The Gentling of a Mustang
Domesticated life for Celis White began to take on routine. Morning and
evening I brushed and groomed her while she ate, read the paper or just sat
by her corral looking at her. I tried to maintain as much human contact as
After the veterinary visit by Dr. Palmer, John and I felt it was imperative
to get the halter back on. We could see how important it was to have it on
for examinations as well as her continued training.
I liked the halter we bought at the adoption site because the rings on it has
very smooth corners and edges. So if we decided to leave it on her, it
would not chafe her. I began training her by incorporating the halter with
the grooming sessions at meal times. I brought it out with my
grooming supplies so as not to alarm her with the somewhat new object. I
started grooming the mare as I always did--first with her mane, then
brushing her coat around the shoulder, moving to the neck, then back toward
her middle and rear end. I did the same with the other side. The little
white mare by now had grown accustomed to the sessions and would only back
away if I made any sudden or unexpected movements.
At the end of the grooming this time, however, I lifted the halter out of
the grooming caddy. Celis whipped her head around and looked at it, but then
put her head back in the feeder. I approached her with the halter in my
hand. Celis looked again at the halter, I reach out toward her head with the
halter and Celis backed up. She stood about three feet away, perplexed at
the situation. She wanted her hay, and again she approached the feeder with
her nostrils flared. As she passed, she bumped into the halter. She backed
once and repeated her reaction. But instead of backing this time, she
went straight for her food.
I left the mustang with the halter and groom box. I was
pleasantly surprised that she did not get overly upset with the new piece of
equipment considering the last time she had the halter on. John suggested we
leave the halter within her sight so she could get used to it. There was a
bar about three feet above her feeder, far enough away so she would not get
entangled, but close enough so that she could see it.
We let the halter hang above the feeder for a couple of days. Celis White
seemed to pay no attention to it. John and I decided to
try to get Celis used to the halter again. I brought out a portion of her
dinner and placed it on the ground out side her corral. I unbuckled the
halter from the bar and went inside. John handed me a small handful of hay.
I kept the halter behind me while the white mare came up for the snack. She
took a bite and back up one step. She did the same thing with the next
handful. The third time I put the halter in the same hand as the hay. Celis
did not hesitate; she took the hay from my hand and stepped back.
We continued feeding her small portions of hay while I gradually
repositioned the halter so she had to bump into with each
successive bite. Finally, I held the halter directly in front of the treat
so she had to move it away to get the bite. I held my breath. This time the
mare pushed the halter to the side to get the bite before stepping back. I
relaxed and breathed again. Both John and I were amazed at her progress.
I then had Celis push the halter to get the hay from her other side. The
white mare was a little more touchy about this side, stepping back two
instead of one step. But after a few minutes work, she became used to her
off side as well. Celis ate a few more bites in this manner when John
said, "Why don`t we try to get her to take a bite of hay through the halter?
We might be able to get the halter on." I thought about it for a few
moments. I was always the conservative one, wanting to take everything very
"We can try to get her accustomed to putting her nose through the halter," I
told John, "But maybe we better quit with that. I will need your help
because I cannot both hold the halter open and tempt her with the hay." He
John leaned over the rail with the hay and I held the halter with
the nose part open. Celis saw the hay and stepped toward the halter. She
turned her head as if to assess the situation. She then stepped again and
took the hay and moved back. Neither of us moved a muscle. After
munching a bit, John had another handful ready and Celis walked right up,
stuck her nose in the halter for another bite. We both tried not to
show our exuberance with the progress so as not to scare the little white
Celis kept taking the mouthfuls of hay through the halter. I began lifting
the halter strap toward her poll. The first time Celis backed away without
getting any hay, the next time she allowed me lift it. Then with each bite I
would try to reach a little closer to her poll. "Okay John, she is being so
cooperative that I think we can try to get the halter done.
Fortunately the mare was pony size and I wouldn't have to pull on her poll
to buckle the strap. John got some more hay ready. I positioned the halter
again, this time holding it closer to the buckle and strap so it would be
easier to buckle them together. Celis put her nose in the halter. I got the
strap up over her poll and through the top part of the buckle, but it was
not locked into place. I did my best to not touch the mustang at all because
I did not want to panic her by an inadvertent poke. Celis took her hay and
backed up. John and I repeated the routine and again the mare backed up
before I could lock the strap into place.
"I think I have and idea" John said, "Get her halter ready." So I positioned
the halter for another go around. Celis put her nose in the halter, but
instead of allowing the mare to take the hay, John kept the handful just out
of her reach, distracting the mustang while I slipped the strap through the
buckle, locked it into place, and folded the end through the bottom part of
the buckle. I quickly moved away from the mare and through up my arms. I
felt like I had finished a calf roping contest.
"Quick, lets give her the rest of her hay!" I told John. He threw the flake
into the feeder and we left the mare for the night.
Celis White with her halter on again