competition. But then she just doesn't want to slow down to a reasonable pace at a reasonable time. I think in her world if you're running, you're running away from something, and the horse in the back is the one that's going to get eaten. And she ain't gonna be the one in the back. And she's fast.

Angie at Free Rein said...

One can learn a lot in 4 or 5 years and it sounds like boryan is to be commended for all she's learned and taught her horses. I'm sure you are just the right person to help her progress. Best wishes for all!

Blackfeatherfarm said...

Some of us weren't lucky enough to have grown up with horses, or have exposure to talented horse trainers, but still have common sense, patience and a natural way to handle animals. I have done ALL the training on my horse, bought at nine months. She is my second horse, and the first one I had knew everything. I know how it is to be thought inept. My horse is quite mannerly, and right now I ride her at home bareback with a simple d-ring snaffle bit. My horse is a draft cross, so for Jupiter's mom, who got her started off nicely and to do that with a mustang, my hats off to you. I know many times these are horror stories, so nice to see one that is far from that.

Paint Girl said...

Jupiter is very pretty! Would love to see her son too!
Sounds like Jupiter has been coming along nicely. And know you will get her used to the bit and reins!

Lea and her Mustangs said...

great job Tracey - She will turn out great. Just take time and patience doesn't it.

boryan said...

Tracey's the one with the good camera, mine's cheesy and I can't ever get a full body pic of either of them. Maybe she'll post a couple of Moon.

yes, time and patience works. I haven't ever been in a hurry. I sat in a paddock with Jupiter almost every day in the freezing cold wet NW weather for 6 to 8 weeks and never attempted to even touch her. Just fed her. It was her idea to nuzzle me and we've been pals ever since then. Of course it might have been that I had no idea what in the hell to do with her once I got her, and was waiting for divine intervention, but I'm sticking to my story that it was patience.

Pony Girl said...

What a beautiful mare! Would love to see a picture of Moon, too! Sounds like they've had a great start, and are just continuing their education.

Deanna Burchette said...

Scarey; but if we all exercised good judgement all the time we may never gain experience. Bad judgement does not always lead to bad outcomes. Things are going alright for Juniper and Juniper's owner. Way to go!

CTG Ponies said...

What a gorgeous mare! I'm glad that her owner took a chance on her and is willing to ask for help. You'll have her in fine shape in no time!

Welcome To Wilmoth Farms said...

I still so totally want a mustang, and still being told I need no more horses...*sigh* She is such a lovely mare, and from the sounds of it..will make a great horse! Good luck cant wait to see how she progresses and what a learning experience for me to get some tips as you post them, since I've got my by coming two it will help me out a lot