Gone Wild

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The allure of the American Mustang

by Brent Rollins


A wild horse waiting in the chute. Photo credit Brent Rollins

There is something special about the American Mustang. I have been around horses all my life and have experienced many breeds including Arabians, Quarter Horses and even draft horses. My family has always had horses, so I guess you could say it’s in my blood. After I graduated high school I left for the Central Oregon high desert to work for the ZX Ranch gathering cattle and living the life of a vaquero. This was a big influence on my style of riding. While working there, I saw my first wild mustangs. It was a beautiful sight. At the time I didn’t know how to get one, but I knew I wanted one. Wild horses have a certain allure. In this article series I aim to address both the attraction many have for these hardy horses and, most importantly, how someone can successfully own and train one. There are many reasons a mustang can become the best horse you’ve ever had.

Because of natural selection, a horse that has lived in a wild environment has common sense and a strong sense of survival. Horses with defects generally don’t survive, so the mustang you get has been “approved by nature.” A mustang is not a particular breed of horse; they are a mixture of breeds that produce an animal with unique stamina and soundness. There is a mustang for every discipline and taste and since they have not been bred by humans for a particular look, they lack many health and soundness issues common in other breeds. While they are not a “pure” breed of horse, anyone can show and compete on a mustang. They are doing quite well in all disciplines.

A mustang’s herd sense makes training them both easy and hard to handle. It is easy because they very naturally look for a leader to show them the way. It can also be challenging because in the beginning it is critical you show them they cannot be the herd “boss.” To be herd leader, you must be firm and decisive in everything that you do. Mustangs are a “lead by example” horse because of the trust they give you. Since you are herd leader, never ask them to do something they can’t do, or something that might get them hurt. Mustangs are amazing and will give 100% of their effort to do what you want. Don’t abuse that.

A major advantage to a mustang is that they are truly a “clean slate” when they come to you. This means they lack spoiling, bad habits, or training of any kind. You will get what you put in, however, so be careful what you teach your mustang. If your mustang ends up with any bad habits or unwanted behavior there is no one to blame but yourself.

The affordability of a mustang is another thing that makes them attractive. However, while they are often hardier than domestic horses, they still require regular maintenance: vet checks, hoof trimmings and floating teeth are a must. Additionally, unless you can train your mustang yourself you will need to seek out someone to help you and invest in training. Adopting a mustang requires a lot of dedication.

I have been fortunate to be able to work with and train mustangs over the last several years and they have helped my career immensely. I met Craig Cameron at my 1st mustang makeover and asked him for a job as his apprentice. I spent 2 years with him and gained invaluable knowledge. After working with Craig Cameron, I continued to compete in mustang makeovers and my reputation and business began to grow. As I work with mustangs I love them more and more. My own horses are like family to me and I continue to be drawn to their unique allure and pride.


Published January 2014 Issue

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