Hello I hope this message finds you well! Recall that on the first of June we brought to the ResqRanch, a barely year old wild Mustang that we named Cesar. This little gelding has been a joy for us to work with. He is a part of the Meeker Mustang Makeover (you can learn more about them on Facebook) kids division event, where my kids and I have less than 100 days to train him to perform at a September 11th commemorative event. The kids who placed highest will win a college scholarship. After the event, all the equine participants will be available for auction. We hope we will be able to win our bid on him so he can become a permanent resident and wild Mustang ambassador at the ResqRanch.
Did you know the Bureau of Land Management has over 10,000 wild Mustangs in holding pens? They are federally protected (for now) and rounded up and corralled when their numbers exceed what the open range in NW Colorado and Wyoming (among other places throughout the US) can handle. Did you know that this is such a problem that the federal government will actually pay you $500 to adopt these animals? We felt it was time to help spread awareness about the wild mustangs, our national heritage, by participating in this challenge.
And a fun challenge it has been!
The first few weeks, we simply spent time with him on the other side of a fence. Reaching through to pet and scratch him, to gauge his interest in us, and also to keep us safe in case he should decide to kick or bite. He sort of tried nibbling at our hands/clothes some, but never actually put teeth on and bit anyone, and never once acted like he might kick, even when we reached through and touched his lower legs. In fact, he quickly learned to seek us out for pets/scratching, and even trusted us enough to scratch around his tail head. He also showed no concerns about us touching/petting him around the face/eyes, mouth, and ears. He learned to also associate us with handfuls of fresh grass which he could not get to for himself. We also made sure he had toys (different kinds of balls) to play with in his enclosure, which he did and seemed to enjoy, further desensitizing him to new things, without stress.
The next step was to have him observe how it’s done. He watched us halter, lead, tie, groom and saddle many other horses right in front of/by him, which he observed with fascination. He got to observe how they enjoyed interacting with us, which went a long way towards convincing him that we must be alright!
By now we had been in the stall with him (for manure cleaning, feeding, and water refilling), where again he continued to show no fear of us or attempts to be aggressive to us in any way. We were just always very careful to make sure we reinforced our personal space so that he would stay back and not crowd, or accidentally injure us. Our next step was to use 2 trainers, one with handfuls of grass to keep him busy, while the other placed the halter on his head and buckled it. Once this was successful without incident, we went ahead with walking him around on the lead inside his enclosure. The second trainer used handfuls of grass to help direct his movements, from both inside and outside the enclosure for safety, as needed. We never forced him to follow us, and instead used other tools (like the grass) to make it easy for him to do the ‘right’ things, without pulling or yanking on him at any time. We always tried to have another horse or donkey on lead nearby, again, for security and so he could see how it was done.
Once he was leading with ease and having fun, we decided it was time to leave his enclosure. He was more than ready for this, as he had watched us saddle and lead the other horses out of the area, and he often whinnied, called, and looked for them when they would leave. He was ready to go see what the big horses were up to!
On the first day we decided to bring him out, we carefully evaluated the entire barn area, removed all possible obstacles or anything dangerous, closed all open doors, wound up the hoses, moved buckets and equipment out of the way, and made sure to sort of “baby proof” the entire inside of the barn as best we could. Then, knowing that the little guy was likely pent up from a few weeks inside only one 36 sq foot enclosure, we decided the first step was just to let him have some freedom on his own to run a bit and kick up his heels. And kick up his heels he did! He was so happy to have the chance to run free inside the barn, he didn’t even care about feeling slick concrete under his feet for the first time! He explored the new surfaces, the new sights and smells, the new horses around the corner that he has heard but not seen before, and kicked up his heels and pranced around. Once he seemed to have let off some steam and no longer was as explosive, and instead, began to get overly curious with biting at and pushing around the plastic trash cans, we decided to put his lead rope on and walk him around in the same space. He did great! And with that, we had the beginnings of a halter trained wild baby mustang!
There is so much more to share, about his first big hiking adventure, and how his clicker and target training are progressing. Looking forward to sharing those videos with you over on YouTube at The1DrQ. In the mean time please support us with a monthly recurring donation. And remember, my HORSES 101! program can be easily adjusted for any audience, and is always FREE, so let me know if that would be of helpful to have for your group or event. On that note, stay safe out there everyone, and thank you for your support!