The Gentling of a Mustang
Prior to any lessons, we had to relieve Celis' problem of engorgement
of her udder. The morning after the initial weaning, her bag was swollen and
hot despite the reduction of her grain. I took the mare out of her corral
and hand walked her. At first, Celis swung her hind legs around her udder,
moving very slowly. But towards the end of our thirty minute walk around the
neighborhood, Celis began to walk more freely. When we returned home, I
checked her udder again and found it to be slightly less swollen and hot
than before the walk. I had to exercise the white mustang
morning and evening for about a week before her udder truly began to dry up.
Even after the months and months of time that John and I had Celis, she
still demonstrated from time to time that she was once a feral horse. When
the weather was inclement, especially when the wind would blow, the little
mare would become very suspicious of John and me. When
these episodes happened, I would take a deep breath and try not to become
discouraged and use this opportunity as extra time for the mustang to
become used to us. Some days it seemed like I was starting over so I used
the same techniques to quiet Celis' fear as I did when we first brought her
Other days Celis acted like she had been domesticated before. She would hang
her head outside of the corral and wait for a treat. Other times she would
follow me around like a puppy as I cleaned her enclosure, hoping for a
scratch on her favorite spot, under her eyes. These episodes would also
test me because I would have to contain my enthusiasm with her progress and
not try to train her beyond the point where she would accept new things.
Austin, on the other hand, had known John, me, and our friends and family from
birth. She was always willing to come up to the fence for either a friendly
scratch or a treat. Regardless of the weather, the little filly was always
eager to be haltered for a turnout or a groom. But despite
Celis' intermittent wariness of us and Austin's congeniality, I could see
the similarity in their personalities. Both had an openness and sweetness
that was truly a pleasure to see. Neither horse was high strung, so I felt
excited to start their training.
I wanted Celis accustomed to the different things she would come across when
she was out and about on trail rides so I decided that I would start
teaching her to be ponied. My other gelding, Chico, was a quiet horse who
was used to the trails around our house. I started the lessons on our
property. While I rode Chico in the arena, John lead Celis near his side,
roughly in position where I would hold Celis. The little mare seemed
unconcerned about the whole process. After completing several circuits
around the arena in both directions, John handed me the lead rope and I
started to pony the mustang. Celis is quite a bit smaller than Chico, but
fortunately Chico had a very slow walk so the little mare could keep up with
I ponied the mustang every day for a week. During the first part of the
week, John walked along side before handing me the lead and in the last part
of the week he handed me the lead at the beginning of the session without
walking. Next I began to expand the territory where we walked, at first in
the familiar neighborhood, finally venturing out on the trail. Celis seemed
to enjoy the outings, seeing the new surroundings. She would occasionally
shy at various objects such as an old car seat or a pile of garbage.
But she would just snort at it and try to make a wide berth around it.
Austin's training began concurrently with Celis'.
After a week of being in the corral next to her mother, I moved Austin next
to Chico so she would become accustomed to him so she too could be
ponied. Austin enjoyed Chico's company, often chewing her jaws at him in
subservience. John and I called this action her "Yammering".
Chico would usually
smell Austin's nose. He soon became very attached to the mustang filly.
When I would take her out of her corral to groom, walk, or move to the
arena, Chico would whinny till Austin came back.
Now that Austin was used to Chico, I felt it was time for her to learn how
to be ponied like her mother. Using the same method as with Celis, I first
had John lead her around the arena next to Chico and me. Then I progressed
over the next two weeks to leading her on Chico without John. And finally I
began to lead Austin around the neighborhood and on the trails.
Austin still had her attachment to her mother. When we reached another
stable, often another horse would whinny. The little black filly would
whinny in return and try to stop and turn back. When she did this, I would
angle Chico in a direction slightly toward home which started the filly
moving. Once we were going again, Austin would march alongside Chico without
I planned to have Austin's training to go more slowly than Celis'. Austin
still had a couple of years before she could be ridden whereas Celis was
mature enough to be ridden.
Austin Gray being ponied
Austin Gray bing ponied