The Gentling of a Mustang
Celis settled in for the night very peacefully, eating her hay.
Both John and I wondered about her past, whether she had a difficult life,
what dangers she had to avoid, or how much trouble she had finding food or
water. Despite the hardships she had to endure, I felt a pallor hang over my
heart for this dear little white mare. Just six weeks prior she had been
wandering free on the range and now she was locked up with humans
determining her daily life. At least we could provide a consistent hay
supply, so perhaps her life would be like a prison with a gourmet chef.
Looking at Celis's papers, we found out she had been captured August 3, 1995
in Nevada. She had been vaccinated and wormed and would be due for boosters
at the end of the month. I hoped that she would be gentled enough by then for
the required examination, but I really didn't think so.
The next morning John and I decided to read the newspaper right outside
her corral. We studied her small white form: She has a large head in comparison
to her body. Her gnarled mane has twisted locks of dark strands mixed in
with the white. Her face gently arches into a slight Roman nose and her ears
prick so they almost touch each other.
What struck both John and I is the roundness of her belly. Could it be due
to worms? Certainly it couldn't be due to a hay belly since she was with a
herd of other horses and had been in captivity for just over a month.
Perhaps she is pregnant, John postulated. We really wouldn't know till we
had the vet out to examine her.
We continued to feed Celis snacks by hand while squatting on the ground.
Celis still did not like it when we would approach her corral. She seemed to
be getting used to the rope dragging on the ground though. My heart wrenched
into a ball every time she would step on it.
Celis would stand on the rope and try to twist her head free. Sometimes she
would step on it right next to the halter. At first she would panic and back
up, but then she learned to stand quietly and pull till she picked up the
foot that had caught it. Celis seemed very annoyed at her halter as well.
She tried to take it off by scratching behind her ear with a hind leg. I
desperately hoped she would not become entangled in all her garb.
The second evening after we brought Celis home, I went to ride Cameron and
Chico, Celis's two corral mates. When I got on Cameron, Celis became very
panicked. I avoided her corral, but she still ran to the other end and
crashed into the fence. I got back off to make sure she was ok. She was
not limping, nor were there any cuts. John and
I figured that she was reacting to being captured or she had become afraid
of the horse and rider which were used to cut the horses from the herd at
As I rode the other horses, I thought about Celis's panic episode. I
could see how horses' instincts work. Celis
is showing me normal horse reaction and experience learned on
the range. When I ride the other two, I can now see how
shying at something in the bushes is just a part of their instincts. Perhaps
this will help me deal with horses on their level--not mine.
Celis started to eat out of her feeder with John or I standing right
out side the fence. The clasp on the lead rope banged
against the metal manger. Both of us ache to pet her, but she
shys away from any human hand.
While John was doing the morning feedings, he began attempting to
touch Celis lightly on the nose while offering her some hay in the feeder.
At first she would reach tentatively toward her hay while his arm hung
loosely in the corral. As she tried to take a bite of hay, John would have
his hand in the way so she had to bump it. At first she jerked back. But her
hunger was too great, so she approached again, allowing John to briefly
touch her nose before she would withdraw. He would then let her alone to
finish her food. Day by day, she gradually became used to his touch on her
nose while she was eating.
One day, while working in the yard, John heard some banging coming from the
corrals. He ran down there to see what was happening. He arrived just in
time to see Celis bucking in her corral. She had removed her
halter. John checked to make sure she was okay. Fortunately she hadn't
injured herself. The halter lay in the isle of the corrals. Both of us felt
better with the halter off, but we weren't sure what we
were going to do if she escaped or needed medical attention. We would have
to tackle that problem at the time of the incident.
Finally, I decided to start cleaning her corral. I felt two weeks was enough
time for her to settle in and the manure was beginning to pile up.
I entered her corral during her breakfast. I worked at the opposite end so
as not to disturb her too much. She turned so she could eat and watch me at
the same time. I did not try to clean the area where she was standing. She
didn't move a step, but kept a constant eye fixed on me the whole time I was
in her corral.
John and I often wonder how long it will take to gentle Celis White. We both
decided it would be best to take things nice and slowly. I would research
several different training techniques and try to incorporate them into our
Celis White dragging her rope
Celis White without her halter