The Gentling of a Mustang
Out of the corral!
Every time I went to visit Celis White in her corral, I brought the lead
rope and a treat with me in hopes that the grey mustang would associate food
with the lead. Some days Celis would let me approach her and clip on the
rope, other days I had to start the lead rope training all over again. Yet I
still had not asked her to walk with me. This wild horse certainly was
teaching me patience!
But as the days and weeks passed, I could see a change in Celis. She became
less apt to spook at my movements when I did my daily care routine around the
corrals. The look in her
eye softened and she would nicker to me when I came to her
corral; the white mare seemed to be trusting me more. Also her belly began
to grow, and was becoming quite round. But there was much training to do
before the vet could examine her.
Now that I could approach Celis with the lead rope, I began teaching her to
walk along with me. I found that her experience of dragging the lead rope
actually helped me with this process. When I first clipped the lead on her,
last chapter), she moved back quickly but stopped when she got to the
end of the rope. So, using my usual tact, I took a horsey snack with the
lead and went into her corral to teach her to walk along with me.
On the day that I decided to start her lead training,
Celis White looked up as I entered her corral, and turned her head
away like she usually did. Today's treat was hay, which crackles and
attracts the horse's attention. I rustled the hay, and she turned her head
back to me. I approached the mare slowly with the hay outstretched in my
hand. Celis took a bite and I clipped the lead on to the halter.
I had left a small supply of hay just outside the corral. I went to the
hay, keeping the lead slack and got another handful. I walked slowly back to
the mare. With the hay in my hand I crackled the stems, but instead of
letting Celis eat it right away, I kept it out of her reach. At the same
time, I applied pressure to the lead rope. The mustang, with her usual
appetite, stepped forward to get the hay.
I went to the hay again, got another handful and repeated the lesson, this
time though, I had Celis walk four steps before giving her the hay. Each
time I did this procedure, I would increase the number of steps before
giving her the hay. Soon we were walking all around her corral.
For several days I used the hay to help motivate the mustang mare to walk. I
was concerned though that this method might cause her to become pushy and
try to bully her way to the hay. So I began using a technique that I learned
years ago in 4H.
Once I got the lead onto the halter I positioned Celis so she was on my
right, I took a hold of the rope with my right hand, and in my left I held
the extra so that about 2 1/2 feet of it dangled from my hand.
I pulled the rope very gently with my right hand and at the same time I gently
swung the extra lead in my left hand around my back toward Celis' side.
This way I could face forward and still walk forward as she moved.
The end of the lead just grazed the mare on the side,
but it was enough to cause her to jump forward and try to run away from me.
I stopped in the middle of her corral, still holding the rope. Once she reached
the end she stopped with her nostrils flaring. I walked up to
her and patted her on the nose and allowed her to calm down.
After a few minutes, Celis seemed to relax. So I tried leading her again. I did
the same method with the rope, however, this time Celis just bolted forward
and stopped. I let her stand for a moment, and then again I gently swung
the tip end of the rope behind me
toward the little mustang. The rope did not touch her, but the sight of
it was enough to make the gray horse trot ahead. I was able to keep up with
her and we
walked around the corral. I stopped for a moment and then applied just a
little pressure on her halter which was sufficient to make Celis White walk
along side of me.
I tried halting again. Celis obediently stopped. When I asked her to walk
again, she just twisted her head slightly to one side, so I took the extra
end and tapped her again the same way as I had before. The white
mustang did not bolt this time. Instead, she danced her back end away
from me, trotted ahead, and we walked around her corral a bit more.
For several days I continued walking Celis White around her corral in this
manner. She began to become confident in walking; no longer did I have to
use the rope to get her moving, instead she would walk when I started
walking and stop when I stopped. I then decided it was time for her to see
some of the surroundings of her new home.
After doing another leading lesson in her corral, I led Celis to her gate
and opened it up. I truly did not know what to expect. Would she try to bolt
out of her corral? Would she try to run away from me once we were
beyond the gate?
Celis completely surprised me. She did not want to leave her corral! I had led
her to the open gate and she stopped. She did not want cross the threshold.
I pondered the situation for a moment. I did not want her to learn that if
she balked, she wouldn't have to do what was asked of her. So I used the ol'
4H method with the end of the rope. Celis did not move. I tapped her a little
harder, and she still would not walk through the gate. I clucked at her a
bit and used the rope again.
Still the little mare would not budge. I pulled on the halter at the same
time as tapping her with the end of the rope.
I tried again. Finally after what seemed
to be a century, Celis jumped over the threshold and out of her corral!
Once she was out, she stopped, but her nostrils were flaring and her eyes were
wide with surprise. She looked suspiciously at everything on the ground
around her feet. I petted her and talked soothingly to her, praising her
as much as
I could. I led her a little way away from her corral and she walked along
snorting at everything. But she did not try to run away from me.
I circled back and when we went back into her corral she jumped over the
threshold again. I praised the mare again while petting her. I was so
elated. I could not wait to tell John. I took the lead rope gave Celis a
treat and left the corral so the little mustang could reflect on her
Celis outside of her corral