I’m a horse girl. I’ve always been. The first story about me escaping to the neighbors draft horses, is from before my first memory. I learned to read when I was 5 years old, and read all the horse books available in the library of my town, and the two closest cities (both fictional, and non-fictional books.) As I grew older I started to hang out at the closest riding school, as often as mom would allow me to. On school holidays I volunteered taking care of horses in another stable, getting up at 4am to walk 3,5 km to get there, for the pleasure of feeding someone else’s horses in the morning (without being paid of course.) I saved ten years to be able to purchase my first horse. I’ve attended many clinics with famous, and non-famous trainers. I’ve observed horses in pastures, and in the wild for thousands of hours. I borrowed pieces of knowledge from different centuries, countries, and horses, like pieces of a puzzle, putting them together in my head. One of my girlhood dreams was to gain the trust of a wild horse. It became more than a dream. Two and half years ago, I got the opportunity to put my theories to work.
The young gelding that became my friend, was approximately 3 years old at the time. There was never any force involved in our friendship. He wanted it as much as I did. The collage in this post is a mix of photos from our second week together. I had my camera take a photo every 30 seconds, during one of our short training sessions, using a fence post as a tripod. I’m a firm believer in many short sessions, to not ever let a young horse get bored. The most important goal being that every session is a positive experience. Slow is fast with horses, and a good foundation is everything, if you want a partner you can trust.
“You can never rely on a horse that is educated by fear! There will always be something that he fears more than you. But, when he trusts you, he will ask you what to do when he is afraid.”– Antoine de Pluvinel (1555-1620)
Getting to know a horse born in the wild is slightly different from getting to know a domestic horse. I’ve noticed that my touch was easy to accept, but new materials, and sounds that he wasn’t used to from the wild triggered his flight instinct in a fraction of a second. The jacket that I am wearing in the photos became a monster on a windy day, a few days after these photos. I thought that we had a developing friendship going on, and was completely taken by surprise when he charged at me with bare teeth one morning. He didn’t listen when I told him with my body language to stop, and back away (by making myself HUGE.) He literally ripped the jacket of me, lifting me off the ground, and shaking me. Using his teeth to bit by bit get the monster off me. Everything happened really fast, as it often happens with horses. I concentrated on breathing calmly, and not panic, when I realized that it wasn’t me he was attacking. I have no idea how long it took for him to get the monster of my back. It felt like forever. He would not stop until he finished his task. He took the biggest piece of my jacket (my new winter jacket was now in several small pieces,) and galloped to the other end of the enclosure, throwing it up on a fence post, while stomping the ground around the monster, kicking up a lot of dust, before slowly trotting over to me. That was it. He was as calm as could be, wanting some scratches for a job well done …
I spent six months becoming his friend, before showing him a saddle. I gave him about a month to get used to the saddle before the first ride. When I did start riding him he never bucked once. My personal circumstances changed, and I was forced to let him go. I will forever be grateful for his friendship, and what he taught me. When I have the right setup for another mustang, hopefully sooner than later, I will definitely adopt one. It is an experience you can’t imagine in your wildest dreams.
PS. I’m not a horse trainer, just a girl who loves horses very much. I do not recommend any training method. Anything, and everything that involves a big animal like a horse is potentially dangerous. Anything you choose to try is on your own risk.