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MustangGirl 06-24-2013 03:32 PM

New Mustang - Training Myself
I just acquired a BLM Mustang and will be doing all of his training myself, in preparation to send him to a professional trainer for 30 days once he is solid on the ground and w/t in the saddle.

I figured I would come here for some questions and support in the matter!

I've ridden for 15 years and trained a few Quarter Horses, but I've never experienced a mustang. It's a little disheartening to walk into a round pen with a horse you need to work with and not be able to touch him.

Some background: He is 5 years old and captured and adopted at 3. Since then, he's been worked with a little and ridden 10 to 12 times without too much incident. My goal is to start over, get him to trust me, get the basic riding skills down and then send him to a professional trainer to get the "handle" I want on him. Hopefully he'll be a good ranch hand to push cows with and take to ropings to be the "chute horse," which seems to be the job I always end up with.

I want to start clicker training with him, and was wondering if anyone has any success or experience with this method? I've heard good and bad things. I don't want to carry a clicker every time I work with him, but once you teach them what you want, can you remove the clicker? I would be interested if thats the case. I've usually just used old school cowboy ways to break my horses - I've never been too into natural horsemanship, but I want to try something new. I want him to trust me, and I want to place an emphasis on being a leader and partner.

He's a little wary of me, but leads, loads, lets me pet him all over, lets me pick up his feet and will let me pet him after some chasing down. I've only had a few days, and haven't attempted to ride. I want to put that off until some trust is built.

What methods work or don't work for you guys, as far as ground training goes? Anyone want to shed some light on clicker training? Clinton Anderson (never paid much attention to him, but maybe I could incorporate a few of his methods)? Parelli (sorry if I spelled it wrong, not super familiar)?

I'm going to start a journal of sorts here, to keep up with his training. Everyone feel free to chime in with tips and do's/don'ts as I go along.

Day 1: Unloaded Vegas off the trailer and put him into the round pen. Took some time rubbing him all over while he was haltered. Let him go and let him settle in for the evening. Had some fights with my cutting horses over the round pen, it was neat to watch him rear and paw like he did in the wild. Beautiful horse. Mustangs definitely have something different about them.

Day 2: Walked into the round pen and approached Vegas. If he moved away, I just kept right there moving with him. Tried to stay behind the drive line and move very unassuming and quiet. Whenever he stopped to look at me, I just walked away. Finally, he let me pet him after about 15 minutes and I scratched and immediately left the round pen.
Repeated the process in the evening, and we cut our time from 15 minutes to about 7. Yippee! As always, as soon as I get to pet him and he stands for me, I leave.

Day 3: Repeated the above process. Getting quicker! Only 5 minutes or so this time, and he began following and walking up to my back as I walked away. Very encouraging. Also had a bad horse fly experience and I had to catch him and introduce fly spray. He loved it, not even a flinch, and I bet he was happy that those flies are gone! Also found out he doesn't like treats... my plans for clicker training may not go through!

Planning to keep repeating the petting process until I can walk up and touch him without him moving away, or when he comes up to me. After that, I will begin the haltering process. He's been haltered, and led, but again... starting from scratch with this big boy.

After the haltering/leading - which I anticipate will only take one day - I plan on slowly starting him on the lunge line with a flag.

rookie 06-24-2013 05:51 PM

Hello and welcome. It sounds like you have a project but not nearly the project that some might anticipate. Clicker works well for some but its an acquired thing. Its a lot less obvious than some training methods and can require some patience. Its a method that when done well creates and amazing horse and when done poorly creates a very spoiled one. The trick to it is rules. There are rules that you set about what the horse has to do to get a click (and food reward) and then rules about how they take that food reward. Food rewards are most common but a reward can be anything, its what the horse likes and motivates it. If your horse does not like one treat try another, if your horse loves to be scratched on the neck do that if you horse likes to be left alone do that as a reward.

The goal is to eventually remove the click or only spontaneously click. The best and most sticking explanation I have heard is from a nutty co-boarder who described it this way. She said its like with aliens, where you get a whole bunch that don't mean anything and then you get one that can't be refuted. Which is why people believe so strongly in aliens. Same thing with the rewards you get the behavior a whole bunch of times and then once and a while you reward it. That way the established behavior get stronger because this time they might get rewarded. I think its better to compare it to slot machines. You pull the lever a few times and get nothing but sometimes do or you might get a huge reward.

MustangGirl 06-25-2013 10:56 AM

Day 4 (I think): Repeated the pressure/release petting process in the morning and evening. By evening, I could pretty consistently walk up and rub both sides of his neck and he would meet me at the gate. I can also rub him all over his body without flinching or moving away.

Part 2 of my evening routine included haltering before feeding time - something I've done with all of my horses at a young age to get them to WANT the halter on. It took a while to halter - but after about 20 minutes he let me throw the rope over his neck and he proceeded to (very obviously) stuff his nose into the halter. So weird. Then he got his meal and a good rub and the halter taken off afterward.

Plans for today are to wash, rinse and repeat and hopefully when I can walk up and immediately halter, start line work.

I am finding he is much smarter than the average domestic horse and really seems to think about things. I also think its nice that he doesn't hate people, and will come when called (although he stands a foot away!)

hemms 06-25-2013 12:57 PM

Love this! Think he's telling you you're on the right track!
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smrobs 06-25-2013 05:19 PM

Welcome to the forum and congrats on the new horse! I love the 'stang breed (I have one that I use much like you plan to use yours, ranch work). It sounds like you're off to a great start and I would love to see some pix of your new guy.

MustangGirl 06-25-2013 05:44 PM


Originally Posted by smrobs (Post 2892098)
Welcome to the forum and congrats on the new horse! I love the 'stang breed (I have one that I use much like you plan to use yours, ranch work). It sounds like you're off to a great start and I would love to see some pix of your new guy.

Thanks! I've lurked the forum awhile but never felt like I needed to create an account, but I want to document V's training and I'm hoping this will keep me disciplined enough to do it.

Hound me if I miss more than two days!!!

Can't figure out how to post a picture, I'm usually always on my cell. One day if I ever actually sit down at the computer I will try to post one.

Anyway, Day 5 is down: Haltered and fed V within just a few minutes today, definitely improving. Had to pick up some hay for him since he's eaten down the roundpen and I don't feel comfortable letting him lose just yet.

After V ate, I let him hand graze in some tall grass in the pasture while the other 6 horses got to chill in their stalls and the round pen. He enjoyed it, and allowed me to sit on the ground near him without being scared of me. He wasn't nearly as jumpy as he has been previously.

After hand grazing for about 45 minutes, we went back into the roundpen and I desensitized him to the stick and string. No problems there, hoping to add the flag in the next few sessions. Rubbed the rope all around his legs and made sure he wasn't jumpy about that. Will be picking up feet with the rope tomorrow.

Also worked on some light line work - asking him to go left, yield, get a pet, then right. By the end, he was sticking his head out toward my stick for his obligatory pat. He also has a habit of shoving his nose into the halter for me still, which is different. He's a very "willing to please" type, but is still a bit wild.

I've heard some mustangs will always be a little wary of humans no matter what, and that might be the case with V.

Plans for day 6... May hand graze again, and then work on some more long line work. Will be picking up feet as well. Hopefully I can walk up, pet and catch him within one minute tomorrow, which is my goal.

Also, this is where I need some input - I'm looking for a nice, soft rope halter with a lightweight, thin, long line for lunging and ground work. I used to have one for breaking colts and training my quarter horses but it's since been misplaced. It was a gift, no idea where it came from. I've looked at the Anderson/Parelli ones and their lines are too thick and heavy for my liking. I really like paracord or soft rope... Thin, lightweight and flexible. Helps teach the horse to react to cues and body movement, not weight of the lead.
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franknbeans 06-25-2013 06:19 PM

You might want to start following some of the mustang threads on FB. There are quite a few right now, with folks training for both the Extreme Mustang Makeover, one of which is in NJ in August, and the Mustang Million, that will be in TX in September. Mustang Million is a page all its own, and I believe it is an open group.

MustangGirl 06-25-2013 06:32 PM


Originally Posted by franknbeans (Post 2892698)
You might want to start following some of the mustang threads on FB. There are quite a few right now, with folks training for both the Extreme Mustang Makeover, one of which is in NJ in August, and the Mustang Million, that will be in TX in September. Mustang Million is a page all its own, and I believe it is an open group.

I'm familiar with all those guys... Awesome people. I know a few of the EMM trainers for 2011 and 2012 personally. It's an awesome organization. I'm hoping to attend the mustang million in September if I have the time between training and riding. Watching the mustang million really persuaded me to get this big guy, but I didn't have time to start an untouched one so I found V. He was repossessed by the BLM because his prior owners couldn't afford to keep him and started letting his care go downhill, but he's still a super cool guy.

I just wanted the experience of training my own mustang, and needed another riding horse. Heard so much good about them from buddies that I said Heck, why not.

Documenting the process will make it so much sweeter in the end when I see where I began (if I come through and keep this up.)
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Muppetgirl 06-25-2013 06:55 PM

Too bad there's no pictures........we like pictures around here:wink:

franknbeans 06-25-2013 07:02 PM

They are pretty much mandatory, I thought!

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