Thursday, March 29, 2012

Mustang Manners (or lack there of)

I've only handled Moses 4 times; including the first time I met him at the property across the street. Every time he's seemed pretty docile, and easy to handle. He lives in the mare motels, and just two gates away is a large turn out that I've been working him in. He gets turned out for about 10min while I clean his stall, then gets worked. He never leaves his neighbor's side.
Well Tuesday (last time I was out there) his co-owner turned out her horse Kay, his neighbor. Kay went about 100ft away to the arena, which is pretty visually obstructed from his turn out. I was holding him, and he had been pretty attentive to me, but as soon as Kay left, his focus left me. He called out to her, and wouldn't tune in to me. Although Moses didn't move his feet, his focus completely shifted.
It makes me nervous. I know it's a mustang thing, he's just looking for his herd. I'm sure the trauma that these horses experience during a round up is severe. But will Moses ever look to me as his herd? Will I ever be seen as the lead? Will my presence be enough support for him?
Here is my current plan for Moses, and the techniques I plan on using. I am VERY open to suggestions, as I've never dealt with a mustang before. I have lots of experience with rescues, and young horses, but this mustang seems to be something else all together.

Picking Up His Hind Feet
   - Since he kicks out, I plan on lifting them with a rope. When he gives, I give. This is what I used with Roxy and she does great now.

Perfect Ground Manners
   - Moses leads, but I want him to be a super star on the ground. I want him to promptly whoa, back, and turn  at just visual pressure. I plan on using a crop as an extension of visual and verbal commands, eventually lessening the pressure to just visual. I'll get some video of me working with him on the ground to better display this method.

   -I want him to be ready for a saddle, so I want to desensitize him to a rope, saddle pad, and bit. This is done through exposing him to these objects. Also I think a loud plastic trash bag would be a good thing for Moses to see too. I'd like to get him to give to the bit from the ground too. Also I've found that desensitizing a horse teaches them to respect you, and to enjoy your company. I'm not sure if he's even spookish yet, but just showing him these objects, is valuable time with my big guy.

I figure this list will keep us busy until he gets in good health and weight to be ridden and worked safely. Then I plan to re-saddle break him, pony him on Roxy to get him used to me above him, and eventually get up there for that first ride. I've never been nervous about a first ride before, but this mustang hype has me scared.

Do you have any suggestions, methods, advice, or important lessons that you think Moses should learn? Have you ever worked with a mustang?


  1. I've never worked with a mustang, but the 'mustang hype' sounds familiar. With my rescue at the moment, my mind is making the situation seem worse than it really is and I am making myself nervous.

    I have always used plastic bags when desensitizing a horse and I find it works pretty well, but then horses sometimes spook at stupid shit lol. Jack once spooked at a bush (not long after he was started), that was inside his paddock, but once he saw my mum driving a tractor through the paddock, get off, zig zag through the paddock chasing a bunny rabbit, which went through the fence right next to him he was fine. The expression on his face was like 'Oh god. You are an idiot!' haha.

  2. Hi. I just found your blog and I think it is wonderful you were able to rescue this horse. I've never started a mustang, but my family did own one for a while, years ago. He'd been born wild and had been in captivity for a couple of years by the time we got him. He was very stand-offish and would always go to the far end of his pen when strangers were around. I worked with him for a few months, and eventually he came to trust me. Once, he got into a tangle involving a tarp and a fence that scared him a lot. He actually ran right to me for comfort and reassurance even though he could have just as easily run to be with other horses. But he never warmed up to strangers.

    I think every horse is an individual and every horse draws on its past for a way to understand its current situation. I have seen some truly dangerous, herd-bound horses, and none of those were mustangs. All rescue horses should be handled with caution, but it sounds like you are on exactly the right track. It is natural for any horse in a new situation to get regularly distracted. He's looking for guidance and reassurance. Hopefully you can work on finding a non-aggressive but effective way to get his focus back on you when it wanders. A lot of the time this is simply tilting his head back in your direction when he turns it away. If he braces on the halter when you try to do this, ask him to move his feet until he looks at you again. Then let him rest. Eventually he will learn the most comfortable thing is to keep his eyes on you.

    It sounds like you already know a lot of this stuff, but keep in mind you can work him on a long rope. Sometimes you are more able to direct a scared horse when you're not right up close to him. I just watched the DVD "From the Ground Up" by Buck Brannaman, and it had some excellent tips on how to use a rope to help keep your horse focused on you.

    I'm looking forward to following your progress!