Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Are They Any Different?


It's a question that gets asked a lot, and this interviewer wasn't any different than anyone else. "Individual personalities aside, are they any different than domestic horses?"

My first inclination was to say, "No."

I mean...I surely don't ride Sandy any differently than I do a domestic horse. I can hand him off to a new rider and I don't have to tell them about the magic fairy buttons that are secretly hidden that make him respond differently. So no...he's just a horse.

But wait....

Didn't I say I wouldn't have anything else but mustangs? If they're not different, why won't I own another domestic horse? There must be something different...but what?

Smiles are smiles, regardless of wild or domestic.

I found myself stumbling for words. Certainly they were the same as your usual horse...once you got past the fright and the confidence and the trust issues...weren't they? Some have special talents such as working cattle, others fly over jumps. Some are western pleasure super stars and some are divas who want nothing better than to toss their long locks and be left alone. It has nothing to do with domestic or wild. So why would I say that I prefer wild, if there's no difference?

In my mind I tried to sort it out. Perhaps the difference is simply in the relationship that one builds when you work from a wild horse from the very beginning. You learn so much about yourself at the same time you learn about the horse. You build a partnership from day one. It's, the difference between being a teacher and then having a child of your own. You can care for other people's children and recognize their strengths and weaknesses and try to build on that. But it's not like having your own.

An insecure Sandy is similar to a newborn child.

Starting a mustang is like giving birth. There are labor pains involved...and you coax and coo and blow in their ear or face with sweet breath, letting them know it's all going to be okay in this world. You don't expect a newborn to not cry or wet it's diaper...they simply cannot know that. Likewise, your wild horse cannot know what it's three year old domestic counterpart knows. So you coo and coax and gently stroke it, just like you do the newborn, developing that relationship, that bond that is so often not there with a horse who's born in captivity.

It's just different...

But if I were to put someone up on Sandy who hadn't spent the time bonding and getting him over his fears, would they feel the difference? Would they say, "Oh, WOW, what a difference there is between him and my domestic bred horse!"

No, I don't think so. Because Sandy is just a horse. Granted, we love him. Everyone loves Sandy, but that's simply Sandy. But to get on and ride, he's just a horse. One who's been taught to carry his rider carefully, up and down hills, around in circles, f0llowing the cow, or wherever you point his nose. He's a good minded horse, but he rides like any other good minded horse.

There are no wings or unicorn horns hiding beneath wild forelocks. Nothing mystical or magical. They're just a horse...but they're a horse who for some reason own our hearts and become entwined in who we are, a horse who transforms us into something better than we were before.

So maybe they're not just a horse after all? Perhaps there really is some fairy dust or magic love potion, just waiting to be sprinkled on their next victim, pulling us into a world from which we never wish to return. Perhaps...just perhaps...they're not just a horse?

mustang,wild horses,flicka


Linda said...

This comes up now and then on different Mustang blogs and, only having or had one--maybe two--mustangs, I don't have a strong opinion, but I usually answer people that I think it's true they bond hard with whoever brings them into the human trust relationship. And why wouldn't that be the case when you think about it? It's like going to a new school and only having one friend!

Paul Nichols said...

Well, I lost you for more than a year. I have wondered, wondered, wondered about you and your blog. Here you are, apparently. And you're OK. Whew!

While I was cleaning out an old e-mail box I came upon something we exchanged a year and a half ago.

Sometime this evening I'm going to send you an e-mail. Some good news to share with you.

I'm happy to find you again.

Tracey said...

Nice to see you, Paul! Wondered about you a time or two as well. How are the hats?

Linda, I'm not sure my horses, aside from Tika, bonded any stronger with me than the next person who walks into their lives. That's why I say they're just a horse. But they certainly change the lives of the people who step in with them those first few times...if that person allows it :)

JeniQ said...

Very well written - to answer the question I have always wondered about.

Thank you =)

Linda said...

You could be right--you've certainly been around more than me! Maybe I sense my Mustang as different because she was so young and babies always bond with their humans hard--domesticated and wild. My "first" mustang, which is a whole 'nother story, did not bond with me--in fact, she rejected me outright, but again that's a long, long story for another time--she was born from a BLM horse who'd been adopted.

Shirley said...

A great post to read. Very well written. I've never owned a mustang but I do believe your bond with them could be very strong.

Jessie said...

That's how I'd describe it if I could put it into words. I don't know that I've bonded any more with Remington than I have with my domestic mare, but I do feel like I have a different kind of relationship with both of them. Probably just something made up in my own head though... who knows. Riskie was my first horse, so that's pretty special, but Remington was my first WILD horse, so I suppose he gets his own category :-)

mkyamse said...

Tracey -

In some ways I agree, and in some ways I don't. My experience with Mustangs is that they are different. They have a drive to them that I don't often see in my friend's domestics. They are smart and know a fool when they see one. They will keep going long after the energizer bunny has gave out. They will walk through fire and climb ridiculously high mountains for their partner.

Yes, my mustangs can relax and do their job when asked. BUT... in my hands, what a difference. They are magnificent. I feel energized and free when I ride them. I am not just a passenger on their back.

It's just different.

RockMMustang said...

Tracey you are so right about the mustangs. There is truly something about them that makes you love them more then a domestic one. (It might be all of the hard work that you put into them). I spend more time with my mustangs then I do with my family. LOL!!! Once you have there trust they will do anything for you. Its the only breed I own.

It was good to see you at the adopition in Burns. I get my new guy this comeing Tuesday and I just can't wait.

See you at the Extreme Mustang make over in Albany

froglander said...

I've been thinking about this since I read your post earlier today. Just came back from hanging out with my silly mustang (and talking to someone about taking some lessons!) and I think part of what makes them a little different is their mystique. Some horses bond more with their adopters than others, but I think you have to put more of yourself into the relationship with a mustang. They are a little piece of wild, of the old west, of history.

GunDiva said...

I absolutely think that there's a difference between domestics and mustangs, but it's hard to explain that difference. I think that you're right about the bond; you have to work much harder to bond with a mustang (at least in my very limited experience), but once you do, they're yours for life!

Linda said...

"They are smart and know a fool when they see one". mkyamse

I keep tuning into this thread because it's something I think about a lot and it's a great opportunity to delve into this Mustang/Human connection.

This is one reason why I think they're different. MKYAMSE said it. The first Mustang I had KNEW I was a fool, even when I'd pulled the wool over all of my domestic horses. She just seemed more aware of the thousands of little DUMB signals a human can send off and she called me on it. I think domestic horses don't have to work as hard to stay alive, thus, they're not quite as alert and tuned in. I have learned more about being a horsewoman from Mustangs than any other breed.(I'm happy to say, I still have a long way to go).

On the other hand, if domestics were allowed to run free until two or three years old and then brought in and trained, maybe it would be much the same. I have a friend who trains who prefers that they were never handled by humans before she gets them. She says often they have bad habits when they've been handled too much.

Tracey said...

I'm loving the conversation this is sparking.

Linda, I'm totally into a horse who hasn't been mucked up by 'imprinting' and all that broohaha.

There is a certain wisdom without a doubt. Lunging, for instance, is a waste of their time. Or at least for some of them. They look at you after a few circles and say, "Um, no, I'm done now. This is pointless. Where are we going, except around again?" Though Sandy would never challenge you and do circles all day.

Gun Diva...I'm not so sure they're your's for life. I think we may be theirs! I wholeheartedly believe that they transform us, more than the other way around.

One thing is for sure, it's not something one can put one's finger directly on.

Andrea -Mustang Saga said...

AWESOME post Tracey! It's something I ponder on a lot, and I've come to the same conclusion as you. I was thinking of blogging about it but you've done it for me. :) The only thing you didn't cover is physical differences. But every mustang is so different, it's hard to say, "They all have this one thing in common." They don't all have good feet, they aren't all super resistant to health problems. But I think they are in general better off than some of the highly-bred domestics.

I also liked the statement that they know a fool when they see one. They do. All horses have that ability, but we mess with them so young and convince them that we fools are worth following. The mustangs teach us to look at our flaws and work on fixing them. And like the domestics, they usually forgive us. So long as we try to meet them somewhere in the middle.

Paint Girl said...

Since I am on my first Mustang, so my Mustang experience is a little limited, I do have to say that there does seem to be a little difference to me. When I first got my very green half Arab, I thought she was really smart, but didn't seem to pick up as quickly as Chance has, my Paint, very slow learner. Chance on the other hand is so freaking smart, I swear she could train herself.
Even though my "domesticated" horses have my heart, there is something about that little Mustang of mine, and I haven't quite put my finger on it either. She definitely has gotten a hold of my heart, in a way that is different then my other horses. When I figure it out, I will let you know!

Katee said...

Beautiful post, Tracey.

Welcome To Wilmoth Farms said...

Well first let me say, that after such a long absence I didnt realize just how much I really missed your blog until I just caught up on you this morning, hope that doesnt sound bad, but you know how it is, you dont realize how much you love something like chocolate until you take that first bite after so long! LOL I had to stop for health reasons, but thankfully I'm back cause I have missed my favorite blogging friends SO much. I loved this post and the last so much so I cant even articulate to you! You REALLY should be writing a book, I mean seriously...this is the kind of writing that a horse lover should be reading....and would love to read...have you ever considered it, I mean look at your readers that come, thats WHY they come, you write so well, so eloquently! You are so intune with your thoughts, feelings, and with the horse it is unreal! I loved reading today and you fed my horse soul and after not being able to work with my horses much the last 7 months cause of my health you just lit a fire under my butt and put that itch back in my soul! THANK YOU! Rachel Kyfarmlife/Wilmothfarms

Linda said...

I can testify to the "been handled too much" thing. My horse Cowboy, a basically smart horse (with one swirl smack dab in the middle of the forehead ha ha) was turned dumb by humans. His mama died of broken neck when he was one month and he had to be bottle-fed by humans. Ouch! He loves people and I LOVE him, he's my main horse, but other horses don't like him and he's had a lot of unnatural fears along the way. He went through many owners before I got him seven or so years ago.

Your example of the lunging was so, so, so funny because my first mustang, when she ran me out of the pen, it was during a LUNGING session!!! She decided doing circles was plain stupid and all bets were off!!! It was like Hey, I liked you until now, played the fool with you, but now YOU'VE GOT TO GO!! So, had a good laugh--you hit it right on the head, Tracey!!

City Boy said...

Happiness is watching your wife and daughter around their mustangs!

Hey you! What are you doing, what did you just write? Get away from my iPhone!!??

mkyamse said...

HAHAHA, I think we have a hacker. =)

Another thing to ponder, are mustang people different?

I think so. I am in the process of rehoming my GEMM mare. I said in my add that she needs a person with mustang experience. That was not because she's bad or anything. I want someone who is in it for the LOOONG haul. True mustang people understand commitment. They do not give up easily, and they are willing to evolve. They will adjust to the needs of the horse and understand that every horse is unique.

Phyllis said...

Beautiful post.

Rising Rainbow said...

Wow, philosophical Tracey, who knew! I had to laugh just a bit at the thought of such deep ponderings here......... especially after those blue topped boots. LOL You go girl!!

Personally I think they are all different. Sure they all have certain basic instincts that are the same but, just like the boxer is very different from the husky in dog breeds, I'm pretty sure horse breeds are the same way.

I think each breed has it's own characteristics, whatever they might be, that make them different from other breeds. And we humans are drawn to the breed that fits into our little niche of how we want to interact with that horse.

I would suspect the Mustang must have great, great heart that translates through into many aspects of its life and relationships.....little quirks about the breed that have evolved through living in the wild, needing cunning and wits to survive.

Whatever it is, whether you can explain it to us or not, it makes them uniquely special to you and they are lucky to have you as an advocate.