The Gentling of a Mustang
Celis White and the black foal settled into our daily routine. However, Celis
still did not warm up to us the way she had prior to the filly's birth. The
mustang seemed to view us with some disdain.
The black filly became more accustomed to her long legs. After
the second day or so, she started galloping around her corral. The first
time she tried, she made a corner too sharp--Wipe Out! The little filly fell
over on her side. But she didn't let it ruin her fun. She got back up and
tried another lap, this time however, she was more cautious when she tried
John and I still mulled over the possible names. John wanted something
related to Celis' name, but would suit the filly's personality. We both were
taken by the name Austin, the location of the Celis brewery. "Just Austin?"
John asked, "It needs something more. Why not 'Austin Gray' since you say
her coat will probably gray with time."
"Hmm", I replied, "I like the sound of that." So Austin Gray became the name
of the new filly.
The fencing for the arena arrived that day. John and I put it together in
about 2 1/2 hours since it was portable. The fence was not perfectly strait,
but we looked at it with pride since neither of us had much experience with
that type of structure.
We waited in anticipation for when we would turn out Celis and
Austin. The vet cautioned that we should wait five or six days before
turning them out because the filly might strain a tendon.
In the meantime, my husband and I decided to put the new halter on Austin.
Our property is in the desert with lots of cactus. We thought that the little
filly would follow her mother to the arena without much difficulty, but we
didn't want her to run into a cholla or prickly pear. So six days after the
birth, John and I decided it was time put the halter on Austin so she could
get some running time in the arena.
Every morning, Austin would come up to the fence and I would scratch her on
the chest, her favorite spot. On Austin's sixth morning however, John and I
introduced the halter. Unlike Celis, the filly came up to us out of
curiosity, not hunger, so our approach with the halter to the baby mustang
would be different. The filly hovered around my husband and I, looking for
more rubs. While John scratched her on her neck, I showed Austin the little
blue halter. She did not move away, but instead concentrated on a particular
spot John was scratching. Her little upper lip stuck out.
I lifted the halter and started rubbing it on the filly's neck, opposite of
John. She did not pay much attention to me. I edged it closer to Austin's
head. The baby mustang sniffed it and moved away. I approached the filly
again in the same manner with John's help. I rubbed her neck and again
showed the halter to Austin. She allowed me to put the halter over her nose,
but as I lifted the crown toward her poll, the baby mustang scampered away.
So John and I repeated the procedure several times more, but again the
filly darted away. I began to become afraid that Austin Gray was learning to
escape us each time we tried to halter her. So John suggested that he hold
onto Austin while I buckle the halter. I thought about it for a few minutes.
I didn't want to force anything on the filly, but yet, I didn't want her to
learn any bad habits. She did need more running room, now that she was
nearly a week old.
"Ok, let's give it a try", I said. John gently scratched the baby mustang on
her neck and chest while I stood at her head. John then put one arm around
her chest and one around her rump, continuing to scratch the filly. After a
few moments, he increased the pressure and said "Ok". I put the halter on
the filly and buckled it. Austin jumped forward and bucked in John's arms.
"You can let her go!" I told John. The black filly took off, ran around
the corral to Celis' side and then started to nurse. I'm not sure if I
would repeat the way we put the halter on, but Austin didn't seem any worse
Austin's head was so tiny. I had to buckle the halter on the last hole, and
yet it seemed a bit too big. I was apprehensive leaving the halter on the
baby mustang, but I truly did not want to leave her with a bad impression
with either the halter or with humans.
We left the halter on the filly for one full day. Once on though, it
did not seem to bother her. The next step was to lead the little mustang.
John and I entered the corral. I went up to Celis who still had her halter
on. As I reached to clip the lead rope on her, the mustang snorted and
backed away. "John, would you hand me some hay?" John went and retrieved a
handful and gave it to me through the rails. Celis looked at the hay, but
she didn't seem as interested in it as in the previous months.
I crackled the alfalfa in my hand and approached the white mare. She pricked
her ears flared her nostrils while I petted her nose. I offered the hay to
her and with my other hand, I clasped the lead rope to the halter. Once
Celis had the lead rope on, she was back to her old self. She ate the hay
out of my hand.
John came up and took Celis and handed me another lead rope. I went to the
filly with the lead rope behind my back. She let me scratch her and while
she was distracted, I clipped the lead rope to Austin's halter. The filly
didn't move a muscle. I nodded to John and he started leading Celis around
the corral. When the mare got about 15 feet away, the filly wanted to
follow, so I let her have her head and walked along side. John stopped and
started a few times; the filly tried to stay near the white mustang's
side. We repeated the walk in the other direction before trying it outside.
With Celis White by his side, John walked out into the aisle way. Austin
Gray followed them nicely until the threshold of the corral where she
stopped. I took the end of the lead rope and draped it on the opposite side
from me and around her hind end. I then took the end and the section where
the lead crossed over the filly's back in my right hand and I held the lead
also with my left, near the clasp. As I started walking, I pulled the lead
with my right hand, thereby pushing Austin's hind end forward. The black
mustang began walking and swung her hind end to and fro.
Once outside the corral, I stopped the pressure on Austin's hind end. She
continued walking obediently until we reached the arena. Some birds
fluttered in a bush and the baby mustang jumped around. After a few seconds
she was calmed down and we entered the arena where John and Celis were
I closed the gate behind me, and John took the lead off of Celis who ambled
away. I undid the clasp on Austin and held her next to me for a moment. I
did not want her to learn to run away as soon as she was released. Once I let
her go, she slowly trotted off toward her mother.
All of a sudden, Austin bolted and started running. Celis was quite upset at
her daughter and whinnied after her. This was Celis' first time in such a
large enclosure since her adoption
and she began to celebrate her freedom by running and bucking.
Mother and daughter ran around the arena and came to a stop. Austin came
galloping up to John and I and we gave her a pat. We both felt a sense of
accomplishment watching the two mustangs run.
Austin and her new halter
Celis White and Austin Gray celebrating their freedom