By Phoebe Bechtolt
During the last 20 years, mustang adoptions and mustang makeovers have become well-known events across our country. America’s wild horses are a national treasure and symbol of beauty. These horses come in all sizes, body types and colors. They have proven to be champions in many types of horse discipline including dressage, endurance, barrel racing, and three-day eventing. If you have been thinking about adopting a mustang but you aren’t sure what horse to get, here are some tips on choosing the right mustang for you.
Trained or untrained? Your first decision is choosing an untrained horse, or a halter or saddle started a horse. First time adopters who feel less horse savvy should consider getting a halter or saddle trained horse. These horses are still “green” but have adapted to human touch and customs. They still require frequent interaction and continued training to become a truly gentled horse. A gentled mustang allows you to still get the satisfaction of creating a wonderful equine partner, but without the initial challenge of obtaining touch and trust.
Next, you will need to pick a location where you get your mustang? Several Bureau of Land Management (BLM) wild horse-holding facilities offer trained horses. Prisoners at the Canon City, Colorado Correctional Center and the Northern Nevada Correctional Center in Reno as well as the Mantle Ranch in Wyoming offer horses that have an excellent start in halter and under saddle.
Another good source for a gentled mustang is the Trainer Incentive Program (TIP). This program enlists trainers all over the country who agree to gentle BLM mustangs and then find adopters. This program is excellent for many reasons. The trainers must teach the horse to accomplish a required list of actions such as picking up feet and loading in a trailer. These trainers assess the horse and then place the horse with an adopter person who will be a good match for the horse’s abilities and temperament.
Untrained horses are available at BLM and Forest Service holding pens around the country. If this is an option you want to try, find out what facilities are closest to you and what selection of horses they have. You will then need to send in an application for approval. If you go to a facility that houses a big number of horses, define your criteria ahead of time. What age, gender, body type would be ideal? Be realistic in your choice. Once you get there, be flexible in your criteria. The friendly bay might be a better option that the stunning blue roan that took off the minute you approached.
Be realistic about the amount of time and energy you are willing to invest in training the horses. If you can only spend an hour every few days then consider a horse that is already halter trained. If you are a savvy horse person but a first-time adopter, a younger horse is a good choice. The bottom line: pick a horse that seems to notice you, a horse that seems interested in you as a human and one that is the right fit for your schedule and abilities.
When you go to a holding facility, observe as you approach which horses race away, and which horses stick around. My method has always been to watch behavior and pick a horse that is not flighty and may even turn to look at me. Unless you want a real challenge to avoid the flashy pinto standing as far away as possible, and the dappled gray you’ve always dreamed of who is kicking all the other horses.
When I bring an untrained mustang home I spend time with it immediately. That may mean just sitting on the sidelines talking to it, or talking on your phone while the horse gets used to you. I use the first few days as a chance to imprint the horse and let it bond with me through food, touch, and voice.
As you sit and observe your horse, take notice of its body condition. Are the hooves in good shape? Is the coat shiny? What is the horse’s body score? Hopefully, you found out what type of hay your horse was eating prior to your adoption. Continue with that type of hay and blend it in with your own hay. Be especially careful when transitioning a horse on grass hay to alfalfa. With situational and feed changes it is a good idea to offer a palatable digestive supplement such as Formula 707 Digestive Essentials. Mustangs who have been in holding can benefit from the probiotics found in digestive equine supplements.
Also, consider horse supplements for your horse based on the factors you have noted. Yes, mustangs do well on grass hay, clean water, and salt but they are Remove featured imageindividuals and can benefit from equine supplements just as domestic horses do. Keep in mind that if your horse was in holding for a long period of time, it only received hay (which could have been grass or alfalfa) and could use the addition of vitamins, minerals, and salts to its diet.
Recently my daughter entered a youth mustang training challenge with the US Forest Service. We brought Blossom home from the Bloomfield New Mexico holding pens in May. Blossom had been on the range during the severe drought of 2017-2018, starving for over a year. In the holding pens, she was given grass hay only.
Blossom had a body score of two and looked miserable. Equine supplements could definitely help her fill out and become sleek. Her coat was rough with underlying dandruff. Some areas looked hairless and terribly dry. Fortunately, Blossom’s hoof quality was excellent. My daughter touched her within two hours of bringing her home. Blossom loaded herself in and out of the trailer many times that first day. Like so many mustangs, she was a diamond in the rough. My daughter recently won first place with Blossom at the Youth Mustang Horse Challenge in Bloomfield New Mexico. Blossom was fattened up, sleek and full of energy due to excellent feed and Formula 707 Daily Essentials. She received many flattering comments and had the best body condition of any horse at the event.
Mustangs can be picky about eating anything but natural foods. Blossom would not eat processed grains so I fed her a small amount of alfalfa and oats mixed with Formula 707 Daily Essentials. Since this horse supplement has an alfalfa base she ate it! Palatability is a key factor in choosing equine supplements and Formula 707 products are well received!
While living on the range, mustangs often seek out salts and minerals over a territory of many miles. When Blossom got to our house she immediately went for the white salt block. Given her desire for white salt, I have added Formula 707 Restore electrolyte pellets to her feed. I give her this supplement once a week so that she gets the full array of salts she craves. Supplementing your horse’s diet with a complete and palatable electrolyte such as Formula 707 Restore is a way to ensure that your horse is getting the salts necessary for good health.
So how should you feed your newly adopted mustang? Feed it like a horse!
Thanks for reading! Happy trails from southwest Colorado.
Resources for mustang adoption:
- Trainer Incentive Program – TIP, The BLM Mustang Family, BLM Internet Adoption
Submitted 8/ 22 /19