The Gentling of a Mustang
The Lead Rope
The next day, we noticed Celis did not react to the halter in the same way
as she had when we first
got her. No longer did she paw at it with a hind foot or try to rub it off
against her leg or a rail. I was glad we didn't have to force the little
white mare into it.
Once we had the halter on Celis White, we could begin a new stage of her
gentling. I felt that the next step would be to get the lead rope on her and
then teach her to lead. The slow method of attracting the mustang with a tid
bit while keeping the new object in plain view seemed to work with the
grooming and the halter so I continued that route with the lead. I knew each
part of getting the rope on Celis had to be broken down into steps and I
wanted to accustom the mare to each step before introducing the next.
At meal time, I fed the other horses and brought out Celis's flake of hay. I
took the 8' lead rope and climbed into the corral. While offering a small
handful of hay in one hand, I kept the lead rope in the other in front of me
where Celis could see it. She looked briefly at the rope and then went for
the hay. After taking a bite, she stepped one foot back and munched.
I continued repeating this procedure with the lead rope
in front of me. Slowly I began
to lift the lead rope higher and higher with each bite. Without touching her
with my hands I placed the lead rope directly in front of the hand with hay
so she would have to bump into it. She looked longingly at the hay and
tentatively pushed the lead out of the way. But she turned her head away and
stepped back. I kept as still as I could. The mustang turned back to my
hands, moved one foot forward and then moved the lead rope aside
and ate the hay.
The little mare then began eating around the lead rope with more
confidence, however she would move one foot back after each bite. I switched
hands with the hay and the rope so Celis White would get used to
the other side. She was much less tentative on her off side with the lead.
I fed Celis in this manner for a little while longer before
leaving for the night.
The next evening, I continued the lead rope lesson where I had left off.
The white mare was much more confident with the lead this time,
so I started the "eat around the lead rope" procedure again. But, this time
I incorporated the snap which made a small "click" when I clasped it to
the ring of a halter. So, I began making the click with the snap in one hand
while she ate out of the other.
After the first "snap" Celis lifted her head
quickly, blew out of her nose and stepped back. I kept making the noise with
hay outstretched in my other hand. The mustang stepped forward and took another
bite of hay and then moved back, looking questioningly at the clasp. But like
the other times, she became used to this new piece of equipment.
The next step was to reach under her chin and clasp the snap onto the
halter. The little white
mare was very touchy about this area, so I started slow,
using the hay as a lure to bring her head over my hand. With the first few
bites she would step back after getting the hay. Gradually
Celis's confidence grew and I started with the clicking of the snap. Again
she moved away. Her hunger and love of food though brought her back to the
hay in my hand despite the scary sound.
Finally, Celis began to eat the hay, only moving her head up after each
bite was completed.
With her next pass, I hooked the lead rope to the halter. The mare
moved back quickly. I let the lead rope slide so I wouldn't
pull on her head. I held my breath and hoped she wouldn't try to run
away from me. She took about four steps backwards and stopped.
I crackled the hay in my hand.
To my amazement, she came back up to me and took the hay from my
hand! I was so excited.
This time, when she reached for the hay, Celis positioned her head above my
hand, so I
unclasped the lead. The mare heard the "click" and moved back a step. Seeing
that she was not attached to anything, she came forward for more food. When
she reached to eat, I snapped the lead on again. The mustang this time only
moved back two steps before returning to my hand.
When she did, I unhooked the lead.
I repeated the routine many times until snapping the lead no longer startled
the mare nor made her
move away from me. I was completely amazed with the progress of this feral
horse. Her kind nature was helping me with every aspect of her gentling and
I was excited to move on with her training.
It's a snap!