What does it take to have a successful Mustang adoption experience?
This brief list will outline just a few of the the things that are vital to consider before adopting a mustang. Preparation and realistic expectations will help turn your mustang adoption into a "happily ever after."
1. Home Sweet Home
A good living area and proper fencing are necessary to the safety and well being of any horse, but mustangs have a disadvantage in the fact that they are relative newcomers to many human concepts and contraptions. Living in the wild a mustang will not have experienced boundaries made of metal or wood, it takes time for them to understand confinement, likely your new mustang will have lived in a fence for some amount of time before you bring it home, but still fencing must be clearly visible, and solidly constructed for your mustang to respect it as a boundary.
Examples of inadequate fencing:
Wire panel fencing (cow panels)
Mesh wire with holes larger than 2"(field fencing)
Fences of any construction lower than 5ft.
Ideally we would all be able to house our horses in solid pipe fences or fancy corral panels, but of course not everyone is blessed with perfect fences, if you have any questions about the suitability of the fencing around your intended mustang home please ask before you adopt!
Though wild horses live in the open they are not without shelter on the range, trees, rocks, and canyon walls provide refuge from the fiercest weather. When we introduce mustangs into our world we need to provide shelter for them. Bearing in mind their inborn need for flight when startled, mustangs are not accustomed to watching for dangers from inanimate objects in their flight path, so be very aware of any sharp edges on objects in or around their shelter. Things like corrugated tin and protruding nails are, of course, a danger around horses, but also be aware of things like edges on metal feeders and other protruding surfaces when contemplating a safe home for your mustang.
2. I Get By With A Little Help From
Have a support system in place. It is common knowledge to horse owners that you will be requiring the services of many horse related professionals, vets, shoer/trimmers, horse sitter, trainer, and the list goes on. You will need to consider carefully the people who will come in contact with your new mustang. Depending on the amount of training your mustang has had before your adoption and the amount of experience you yourself have had with inexperienced or wild horses, you will probably want to enlist the cooperation of a knowledgeable horse trainer even before you bring your mustang home! Your vet or farrier is NOT a trainer, but finding one who has experience with young or wild horses can literally be a lifesaver! Never assume that your veterinarian will be able, or want to handle your horse for you. If you are in doubt, have your trainer on hand for vet or farrier visits until your horse is confident in these situations.
A mustang will likely have had much training already by the time they are ready for adoption, spending time with the trainer who worked at gentling a mustang can help you decide whether or not a particular mustang will be compatible with you and your future goals. Even after adoption it is a very good idea to learn as much as you can about the training methods that were used with your horse. Taking a few lessons with the trainer who knows your horse best can help you avoid miscommunication and frustration for both you and your new mustang.
Even very experienced horsemen have limits to their knowledge, so have a plan ready in case you find training or handling your new mustang more challenging than you expected. There is no shame in looking for help, and what you learn will make you a better horseman in the future!
3. What's For Dinner?
It surprises many people to discover that mustangs often have to learn to eat grain, apples, carrots, and other treats. A mustang making the change to domestic life will have to become accustomed to the new feeds you offer. In the beginning keeping your mustang's diet as close to what he ate in the wild will help avoid digestive upsets. Straight grass hay is the ideal mustang feed, other delicacies like grains or even alfalfa hay need to be introduced to a mustang's diet slowly in small amounts of a period of time. If your horse has been with a trainer or foster home be sure to ask what your horse's diet has been prior to taking it home.
Communication, Dominance, and Trust
The horse, in nature, exhibits behaviour characteristics that distinguish it from all other animals. Among these characteristics is the building of a hierarchical social structure yet, within it the forming of individual friendships. The key to both, to the necessary dominance and ...the understanding trust, is horse-based communication- body language. - Klaus Ferdinand Hempfling
Horses are not afraid of predators. They are afraid of predatory behavior.
Years ago Ringling Bro.s and Barnum & Bailey circus featured a liberty act in which a tiger and a horse worked together, the tiger actually riding on the horse's back. How is such a thing possible? Isn't the horse instinctively afraid of such a predatory beast as a tiger? No! Horses are afraid of predatory behaviour or anything they interpret as predatory behavior. We all have seen videos of zebra grazing close to lions in repose. Not until the lions arise and assume a predatory posture do the zebra react.
- Dr. R.M. Miller
Excerpt from "Natural Horsemanship Explained"
A horse is a thing of beauty...none will tire of looking at him as long as he displays himself in his splendor. For what a horse does under compulsion... is done without understanding; and there is no beauty in it either, any more than if one should whip or spur a dancer.
Approach the horse the horse with an attitude of total acceptance, where any action or response from the horse will be met with understanding. Think of working through any problem or learning situation in an atmosphere of togetherness between horse and human. Help the horse to get into a position that will work out better for it and to avoid positions that aren't so good.
- Paraphrased from the book "True Unity"
a compilation of Tom Dorrance's teaching.