Diane Ward, Current Issue Paper
Adopting and training Mustangs
Adopting a wild horse is not something done trivially. The BLM has a tested and accurate way of determining whether or not someone will be able to adopt a wild horse. The list of requirements for adopting a wild horse by the BLM include: “Being at least 18 years of age (Parents or guardians may adopt a wild horse or burro and allow younger family members to care for the animal.); having no prior conviction for inhumane treatment of animals or for violations of the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act; demonstrating that you have adequate feed, water, and facilities to provide humane care for the number of animals requested; and, show that you can provide a home for the adopted animal in the United States.”
The way you actually adopt a mustang is to
1. Complete the Adoption Application and mail it to the BLM office serving your area or,
2. Complete the on line Internet Adoption Application.
The BLM will then contact you during the application review process to verify that your facilities meet the minimum requirements for the number of animals you want to adopt. Also if you're adopting the BLM requires you to sign a Private Maintenance and Care Agreement.
Actual training techniques differ among trainers, whether they believe that the horse should be “broken” just after arriving, or prefer to “gentle the horse over a longer period of time." Many trainers use a combination of both methods for their horses. It’s important to have some horse experience if this is your first adoption or first attempt to train a mustang. Kero Davidson, a 2009 Gatorland Extreme Mustang Makeover Trainer, suggests “Getting in contact with someone who has successfully trained a wild horse!”
Most people that have trained mustangs agree that they differ from domestic horses, especially in the earlier stages of training. It goes from the little things like not knowing that grain is actually food, to the larger issues such as believing all humans are predators. Gena Wasley, 2009 Western States Extreme Mustang Makeover Trainer, says "A horse born outside of captivity finds everything about life with humans foreign. This is not a GREEN horse." With just adopted mustangs you may be the first person the mustang has actually had any meaningful contact with. That’s not usually something you can say about a domestic horse.
Keep in mind the horse is essentially wild. If you let the animal go, on say, fifty acres, even with a halter on, you will probably never catch it again. It may be a good idea to have a “babysitter” horse with your mustang when you release it to its new environment, maybe kept on the other side of the fence so the mustang knows it's not alone. Horses are herd animals and look to the herd for safety. Jesse Peters, 2009 Gatorland Extreme Mustang Makeover Champion, suggests "getting a tamed/trained horse to partner with your mustang to help be a good leader for them as they adapt to the new environment."
Before you start under saddle work it’s unanimous to begin with groundwork. What you do on the ground preps the horse for under saddle work. It's here that you desensitize the horse and teach it to move away from pressure as well as assert yourself as something it needs to respect. "Always remember you can't teach a scared horse anything. Use a lot of passive body language to build trust." is what Cohn Livingston, 2009 Gatorland Extreme Mustang Makeover Trainer suggests. If an animal gets scared it will turn to instincts and lose the consciously thinking part that you need for training.
Marsha Hartford-Sapp, 2009 Gatorland Extreme Mustang Makeover Trainer says "Enjoy your horse! There is nothing as special as gentling a wild horse, and having that horse trust you completely. The bond is magical. Take the time to appreciate your horse's unique outlook and experiences."
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