Lesley Neuman: The First Touch Gentling Your Mustang
Lesley works with 3
wild horses at a BLM adoption, and very clearly
explains what is happening, what she is doing, &
what she sees in each horse as it progresses. Study
this video and you can learn "pressure and release"
gentling techniques to gentle your own new mustang!
Help for Burro adopters! Crystal Ward
All the basics of
gentling, handling, and training. A MUST for new
burro adopters! Good for domestic donkeys, too!
Helping a wild horse transition from wild to best friend can be immensely meaningful and satisfying. Most people recall that their "first touch" - the first time their Mustang allowed them to touch the horse - as one of their peak life experiences.
A Mustang fresh off the range is "pure horse" -
they come with no pre-existing baggage, no stuff that you will have to un-do.
By the time you are ready to ride, you will thoroughly know your horse,
and whatever he knows, you have taught him.
Many adopters appreciate the opportunity
to learn about horse behavior and the natural horse
mind, that having wild-born horses provides.
Mustangs are truly America's Horses.
From the Spanish Conquistadors, through the Great Native American Horsemen, explorers like Lewis & Clark, Mountain Men, pioneers, homesteaders, ranchers, "Buckaroo" and "Vaquero" cattlemen, and the Military Remount Program, as well as the Dust Bowl-Depression Era and the coming of the tractor
- IT'S ALL THERE - coursing through the blood of America's wild horses.
They know where their feet are, they don't waste calories running around being stupid, and they are motivated to survive!
Wild horses who have been born into a functioning wild
family band are well-socialized and know their manners.
Such horses do not need to be taught to "give to
pressure" nor to respect personal space.
Contrary to popular opinion, Mustangs have a high degree of genetic health, and very low incidence of inbreeding.
BLM monitors and manages herds for genetic health.
Many domestic breeds have developed diseases and weaknesses associated with inbreeding, line-breeding, & human selection based on an unbalanced emphasis on just a few traits.
So far, Mustang herds are free from HERDA, HYPP, and other genetic diseases.
Most Mustangs are "easy keepers" who can thrive on a diet of just clean hay and a salt lick. Mustangs are tough and hardy,
generally very healthy.
One man's experience:
Photo: California BLM
"For the last ten years, I have been using my Mustangs as Mounted Posse horses, and they just work out great.
Once a year, our Posse takes a 150 mile ride across the old Mojave Trail. Each year that I have gone I have taken a Mustang. I even brought along another one for the Drag rider. After that trip, he was purchased by one of the riders, as she no longer wanted to ride her Arab. She has ridden him ever since.
I recently took a non believer to Nevada, and we got a mustang for him. He, too, has changed his opinion.
A woman checks out a pen of wild horses at a
The real reason I chose these horses was the price, and the fact that they are part of our western history. It wasn't until I owned one that I found out what great horses they are. I can truly say that my horse Dot, a white leopard appaloosa mustang, is my best friend. Once you own one, they hook you!"
- Doug Gorman, California BLM Volunteer
George Lane and one of his BLM Mustangs that he uses to pull Wells Fargo Bank's famous stagecoach! George reports he appreciates the Mustangs' soundness and quiet, sane minds. Mustangs generally excel at trail riding, being accustomed to
life in a natural environment, and knowing where their feet are. They feel at home in wilderness, many
preferring trails to arenas. Wind? They grew up in it!
"Just a Trail Horse"? Actually, it takes a lot of training, skill, and connection between horse and rider to be a good trail horse.
Chance, a mustang mare owned by Arizona Lindy, illustrates the versatility of the hardy mustang - she excels in both Endurance and arena competition
Experienced horse people like Mustangs because of their sound feet, hardy constitutions, and sane minds. Horses on the range, growing up in a functioning natural herd structure, are socialized in a way that few domestic horses are. They know their manners!
Mustangs are masters of body language. They are masters at reading energy and intent in other animals and people. They respect their leaders.
They are wise and sure-footed in uneven terrain. They know where their feet are. They don't waste calories, their sense of self-preservation is much stronger than most domestic horses. Therefore they will never allow themselves to be spent out - they always keep a reserve, so they will get you back home again!
The US Marine Corps Color Guard uses BLM palomino Mustangs exclusively
Sparky and Ruby, along with Tonopah and Charlie - all BLM mustangs, completed the 72-mile "Fearful Crossing" pioneer trail ride from Lovelock to Fallon, Nevada, with energy to spare and 100% sound feet.
Mustangs come with little
"baggage." For many horsemen, this is the most compelling reason. When you adopt a Mustang, you are getting "pure horse" as Nature intended, without the overlay of a past with other people's mistakes. When you start with a wild horse, earn its trust, and participate in the training, you know that horse at a deep level that is rare with domestic horses. This is a horse with no prior training, no prior mistakes, no prior spoiling or human-caused bad habits.
Contrary to the commonly held opinion that mustangs are inbred, Mustangs actually enjoy
a higher level of genetic health than most domestic horses.
BLM works closely with genetics
experts such as Dr. Gus Cothran to monitor herd genetic
health, and to manage the herds for continuing health. Most Mustang gene pools are healthy and vigorous, with excellent genetic variability. No HYPP here. No HERDA. No Doc-O-Lena Disease.
Range-hardened mustangs are tough and inclined to good health. Countless adopters can relate tales of mustangs surviving injuries and illnesses that would have killed the average horse.
Due to many generations of living in harsh conditions, they are "easy keepers" - seldom requiring expensive supplements or rich feeds. Living on the range, mustangs have learned, generation after generation, not to waste calories. In this way, they tend to be level-headed, calm, easy-going animals - not the skittish, flighty creatures often conjured up by the word "wild."
Horses that can look this good when they live HERE will thrive with regular feed, water and shelter and vet care
Jacqui Crews of Virginia, with one of her mustangs
Efren Segura's new mustang from Calico Mtns can already perform tricks!
Many people, like myself, find that the experience of earning a wild horse's trust, and then training it to become a wonderful saddle horse & companion is an exciting and meaningful experience that enriches their lives tremendously.
An adventure begins: A newly-adopted mustang is loaded into the trailer
Please understand that horse ownership can be expensive. Even a free horse can be expensive! In addition to housing and fencing (or paying a monthly boarding fee), food, veterinary care, tack and gear, wild horses need training!
The reason for the low adoption price is not that the horse has low value, but that it is untrained. When you purchase a domestic horse, you are mainly purchasing training. I firmly believe that anyone can gentle a wild horse who makes a personal commitment to learn and "keep showing up". But eventually the horse needs training. Training for the saddle does, in most cases, require professional help for a good outcome.
Budget for it!
If price is the main attraction, think hard about whether or not you can actually afford a horse.
afford feed, hoof care, and veterinary care over many
years? If you don't have your own property, can you
afford to pay board for your horse each month? What
about training? A wild horse needs training! (See "Free To Good Home")
On the other hand, the low price is not necessarily a bad thing! Many people report that the low price originally attracted them to mustangs, but what really hooked them was how great the horses turned out!
Many people find a thrill in owning "a Piece of History," "A Living Legend."
From the Spanish Conquistadors, through the Great Native American Horsemen, explorers like Lewis & Clark, Mountain Men, pioneers, homesteaders, ranchers, "Buckaroo" and "Vaquero" cattlemen, and the Military Remount Program, as well as the Dust Bowl-Depression Era tragedies, and the coming of the tractor, with its concurrent decline in horse-ownership during the 1930's, 1940's and 1950's - IT'S ALL THERE - coursing through the blood of America's wild horses.