The Gentling of a Mustang
Celis White endeared herself to both John and I. We marveled at her wildness.
Though unused to the domesticated life and the humans around her, she seemed
very calm, unlike her two stable mates who enjoy running around their
corrals, spooking at monsters in the bushes.
I continued contact with the little white mare during both meal
times. I knew she would have to be handled for any needed veterinary care.
According to the agreement with the BLM, she would have to get her booster
vaccinations and worming within a few weeks, so I tried to be with Celis as
much as possible in hope that we would be able to handle her.
During each feeding, I went into her corral and stood next to her while she
ate. Like the first contact with the mustang, I approached her gradually.
She was least tentative when I touched her mane. But still, especially in
the mornings, she would back away from me the first few times I reached out
for her long locks. Repeating my movements, Celis White would relent,
allowing me to slowly untangle her mane. Huge mats and twisted locks gave
the white horse a barbaric look. Morning and evening I worked on her mane,
eventually incorporating a small comb to help the process. After two days of
of combing, her mane was thoroughly untangled. It fell to below her point
of her shoulder.
While grooming her, Celis would keep a wary eye on me. Any
sudden movements would cause her to back off. When she moved away from me,
I would stop all movements until she came back to her feeder. Once her
mane was free from mats, I started with grooming. The gradual approach
seemed to work with the mare, so I used that method for the grooming. Since
Celis didn't mind too much when I touched her mane, I started brushing her
around the point of her shoulder. She remained still as I groomed her
shoulder and neck area, but as soon as I started on her foreleg, she backed
up. I kept the brush near the leg level, so when she went back to feed she
had to touch it. When she felt the brush, she backed
again, but I didn't move. So she tried finding a way around me to get to her
feeder. But, she couldn't find one. So she came by me again. This time she
allowed me to brush her foreleg.
Each day I tried to expand grooming to another part of her body. The further
back on her, the less comfortable she became. I was also very wary, because
the closer to her rear end, the greater the possibility of getting kicked.
I was consistent with my approach and she became
accustomed to my presence and touch. But she would only allow me to
approach her during her meals. The rest of the time she would try to avoid
any contact. If we had some hay in our hands, she would come up and snatch
it away, only allowing a brief pat on her nose.
John and I became some what concerned since it was now time to have the vet
out for her booster shots. Our other horses needed their fall vaccinations
and worming as well. Also, both of us wondered if the little white mustang
was pregnant. With our pressing concerns, I made an appointment with the vet
for the following week.
The vet came out one Tuesday evening. He was already used to my other two
geldings and I had fore warned him on the phone about the little mustang
mare. Prior to his arrival, the horses were very calm, waiting for their
evening feed. Once Dr. Palmer drove up the geldings looked at the truck with
mild interest. Celis stayed at the far end of her corral.
"What do you have here?" Dr. Palmer asked. "Well," I said, "I've adopted this
mustang mare." We went over to her corral for a better look. I don't know if
it was that Dr. Palmer was a stranger, or if she didn't like
the medicinal smell of the vet, because Celis started running around in her
corral in a panic. This behavior was the first I had experienced from the
white mare. It was obvious that if we were to do the vaccinations, we would
have to catch her first, and without her halter on, it would be a small
I gave the vet the BLM records of the mare, which indicates the dates and
type of her last vaccinations. "The BLM has covered pretty much
everything. It would be nice to get the strangles booster in her, but I
don't think we could get it in her without a big struggle. You then might
lose all the ground you gained with her," he said. I was in agreement.
John asked, "What are the chances of her being pregnant?" Dr. Palmer scratched his
head and we looked at the mustang who presently was galloping around in
"You know, it's hard to tell. If we could catch her we could do a blood
test. That would indicate if she had been impregnated in the last ninety
days. Or I could do a rectal exam and palpate her uterus, but I think we are
a long way off from either choice. However, she is rather round."
We gazed at Celis who finally came to a stop with her nostrils flared and
her flanks heaving. Dr. Palmer bent down and looked at her udder region.
"Her teats are descended more than with a maiden mare. There is the
possibility that she already has had a foal," he said. John and I looked at
each other with mild surprise.
"In the wild," Dr. Palmer explained, "horses are more tuned to light and the
seasons when it comes to breeding. Conception usually happens around the
longest day of the year." I thought about that for a minute. "Well, if she
did conceive around June 21, that means she would be due in May?" Dr. Palmer
nodded in agreement.
"May is a long way off," I said, "perhaps we will have her gentled before
then so we can examine her properly." We then went off and started the
The vet trip for Celis was not very successful. Dr. Palmer did leave me with
some wormer medicine to give her once we could handle her more closely. Both
John and I resolved that it was time to start to break her into her
Celis White approaching for a snack