The majority of wild horses and burros are adopted into
"do-it-yourself" homes. Over the years, the BLM Adopt-A-Horse program has had
many stellar successes of people who have gentled and trained their horse by
themselves, sometimes starting with no prior horse experience. I hope this will
always be an option. I'm one of those people, and the experience has been beyond
rewarding to me, and I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to learn
horsemanship "from the ground up."
However, gentling and training a wild horse isn't for
everybody, and some adoptions do fail, which is very bad for the horse and a
real "downer" experience for the adopter. Others are technically successful, in
that the adopter keeps the horse, but the horse never reaches its potential,
remaining but a pasture ornament.
Although the majority of adopters can successfully earn the horse's trust
to the extent that the animal is able to be handled, saddle training is
something else. This
video shows my Calico Mountains Mustang, Sparky, being ridden by trainer Jerry
Tindell, to help train a young 2-year-old Mustang. This is followed by my first
ride on little Piney, my Pine Nut HMA "Pony" Mustang, with help and direction
from trainer Jerry Tindell. A "Colt Starting Clinic" with a good trainer is
highly recommended for people training their Mustangs themselves.
Saddle training is not just a matter of getting on and hanging on - well, it
can be, but to do it right, it is a very complex and important matter - a time
when mistakes can have long-term consequences for both horse and rider.
Unless you are already a trainer, or have access to a trainer who can coach you
over a period of time - you really should consider getting your horse
Left: Kitty Lauman Right: Ray Ariss
The recent success of the
Mustang Heritage Foundation's
Extreme Mustang Makeover and the
Mustang Challenge program is an
object lesson in the value of professional training. In just 100 days, most of
these trainers had the horses soft, connected, responsive and able to perform
amazing things that one usually sees only after a few years, even with domestic
Wild horses are inexpensive, precisely because they lack
Add the right training and you have a very valuable horse that can
compete with the best domestics. Since the goal is - or should be - to end
up with a good, safe horse, there is a lot to be said for sending your horse out
to a good trainer.
Left: Weldon Hawley Right: Tom King
Where to find one? My "How
to Gentle A Wild Horse" page lists a number of good trainers. That's just a starting place. Chances are there is a good trainer
right in your own neighborhood who would be willing to help you. The trainer
does not have to be famous, just good! Natural horsemanship techniques work well
with wild horses. The Vaquero tradition of the American West and Southwest is a
Natural Horsemanship-based tradition. Many working cowboys know how to start a
semi-wild green horse.
There are also many successful past adopters who would be
happy to share what they know to help you get started. The links below are a
good place to start looking for one.
Here are some more resources to help you locate the right trainer or volunteer mentor:
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