Now that I have had some experience training other rescue horses, both for an organized rescue, and for people who have privately saved horses from bad situations, I realize that many rescue horses come with a lot of baggage. My own beloved Fargo has been one of the most challenging horses I have ever played with. Although I have absolutely no regrets about adopting Fargo, I know now, after starting several mustangs, that mustang I was looking at could have been the easier horse to train and develop into my perfect riding partner.
Adopting a mustang is like sailing uncharted waters. It is very hard to know what you are getting in terms of temperament, personality, or even health. Considering the very limited information you can gain by looking at a mustang offered for adoption in a government run holding facility, (CLICK HERE for more information about choosing a mustang from holding) you may wonder why you would choose a mustang over a rescue horse.
The biggest advantage of a mustang is that they are a blank canvas. The limited exposure they have had to people means that they have not formed any strong negative associations involving humans. The two biggest things a mustang needs to learn are how to accept human contact and how to yield to pressure. Once a mustang has an understanding of these basic concepts, the rest of their training is simply a matter of giving them time and exposure to all the requirements for living in a human run herd.
A rescue horse needs to learn these things as well, but the majority of the horses in rescue situations have already been victims of human ignorance or cruelty. Most horses are very forgiving and willing to put their past behind them quickly, but others can take much longer to overcome their previous bad experiences. Some horses will carry scars, physical and/or emotional, for the rest of their lives. It is much harder to reprogram bad training than it is to teach a horse with no training.
Mustangs also do not have any “breeding”. The bloodlines we cultivate to give horses more stamina, speed, charisma, and sensitivity can all work against us if our training and riding abilities are not equal to the horse’s competitive bloodlines. The mustang being bred by nature’s caprice tends to be calmer and more even tempered than the horses bred by people with ambitious goals. My Fargo has never been the recipient of abuse or neglect, but his challenging nature appears to be completely the result of some exceptionally flighty Arabian blood in his family tree.
Please don’t get me wrong, I would never discourage anyone from adopting a rescue horse! Some horses that end up in rescue shelters have had excellent training in their past. Sadly though, most of them have not been so lucky and the reason they are in a rescue is because they have had bad experiences at the hands of humans. If you are considering adopting a rescue horse take time to get to know the horse as an individual. Ask questions to find out as much as you can about the horse’s history so you can make an informed decision whether or not your abilities are what the horse needs to be properly rehabilitated. The last thing a rescue horse needs is to be placed into yet another home with a human who is not a good match for them.
Whatever horse you are thinking about choosing, give serious thought to whether you have the skills needed to continue the education of any horse that has limited training. If the horse you are thinking of adopting has had a history of mishandling or abuse, be advised that they will need much more time and patience from you than even a completely wild horse would.