Mustang " America’s first horse
One trend that I noticed while at the Denver Horse Expo was that there are a lot of people, both individuals and organizations working to save the wild horses on BLM lands. The people that have adopted wild horses love them. Every person that I talked to who had adopted a Mustang was so proud of their horses that they could not stop talking about them. There were working horses and saddle horses, such as Cisco that Inez Throm, of Parachute, Colorado, rode in the opening ceremony, or the hard charging horses in the Wild West show, and of course there were the horses of the Mile High Mustangs Association, whose headquarters are in Elizabeth, Colorado.
The Mile High Mustangs group has about 60 members, mostly along the Front Range, but they do have members up into Wyoming. As a group, the Mile High Mustangs exchange information, put on demonstrations, and, of course, work to preserve and protect the wild horse. They are not alone either; there are organizations across the country that are actively involved in preserving and protecting one of the historical treasures of the west. Most are in the western United States, but there are also groups in Florida, North Carolina, and New Hampshire.
The Mustang is a very hardy horse and a quick learner. Monty Roberts, the famous “Horse Whisperer,” explains why he thinks the wild horse is so intelligent, “horses raised outside the confines of domesticity are imprinted in nature so as to sharpen their wits and hone their cerebral processes to a degree seldom seen in the domesticated horse. It should be noted that survival of the fittest’ is responsible for weeding out a high percentage of the herd’s slow thinkers at an early age. The bright young survivors are then further educated by a sociological order within the family group that constitutes an equine university. The mustang’s experience of growing up in this harsh and sometimes unforgiving world ensures that the horse will either learn quickly or he will perish.”
Give this horse any job’ and he will do it well. Gail Starr-Cloutier of Elbert, Colorado, adopted her Sweetwater Sage to use as a saddle horse. The mare was untrained and Gail trained her in 45 days, using the Clinton Anderson Method ” Gail was riding her in the Denver Horse Expo arena.
Gina Mavor, from Elizabeth, Colorado, has adopted nine Mustangs during a 12 year period. She is a volunteer Compliance Officer with the BLM. Gina trains all of her own horses and brought nine year old, Yukon Jack to the Horse Expo. Most of Gina’s horses are used in the Flattops Mountains for outfitting. The Mustang makes an exceptional trail horse.
The most versatile Mustang at the Horse Expo was Vicky Yopp’s, Danny. Vicky says, “Danny was one of the first horses trained when Brian Hardin took over the Inmate Training Program in Canyon City. So he had all of the modern training methods ” the round pen, the Pat Parelli method, and gentle training.” Danny has been used for cattle drives and team penning. He is also a barrel racer and won the NBHA District three Senior 40 championship three years in a row.
The horses of the Mile High Mustangs members came from BLM herds in Colorado, Wyoming, Nevada, and California. All initially came through the Canyon City, Colorado BLM facility. You can adopt your horse through the BLM as an untrained animal. However, the most popular methods are to adopt them as halter trained or having been through the WHIP program. WHIP is not a training method, but rather stands for Wild Horse Inmate Program.
In 1986, Colorado Correctional Industries, in partnership with the Bureau of Land Management, initiated a program in Canon City, where Mustangs are trained and offered for adoption to qualified applicants. WHIP operates within a state-of-the-art facility and employs a staff of professional horse trainers who provide horsemanship, animal husbandry, and ferrier skills. Since it began, more than 5,000 mustangs have been trained through the WHIP.
The WHIP uses only resistance free training methods. The staff at the Horse Program has years of experience, and they attend training clinics from professional horse trainers. The goal is to produce confident, relaxed, and willing Mustangs.
Inmates that volunteer to work within WHIP are carefully selected and screened. Each inmate will participate in approximately 200 hours of classroom and practical instruction prior to being qualified to train horses.
There are reasonable fees involved in the Mustang adoption program. Untrained animals have a fixed fee of $125 or $250 for a mare/foal pair. Most of the halter trained horses are also $125. For saddle trained Mustangs, the total fee is $1025.
The Mustangs are selected for confirmation, size, and color. They are screened for disposition during the first two weeks of training. A “saddle trained horse” is a term used to describe a Mustang that has been hand selected, admitted to, and graduated from the Horse Program’s 90 day training program.
The training process begins with round pen work. The first step is to use the Mustang’s natural instincts and behavior to teach the horse to trust humans. Once this is accomplished, the horse is introduced to the halter, grooming, and eventually to the saddle.
Mustangs played a vital role in the settling of our American West. These noble creatures carried cowboys up the Chisholm Trail, mountain men through the Tetons, trappers into Oregon, Native Americans into buffalo hunts, and settlers from the east coast to the west.
The herds of wild horses that currently live on BLM land are protected by Congressional Act, however, that same Act also provides for management’ of the herds. Special interest groups have taken positions on both sides of this issue with the BLM in the middle, trying to make everyone happy.
Suffice it to say, the herds will be managed’ one way or the other. If herd size is to be controlled, the best way for the horses is through adoption. So if you are in the market for a new horse, consider adopting a Mustang. Being born and bred in the wild, Mustangs have to be intelligent, hardy, sure-footed, and healthy to survive the rigors of living on the open range. It is these traits, combined with their loyalty, that make them such a versatile horse.
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