The Gentling of a Mustang
The following day, I took the Celis White back to the round pen to build on
her previous day's lesson. I was so pleased with her progress and was
anxious to see how much she remembered.
I had placed the tack back in the round pen. Upon seeing the saddle, Celis
shied. I turned her loose and started the lesson just as I had the previous
day. The little mustang's reaction to the process went much more quickly
than the day before. She still needed to work on the edges of the pen before
allowing me to rub her with first the lead rope, then the saddle blanket and
finally the saddle. But she did not run as long and became accustomed to the
feel of each piece of equipment much more quickly.
When I felt she was ready for me to get in the saddle, I put on my helmet
and like the day before, I slowly accustomed Celis to my weight on each
side. Finally I swung my leg over her back; the mustang stood still as she
felt my full weight on her back. I sat quietly for a minute or two before
dismounting and mounting again.
This time in the saddle, I urged the white mare onward with my legs. I could
tell she was very confused. I squeezed a little harder and Celis took one
tentative step forward. I quickly rewarded her with a rub on her neck. I
squeezed again and this time she swung her back end to the right with one
big step. I must have squeezed harder on one side than on the other. I
patted her neck again.
The next time I urged Celis to walk I tried to make sure I was squeezing
equally with both legs. The little mare then took five very quick steps
before coming to an abrupt halt. I stroked the mare's neck and quietly told
her how good she was. Again I asked the mustang to move on and this time she
took about ten steps before stopping quickly.
Slowly I led the mare with this little dance before she would walk without
her abrupt halts. Steering was another matter. During this "dance", Celis
was weaving around the round pen. I had a hard time keeping her from
knocking into the rail with just the halter and lead. So once I Celis
learned to walk when asked, I dismounted and went to retrieve the bridle.
I introduced the mare to a snaffle bit bridle. As with the other tack, I
first showed Celis the bridle in the "soft" spot. The moment before she
tried to flee, I turned away from the little horse and walked away. Celis
followed me to the new spot. I then showed the mare the bridle again, and
approached her with it. Her head was up and she was focused on the new piece
of equipment. As I got closer to her, she started to shy off, so I slapped
my hands against my legs and moved her to the rail. I worked her both ways
of the round pen before she started to pay attention to me.
I let the little mare stop and she came back to the center of the arena
where I was standing. I brought the bridle back to her nose and let her
sniff it. Celis' held her head high and sniffed the bridle. After a minute,
she began to lower her head so I moved the bridle to her shoulder and
started rubbing. After a few rubs with the tack, I walked away--the mare was
close behind. I turned back to the mustang and started the same procedure on
the other side before going back to the center of the ring.
With each pass, I increased the area of rubbing, going to her neck and
hindquarters. When she finally seemed to relax, I went back to her head to
start the process of actually putting the bridle on the mare's head.
I took the headstall in my left hand and the bit in my right. From her left
shoulder I had my left arm underneath her chin. I took my left thumb and
placed in her mouth. I wiggled it slowly until she opened it wide enough for
the bit. I slipped it into her mouth and brought the headstall up over her
ears as gently as I could. I let the mare chomp on the bit while I checked
the bridle for its fit. It seemed a bit too big so I shortened it a hole.
Celis had her mouth wide open, so I thought I had made the bridle too
tight. I loosened it a hole, but she still had her mouth open like she was
trying to spit it out.
I double checked the fit of the bridle, but it truly seemed too large in the
present position. So I shortened it again. Celis began to toss her head, so
I lengthened it again. She continued to toss her head so I shortened back to
the position I thought fit her better. I then thought the bridle might be
pinching her head somewhere so I carefully felt underneath the leather where
it touched her skin. It didn't seem too tight, nor did I find any
stickers. Celis then stopped tossing her head, so I buckled up the noseband
I led the white mare around the round pen with the bridle on. Every few
steps she would toss her head once or twice before completely stopping her
head movements. I felt the mustang had enough of a lesson for one day, so I
untacked Celis White in the round pen and led her back to her stall.
The next day I started the lesson the same way as the previous two, giving
the mustang extra time to be accustomed to the bridle. Once fully tacked up,
I got on Celis the same way as before; first on one side, then the other
before fully mounting her. Today, I wanted to teach Celis to halt. First I
started the mare walking. Like the day before, she had a few abrupt halts
before she started walking confidently. Once she was moving nicely, albeit
in kind of a zigzag motion across the round pen, I shortened up the reins
and pulled gently. Celis stopped very quickly and I gave her a pat on her
neck. The mare seemed to have a very sensitive mouth. I started the mare
moving again before halting. I repeated walking and stopping several more
times before I decided move on to Celis' steering.
As the mare was walking, I quietly pulled on the right rein. Celis lifted
her head and opened her mouth but turned to the right. I stroked the mare on
her neck while still walking. Celis did not like the feel of the pull so I
tried to make my rein adjustments as subtle as possible. We had cut a slight
angle across the round pen and when we reached the other side I again
shortened the right rein to make her do another right turn. The mare turned
with a toss of the head, but she kept her mouth closed.
I repeated the right turns. Slowly, the mustang stopped tossing her head and
would quietly make the turn.
I then worked on turning Celis to the left. Like the right, I cut a slight
angle across the arena. The mare started the head tossing, but did not open
her mouth. When we reached the fence, I did another turn, this time without
any head movement. So I practiced turning the mare a few more times before
ending the lesson.
I was so proud of the little mare. She seemed to have accepted the new
training with very little fuss.
Mounting Celis the second day
The "Soft" spot