Friday, September 24, 2010

Beautiful Becomes An Everyone Horse

An interesting thing happened last weekend. My husband wanted to move Beautiful from the turnout back to her stall while I was in the house occupied with company and, apparently, when he went to halter her, she'd have NONE of it. She pulled back, broke free,(before the halter was secured), and ran away. (This was the first time anyone besides myself had ever attempted to catch and halter her--and I didn't even know he was doing it).

This incident pointed out a flaw in my training--which is....she's only been trained for ME. Just little 'ol me. Me, me, me. Oh, and the farrier is allowed to trim her and guests to pet her. That's okay, right?

Did I hear you think, quite loudly, the word WRONG?

I guess, maybe, possibly, you're right, and I knew it then. Something had to maybe, possibly change. Of course, maybe, possibly she'd resist that change. (My secret hope). But my husband made his intentions clear--From now on, I WILL take over the catching and walking back and forth of Beautiful Girl.

At first, it was quite fun to watch. She'd look at me, look at him, look at, um, is this OKAY? I offered suggestions--he did it his way--I offered more suggestions--he told me to stop offering suggestions. And then, the big day...the day I backed off...the day I removed me, me, me and my suggestions entirely out of the picture and put myself in the barn where I couldn't see or hear what was happening. The day I allowed another human being to take over with my Mustang.

I was nervous. In my mind, there was that kicking incident when she was a yearling and my friend surprised her in her stall (just weeks after we'd adopted her)....then there was the time she pulled back and fell into the wheelbarrow....then, there was the time my friend's horse (not Beautiful) broke free of the lead rope and ran like a banshee all over my property fleeing the evil lead rope that trailed behind her. The fence was broken down--my entire herd was ready to stampede. you can see, my mind contains a veritable smorgasbord of horse catastrophes.

And, since my favorite--ALL TIME favorite--with no exception--saying is---especially when it comes to horses....


I was Miss Nervous Nellie in the barn....biting my fingernails....pacing. It seemed like it took them forever to make the trek over, and it was so quiet. Doubts began to rise--should I have released control? Should I have taken a risk with Beautiful? With my husband?

Finally, they rounded the corner to the breezeway. Beautiful's eyes looked happy (and relieved) to see me as she walked sweetly at my husband's shoulder. She looked, well, BEAUTIFUL--this gorgeous filly, alert, respectful, elegant. So, that's what it looks like to see it from this perspective, I thought. Wow.

Into the stall they went--door wide-open as he unhaltered her. I closed it up gently behind, honey, she might run out if you unhalter her with the door wide open...I just can't stop myself--this is the barn, after all--my territory--and I'm the keeper of the herd, right? He replied, I would have stopped her. Right or wrong,(maybe he would have stopped her) they made it back safely and I think this marks the beginning of a new era for us--Beautiful is now, officially, an everyone horse.

Maybe, in the back of my mind, I wanted her to always remain a one person Mustang. The sweet little BLM filly who was introduced to humans by me and trusted, forever, only me. Like The Lone Ranger and Silver, I whistle, she comes running--a bandit tries to steal her, she bucks him off.

But, alas, I know (way, way, way back in the very back of my mind) what's really best for her, and always have. As much as I'd like to keep her all for myself and savor that special (and exclusive relationship)--for her own safety, she has to enter the wider human/horse world. Who knows what emergency could require a stranger to get in there and halter and lead her away.

No, it is a GOOD thing and part of her journey. (Though I'm just a little sad).

Beautiful is becoming an everyone horse.


  1. That must be hard - but, you're right, it's important that she be able to deal with other people.

  2. I have found, at least with my mustang, that each person must earn a place in his herd before being trusted. He will rarely allow a stranger to approach him. Beautiful is probably on her way to becoming a "some-folks horse". You will likely stay #1.

  3. It sounds a little like letting go of a child, letting them venture out into a bigger world than just the one that revolves around you. But you'll always be her fave, the one who knew her when!

  4. That's interesting about Mustangs...I've had two and they appear to both be the same in that regard--they each required every new handler to prove themselves immediately--from haltering on up. So, you're right, "some-folks horse" is probably a better description.

  5. There's a step further you need to go. I knew I had to let go with my Mustang (that 'just-in-case scenario)so my grandkids got good at catching, haltering, & riding her, and yes, they had to prove themselves worthy. I thought I was doing everything right...wrong! Last week, I loaned Jesse Mustang to a neighbor wrangler who needed an extra horse. This is work she is very good at, as I often work as extra wrangler, so she knows ALL the positions of proper Wrangler Horse. That afternoon I saw said wrangler walking my horse back down the trail, in tears. Apparently, Jesse did not deem her part of 'her herd' and didn't feel the need to obey; kicking and biting at the other horses, crow-hopping, abrupt backing into things, anything she could think of to say, "I don't belong here!" As I tried to think through the situation, I realized that although Jesse is 9 yrs old, she had never, ever been out without either someone she knew, or a horse she knew. She had been thrown into a totally strange situation and the only way she could deal with it was by trying to get rid of her rider and get away. She has only been out without ME four times in her life, but Bill had been there, so she was OK. So now, I will be working on the next soon as I figure out how. Any suggestions would be great.

  6. Juanita--Interesting story--I've read it a couple of times to try to get a feel for what Jesse was doing and why. There are a few thoughts that came to my mind. 1.) How experienced was the wrangler?, 2.) Was Jesse being challenged by the horses in the "new" herd? 3.) Did she have any pre-introduction to the new herd? 4.) Did they use their own saddle? 5.) Was it a good fit?

    I mean, really, when I think about it, there are so many things that could happen with a new person taking a horse off with a new herd---I'm not altogether sure any training by you could prepare her for that. It would seem, to my mind, that the training (introduction) would have to occur with the new wrangler as she brings her into new situations--maybe on the ground first--building trust--then in the saddle (out by themselves)--then with the new herd.

    It sounds, to me, like you've done a lot already if the grandkids can ride her--that seems to be the icing on the cake of horse training--the ultimate litmus test of a trustworthy horse. Jesse sounds like an awesome Mustang--I can only hope Beautiful becomes so well-trained.

    Anyone else have some thoughts?

  7. Linda, these are the same scenarios going through my mind. This wrangler is not good with strong-minded horses; she is not the one that had been intended to be on Jesse (it was just the luck of the draw that day), so that hasn't helped the 'training' issue. I'm sure Jesse was doing the challenging (she is a dominant), telling the others where they belonged, etc. and the wrangler didn't understand. (Jesse can keep a line of 10 in order all by herself with just flicks of her ear!) The wrangler tried to 'correct' and got into a wrestling match with her - which started the obsessive backing and crow-hopping. Bill will tell you Jesse can backup faster than a freight locomotive and scare the bejabbers out of you. Jesse is not known for kicking other horses when she is 'working', so I suspect she felt defensive for some reason (further investigation needed, here).

    The best thing the wrangler did was get off - but, you need to get Jesse quiet and get back on. This part didn't happen.

    Nobody gets to ride Jesse in a saddle other than the one that I had made for her, or bareback (like my grandkids ride), so no saddlefit issues.

    Yep, lots of trust issues arose and I have a plan but nobody to help carry out the plan. Fall has arrived and the wranglers I need have all scattered to the winds. I am planning on just what you said; have a stranger ride her bits at a time without one of us, - but ones that understand 'strong' horses - then add the other situations. She's a really smart girl and will figure it out quickly; I don't want to do any damage to that Mustang mentality, though. She is my diamond-in-the-rough and I can only hope you can enjoy Beautiful just as much.

  8. Hi Juanita. Sounds like you've got it figured out--maybe next year when they all get back you can carry it out.

    Horses never cease to amaze me with their unpredictability. I just finished a ride I do all the time with Cowby, but today it was windy--a new horse--some ill-timed hikers--and voila--he was all arched neck and jigging until we got back up on the ridge. I guess that's what I love about them--they're living, breathing beings with minds of their own. And when he gets like that, it just makes me so happy that 99 percent of the time, he's not like that! ha ha. And, hey, it wakes me up and keeps me from getting complacent.

    I think it's admirable you're training Jesse like this--making a great horse even better. And I'll be thrilled if Beautiful can be a horse like that, too--time will tell.

  9. Hi Linda, I have this issue with Willow. Other then the first 30 days no one else has been on her back. I am sure she will be fine but have never even tried. Then the other day I took Kylie to Farragut and could not get Willow to load in the trailer, she has been in this trailer a ton and it was like she forgot how to jump in. It was very frustrating, Dwane had to drive up and help me get her loaded as it was getting dark. I will be happy when I can get a good trailer has the two horse with no divider is difficult to load two horses in.

  10. Hi Tina. That's odd that she wouldn't go in the trailer all of a sudden--wonder what she was thinking. I have a 3-horse slant (no ramp) and I've found that many difficult to load horses will jump right in. (I don't have the windows either--it's open at eye-level) I've had mine for about 7 or 8 years and it wasn't the top of the line by any means--but I've never wanted another. I'm real happy with it.

    I wasn't here this morning and, I guess, Mike went out to move Beautiful into the bigger pasture with the other horses and got to the gate and she wouldn't go in. He had to tie her to the trailer--go get some hay--and lure her in. I think it's because Cowgirl tried real hard to beat her up yesterday and she was just smart today and didn't want to go back in with her. I went out and saw her when I got home and separated her out by herself until I figure out what I'm going to do. I think some horses just don't mix--these two might be the ones that don't. Beautiful gets along great with the other mare and the geldings. Hmmmmm.....what to do. Will she be a better horse if I let her work it out--or is it wiser to keep some horses apart??

  11. I made one of my guys "me only" horse though not a mustang.I really hadn't intended it that way.I've had him since he was two,he's eight. Now,I'm having my husband walk Spirit and work with him more.While part of me liked that Spirit only looked to me,I know it's not a good thing for him.

  12. Hi Leslie--your situation sounds a lot like mine and is a reminder that it's very easy to do without knowing it.


Please feel welcome to join our discussion by telling us about your own thoughts and experiences.