The Gentling of a Mustang
The summer began to heat up drastically. John and I knew it was going to be
a scorcher. Celis White was fully fledged out in her sleek summer coat, but
Austin Gray still had much of her downy baby coat to shed. I worked on
grooming her over the months prior to her weaning, slowly accustoming her to
being handled separate from her mother. Our property was small so I knew
that the weaning method I chose would not be separating the two mustangs
completely because anywhere on the grounds, they could hear and smell each
In the coolness of the early mornings, I prepared the two for their short
turn out. First I took Celis out of the corral, positioning her right
outside the corral for her grooming. Little Austin would poke her head
through the fence and nibble at mom's shoulder and chest. After finishing
Celis I put her back and retrieved Austin. Austin was now fully accustomed
to having her coat groomed and her feet picked. In the beginning, I
quickly groomed her next to the corral before putting her back so she
wouldn't miss her mother. After the groom I put Austin back in the corral
and went to get John so we could turn them out.
At first, when one of the mustangs was out of the corral, the other would
stand close. But slowly over the weeks, they began to sense the routine and
would become interested in other things in their corral. As they began to
become distracted, I would groom the other a
little further away. Austin at first whinnied to her mother. I walked Celis
to the corral to show the baby that her mother was still there. Reassured
with a sniff or two, Austin then went back to locating morsels of food that
were around the corral. This time, when I took Celis a few feet away, Austin
just went to the edge of the corral and watched intently without becoming
After Celis' grooming session, I did the same routine with Austin. Celis was
less upset about the small and brief separation. She just combed the ground
for any tidbits of hay. Austin too, was not too concerned that her mother
was still in the corral and instead focused on the currying which she
Prior to their evening sojourn, I repeated the separate grooming with the
mustangs. At the end of the day the heat from the ground emanated into the
coolness of the evening and he two horses usually would just saunter around
the arena, trotting and galloping only occasionally. In the morning, the two
were much more likely to run and buck, feeling better after a cool night.
John and I waited impatiently for the summer rains to begin. The heat was
unbearable during the day and we let the two mustangs, with the geldings sit
out most of the day in the shade of the corral. Finally, when Austin's next
booster shot was due, the rains began and we began to think about separating
mother and daughter, now that Austin was nearly five months old.
I made the appointment, and as usual, Dr. Palmer showed up one afternoon
that threatened evening thunder storms. Since the day was very breezy, I
haltered Celis and Austin long before the vet was due. Austin remembered
the needle from the last booster shot and was very reluctant to approach the
vet this time. But Celis was very calm with the vet in the corral and
did not hide in a corner. Instead, she observed her daughter's attempts to
evade the vet from the center of the enclosure.
After finishing with the little mustang filly, Dr. Palmer asked if I wanted
to do the fall shots for the others as well. Since the summer was
approaching an end, I decided that it would be a good idea. Dr. Palmer left
the corral to retrieve the vaccinations for Celis and the geldings. I turned
Austin loose and put her halter away and got the lead for Celis. I clipped
it on just as Dr. Palmer was entering the corral.
"Whoa girl," soothed the vet as he approach the mare. Celis raised her head
and the whites of her eye showed around the edges. "Shhhh, you're ok," he
said as he reached out with his hand to let her sniff it. The white
mustang's nostrils were flared, but she stood her ground. Dr. Palmer reached
up to her neck and just as he started scratching her neck, Celis backed up
out of his reach. So the vet began the process again. This time, however,
Celis let him scratch her neck and rub her face. Slowly he began reaching for
his syringe and took the needle off.
"As I recall, she stood quite still for the shot the last time. I hope she
doesn't still associate me with the needle," he commented while taking the
cap off of the syringe. Dr. Palmer then began stroking the mare's neck,
increasing the pressure with each stroke. Finally, he put the needle in her
neck. Celis raised her head and snorted out her nose, but did not try to
move away. "Wow, she has come a long way from the last time, I wonder if she
will let me examine her teeth."
Dr. Palmer replaced the cap to the syringe and placed it in his shirt
pocket. He then started petting Celis' head, moving his hand down her face
toward her mouth. He placed his thumb in her mouth and felt her teeth. "Hmm,
she has her wolf tooth on the left side, but not the right. Also her back
teeth feel smooth." The vet then started trying to move the tooth. "It would
be good to remove her wolf tooth so she will be ready for you to bridle
her. The tooth is moving some. I wonder if she would let me remove it."
"Celis is being very good, we can give it a try and if she starts becoming
upset, we can stop," I replied. Dr. Palmer went back to his truck for his
dental equipment. When he came back, he again approach the mare very slowly.
Celis backed away from him a step and bumped into the rail behind her. She
jumped forward, but remained calm, though very wary. I lead her back to the
center of the corral, and Dr. Palmer began rubbing her face again and then
reached into her mouth. He wiggled the tooth again, slowly at first and then
increasingly harder. Celis' eyes were wide and she held her head high. "It
feels like it is coming loose," he said. "I'll try to remove it now." He
took his dental instrument, concealed in his hand along his index finger and
put it in her mouth. He pushed against the tooth and finally it came out.
Dr. Palmer showed me the small tooth which had a slight film of blood on it.
"Now it won't interfere with the bit when you are able to start riding her."
"Yes, I plan on trying to break her to ride once Austin is weaned," I
replied. "We are thinking of weaning the filly soon."
"It's probably a good idea. It's now about time and you will be able to do
much more training with them both then." Dr. Palmer gave the
fall shots to the geldings before leaving.
So, John and I began planning the weaning more in depth. We needed to put
the partition of our modular barn in the corral so there would be four
enclosures. Since I could not remove either mother or daughter from the
property, I decided that I would place Austin in the stall next to Celis at
first, then after a week or two, across the aisle, then kitty cornered from
the white mustang. Next I began to research the nutritional requirements for
I talked to Dr. Palmer on the phone and read a few articles about weanling's
nutritional needs and found a balance that would suit Austin's size and
weight with a combination of hay and grain. Then I began reducing Celis'
grain intake so she wouldn't be producing as much milk. I kept her on her
reduced rations for about a week and planned to replace the partition with
John for the following weekend.
When the Saturday rolled around, John and I put the mustangs in the arena
while we worked on the corral. The partition was not too difficult to
replace and in about and hour and a half, we had the partition in place.
Next we put the new water tank and the hay feeder in the corral. It
was just in time for the day was beginning to heat up, even though summer
was on the wane. We then went to the corral and retrieved mother and daughter.
We put Celis in one stall and Austin in the other. Celis went to the feeder
first and started looking for hay. Austin went to the edge of her corral and
poked her head through the fence to look at her mother. She then went to her
feeder to find some tidbits to eat. Both mother and daughter were rewarded
with a snack. Since the two were being very quiet, John and I left them
alone for a while.
When we returned, both the filly and mare were standing next to each other,
each on their own side of the fence.
Austin was nibbling on Celis' shoulder, and Celis
was stomping at flies. It was feeding time, so I measured out the hay and
grain for all the horses and fed them for the evening.
Austin's summer turnouts
Austin's turbo mode
Celis' and Austin's last meal together