The Gentling of a Mustang
Over the years, I have been asked if it has been worth it working with a
wild mustang and if I would ever do it again. I think back over the last
decade of work with the little mare who is now a member of our
family. Gentling and training
the little white horse has had its highs and lows, but overall my
experience with her has affected me in the most positive ways I could
When Celis White entered my husband's and my life, I had experience with
dressage, eventing, gymkhana and trail riding through the Tucson
mountains. I had broken a domestic horse for riding and trained him in
dressage and dabbled in combined driving. Each took its own measure of
time and patience.
However, I hadn't learned the mustang version of
patience. Celis, with the dexterity of a
yoga guru, taught me to take my time and thoroughly enjoy the process of
Celis had a great distrust of humans when she came to us and I had to
slowly convince her that we are worth trusting and knowing. Every step
she took toward trusting us came slowly and I had to learn to wait for
her and find her signals of acceptance.
As the gentling and training progressed, I had to re-evaluate all my
goals for Celis in depth. Were the steps
small enough for her to gain trust in the new training? Should I add a
few more? Do I need spend more time on step 1, step 2?
I learned to throw a time frame out the window. Celis knows no time
frame, and it would only make her tense and upset. Each time I focused on
the method instead of how long it would take, the little mare would
soften her eye and become willing to try.
Each day was different. I learned to accept and even enjoy the "Two steps
forward, one step back". Some days the little white horse would remember
the new things and then a few days later, it would be as if I had never
approached her with that particular piece of training. These moments
became a signal to go back to simpler steps and go over them
more thoroughly, until her eye softened and the acceptance and trust came
What is she up to now?
I still ride dressage, but found Celis' conformation works against her
with her canter. She is built downhill; her withers are lower than her
croup. As a result, she has difficultly gathering herself for the
canter, so instead of pushing her into a dressage arena, she has been a
trail riding horse for our family.
She has a difficult time with the large semi's along the main road, but
other that, she is a wonderful companion on the trail. She is very alert
to her surroundings.
I have also used her to help the neighbor kids learn how to groom a
horse. She is small, and quiet, and now not so wary of strangers, so she
makes a good teacher for.
My eldest son has recently taken an interest in riding and Celis White
has been a patient teacher for my little one.
No longer the jet black little foal, the graying filly did not inherit
her mother's downhill conformation and is about a hand taller than her
mom. Austin has started a career as a dressage horse. Though she does not
have the great big gaits of the warmblood against which she is
competeting, she is able to give an accurate test. The sensitivity of
the mustang has made it so she only needs the whisper of a aid to do
circles, leg yields and shoulder-ins.
So would I adopt another mustang? I would if my life were not so full. I
now know what time commitment it takes to gentle a wild horse and would
like to give a new horse as much time as much as I could. Perhaps later
on in my life when my children are older and once again, I can spend my
mornings reading the paper and sipping coffee next to the corral, while a
new adoptee munches on breakfast.
'Til then, I am very much contented with a friendly little white mustang.