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Okay, Soapbox time:

Several times a week I get emails from folks asking me to help them place their no-longer-wanted Mustang - "Free to a good home." I do post their notice on the appropriate websites that I can, but it's starting to get to me. Or maybe they've priced the horse just above the meat price (which I do commend!) but the text is the same: older horse, no training.

Even in bad times, a well-trained horse of any breed has value, and is always the last to be sold or given away, and is the most likely to find a good home.

That's almost never what people want to give away or sell dirt cheap. What people want to give away is the Pasture Ornament.

Perhaps they adopted this horse on impulse, or perhaps they jumped in with romantic zeal after reading Monty Roberts or The Horse Whisperer... but it turned out to be harder than they expected and after awhile they lost interest... Perhaps the horse gentled down just fine, but they thought they could just "get on and ride" and it didn't work out... Or perhaps they misguidedly thought they were "saving" the horse...Or maybe their initial enthusaism as adopters devolved into Collector Syndrome, with too many mouths to feed and too many hooves to trim...


Warning to people offering a free horse: Free horses are at great risk of going to slaughter. Kill buyers (or takers, in the case of free) often pose as nice people who love horses. They can make great promises about how much love the horse will get with them, etc. Unwary owners are often conned into believing the horse is going to a great new home, only to find out later that the horse was given a one-way ticket to a cruel Mexican slaughter house.

Here's a typical ad:

"Free to Good Home: Beautiful Mustang Mare: Sally was originally adopted along with 3 other mares and a stallion and put out to pasture. She had many babies but was not really handled much. I got her 2 years ago and she had a foal 2 weeks later. I have worked with her but she needs someone with time and patience. 12 years old"

Regardless of the reason, the reality is that the adopter failed to make a real commitment to the animal, and did not choose to seek - and if necessary, budget to pay for - appropriate help.

Now they have a horse - often in its prime adult years between 6 and 14, that is, at best, barely halter-trained. "Friendly, curious, affectionate and sweet" they gush about the animal's positive qualities.

But training? No - and at 8 or 10 or 12 years it is no longer a matter of "potential." Most horses that age are seasoned animals in their prime.

Not that older horses aren't capable of being saddle trained. Certainly they are. They tend to take longer, require even more commitment on the part of the adopter, and sometimes need different training techniques. But it can be done, and may be worth it. (Note if you are considering it: Mustang Camp in New Mexico, under direction of Dr. Patricia Barlow-Irick, has above-normal success gentling older wild horses. You might check it out)

But in today's market, people looking for a green or untrained horse have a choice: They can choose from a huge pool of healthy "blank slate" youngsters with their lives ahead of them. Or, there are these older horses - animals who may already have spent half their lives, and may have suffered neglect in the hoof care and nutritional departments. Both types of horses will need equal amounts of training - which would you choose?


Keeping a mustang as an untrained pasture ornament would be fine if you could guarantee that you will provide for the animal for its entire life, but how many people can honestly do that? And when the time comes that you either no longer can keep it - or no longer want to keep it - the mature untrained horse usually has no future - through no fault of its own.

Seriously, a horse that is adopted but never trained would have been better off going to BLM Long-term holding, where it could have lived out its life among other wild ones in grassy pastures.

Folks, if you are thinking of adopting a Mustang - PLEASE - MAKE A COMMITMENT TO GET YOUR ANIMAL TRAINED in a timely manner. For most of us, that means budgeting the money to hire a trainer - or - if part of the reason for adopting is for our own growth and education - hiring someone to teach us how to train. (If you can't afford to get it trained, can you afford a horse at all? Can you provide feed, vet care, worming, vaccinations, hoof care, fencing, housing, and tack? Even a free horse is not cheap!)

Most people can, if they make a commitment and put in the time, succesfully gentle a horse to the point that it is no longer terribly afraid of people. But to become a good, reliable riding horse, the horse needs training, and training takes skill and experience. For most adopters, it is not a good "Do-It-Youself" Project. Do not adopt without considering training!

Volunteer mentors can be helpful to get you get off to a good start, and to work through an occasional "bump" along the way, but you will need to accept responsibility for getting yourself and your horse the solid, in-depth professional training that your horse deserves. And that usually means paying for it.

Places to List or Find Horses Who Need Homes:

Adopt A Living Legend

The Modern Mustanger

The Modern Mustanger (Blog)

Bay Area Equestrian Network Rescue/Re-Home Listings