YOU DON'T HAVE TO GO IT ALONE
Don't be afraid (or too proud!) to ask for help!
List of Trainers
The majority of wild horses and burros are adopted into "do-it-yourself" homes. Over the years, the BLM Adopt-A-Horse program has had many stellar successes of people who have gentled and trained their horse by themselves. I hope this will always be an option.
However, gentling and training a wild horse isn't for everybody, and some adoptions do fail, which is very bad for the horse and a real "downer" experience for the adopter. Others are technically successful, in that the adopter keeps the horse, but the horse never reaches its potential, remaining but a pasture ornament or a limited saddle horse.
Many adopters start out with a great sense of pride and ambition, to train their horse "all by myself." If you are one of these, please keep in mind that far more important is to end up with a good horse! There is no shame in working with a professional trainer, and there can be great pride in riding a well-trained, soft and responsive horse. Most people eventually give up on a horse who stays green and unreliable, and that isn't fair to the horse. (See "Free To Good Home") You owe it to your horse to help it become the best it can be!
SADDLE TRAINING vs BRONCO BUSTING
Saddle training is not just a matter of getting on and hanging on - well, it can be - such as in the old "bronc-busting" days.
There are some horses who are just so kind and gentle that they will allow a person to just get on and ride, but if the horse has no foundation of good training, it is much more likely to be spooky or unreliable under such conditions. Don't assume your horse, no matter how sweet he seems, will be the one that doesn't buck or spook if you just "get on and ride."
Serious injury can result from riding green stock, even under the best of conditions. But getting on before the horse is ready is really asking for it. Unless you are being paid as a bronc rider, you probably have to earn your living some other way, and really can't afford the "luxury" of taking such risks!
Early saddle training is a time when mistakes can have long-term consequences for both horse and rider. Unless you are already a trainer, or have access to a trainer who can coach you over a period of time (this is ideal) - you really should consider getting your horse professionally trained.
Left: Kitty Lauman Right: Ray Ariss
The Mustang Heritage Foundation's Extreme Mustang Makeover and the Mustang Challenge program have brought the value of professional training into the spotlight. In just 100 days, many of these trainers produce soft, connected, responsive horses who are able to perform amazing things that one usually sees only after a few years, even with domestic horses. But please note that these are experienced, professional trainers! When you adopt a wil dhorse yourself, please forget about timetables and 90-Day Wonders. Go at your own, and your horse's pace. 90 days from wild to high-performance competition horse is not realistic or even desireable for most adopters.
Wild horses are inexpensive, precisely because they lack training. Put the money into training, and you will have an exceptional horse!
Since the goal is - or should be - to end up with a good, safe horse, there is a lot to be said for sending your horse out to a good trainer. Or better yet, work with the trainer, so you learn along with your horse. Being able to say "I did it myself" is a lot less important than having a safe, responsive, reliable horse to enjoy over many years.
Left: Weldon Hawley Right: Tom King
Where to find a good trainer? Chances are there is a good trainer right in your own neighborhood who would be willing to help you. The trainer does not have to be famous, just good! Natural horsemanship techniques work well with wild horses. The Vaquero tradition of the American West and Southwest is a Natural Horsemanship-based tradition. Many working cowboys know how to start unhandled horses.
There are also many successful past adopters who would be happy to share what they know to help you get started. The links below are a good place to start looking for one.
Here are some more resources to help you locate the right trainer or mentor: