Breaking a Wild Mustang

“My” Mustang

I am a city girl, so imagine my surprise when it was decided that since I was new and still learning I was charged with breaking a wild mustang because he was new and still learning.  He had just been captured and nobody else wanted anything to do with him.  I learned two new terms then:  “skitzy” and blue roan, both pertaining to the mustang I was tasked with breaking.  His name was Bluewater, and you guessed it, he was “skitzy”; (afraid of everything and everyone), and he was a blue roan:  a mixture of white and black blended together to look gray to me.

Bluewater
12019 / Pixabay

For those of us who are wondering, roan is a color that is a mixture of white blended equally with another color, like black; making a blue roan, sorrel, or bay, making a strawberry or red roan, etc.  Just think about a salt and pepper grey mixture in a person.

Building Trust While Breaking A Mustang

Needless to say, trust was not in Bluewater’s vocabulary, and I really didn’t trust this 1,600 lb creature that had just been snatched out of the wilderness, but we had to come to grips with each other.

Bluewater stood about 14 or 15 hands high, was thick and sturdy with a white blaze on his face.  He had white running through his mane and tail, with two white stockings.  Building trust takes a great deal of patience and consistency.  So, I sang to him.  Every evening I would go to the picket line or the tack trailer where he was tied and sing to him when I fed him.  Every morning at feeding time, I would do the same;  lullabies, songs, sometimes just notes or tunes, sometimes I would just talk, Bluewater was privy to many confidences I couldn’t share with anyone else.

It didn’t really matter so long as I was there; I like to think he liked my voice.  It worked both ways, Blue helped me work through my grief when my mom passed.  I helped him work through the loss of his herd and he began to look for me.

Now, your circumstances may be slightly different.   You probably have a barn and a corral or some structure in which to work.  The premise is basically the same, though, first, gain his trust.  Let him know you will be there with him; after all, you are now his herd.

bones64 / Pixabay

Sometimes you need a sounding board, someone to talk to, to cry on;  someone who won’t judge you or tell you that you should……  Your mustang needs the same, someone to talk to or be with; you removed him from his environment, his family, so you get to replace them; you, in essence, become his herd.

So start at his stall, talk with him.  Take a treat to give him when he lets you touch him.  Touch and talk or sing, treat;  groom, talk and treat. Soon you can rub all over him with no problem, you can groom him the same way once you get him used to the brushes and curry comb.  You are going to introduce him to the grooming tools just like you introduced him to the halter.  Don’t think this will be a piece of cake.

There will be setbacks.  There will be times you wish you could send him back to the wild, especially when it’s time to hoof pick him.  Mustangs are very touchy about their feet:  they’re his escape and if you’re holding one, that is going to hinder him.

Bluewater was a master at passive-aggressive behavior; I would pick up his back hoof and instead of snatching it back or kicking out, he would just lean on me by simply shifting his weight.  I could almost hear his laughter and hear him thinking,  “Okay, what are you going to do now?”  I eventually learned to push back, to make him settle on his other feet.  But, it took a few times for us to realize that we were not going to hurt each other. That it was okay for me to pick up his feet. I wasn’t trying to hurt him.  It was also ok for him to lean, that he was not trying to crush me. Once we trusted each other, he let me hoof pick him, to check for injury, and treat any injury he had.  Just remember, patience and persistence is the key.

Shall We Go For A Walk

PixelwunderByRebecca / Pixabay

Once he lets you touch and rub him, the hard part begins.  You should have a halter and a lead rope.  Pet him like you usually do, but rub the halter and rope on him, too, let him smell it.  Talk to him all the while you are petting. Tell him what the halter is and what you’re going to do with it.

Ease the halter around his face and over his ears.  Back off if he gets testy.  It’s okay, just keep talking or singing.  When he settles back down, try again.  Be persistent, be patient, remember, this is all new to him.  You know, I keep saying “him”; an apology to all the mustang mares and fillies, I’m not ignoring you. it’s just that my mustang was a guy so I tend to think him.  But, this method works with girls too.

Yeayy, you’ve got his halter on with a lead rope;  now, that deserves a treat.  Some people give extra hay or grain, but I gave Bluewater half an apple; he loved apples. You should give him whatever treats he likes. Now, let’s go for a walk.  It may take a while for him to get used to being led, but he can do it.

Wear a pair of sturdy gloves and be prepared to be pulled and bullied.  Put steady pressure on the lead rope, don’t jerk on it.  He’s going to test you by pulling away or tossing his head, just continue to apply a steady pressure on the rope as you lead him around and keep talking or singing.  Be consistent! Do this a few times a day.  I usually did this at feeding time, leading him to his food, tying him off at the feed bucket, or leading him to his stall and letting him eat.

And Now The Fun Begins!

Next, we are going to introduce our horse to a lunge line and saddle.  Now it’s time for our mustang to learn to follow directions, left, right, stop, go.   With a lunge line, we can let him have a tiny amount of freedom.  He can move to the end of the lunge line, let him go back and forth until he gets used to the feeling and the restriction.  Using the lunge whip, teach him to stop, go, and change directions when you want.  The lunge whip does NOT ever hit the animal. It’s the sound that makes him stop and go. Again, not a piece of cake, but patience and persistence will take him to the next step which is the saddle and rider.

To get him accustomed to the saddle and your weight, rub him with the saddle blanket, lean on him and across his back. so he can feel your weight.  As he becomes more familiar with your weight and closeness, you can lay the saddle blanket on him.  He will usually tolerate the blanket.  It’s all that other stuff associated with a saddle that he probably won’t like.  Such as the girth, stirrups, and cinch.  (All the stuff that bang and tightens!)

Ease the saddle on him while you are still leaning on his back, if he lets it stay on, tighten the cinch.  Let him get used to the saddle by putting him on the lunge line for a few turns with the saddle on.

A Ride Anyone?

Breaking a mustang turned out to be more fun than I thought.  It also was harder than I thought and more time-consuming.  When I finally rode him, it turned out he had an excellent gait; smooth, even, comfortable.  He didn’t have a tantrum and start bucking, he knew I was fragile and he didn’t want to break me.  We went on to have a great relationship and a fun time.  When he untied the knots on the picket line and ran around all over the place with the other horses and mules, they woke me up to come sing to him to get him back on the picket line.  This took a while plus a couple of apples, but we made it back safely.

That showed me that the time and effort I spent breaking Bluewater was well spent.  Now, we have a mustang that is a great ride! Showing a great disposition and willing to let others ride him.  We did it with no broken bones, nor did we break Bluewater’s spirit.  He trusts us to care for him and we trust him not to throw us for no reason.

15 thoughts on “Breaking a Wild Mustang”

  1. Hi,

    Thanks for this article about a wild mustang. I really enjoyed this article. I had no prior knowledge about mustang behaviour before, but after reading your article I have learned a lot. Actually, I saw few time mustang when I visit my uncle in America who has a farmhouse. I saw him how had for him to look after his favourite mustang. But I have come to know if we want we make mustang to follow our direction, and that’s great. I am gonna definitely share this with my uncle.

    1. Hi Nazmun,

      Thank you for your comments.  I hope your uncle likes my method, just let him know it’s slow going at first, but well worth the effort.  I hope, too that you get the chance to try it on a mustang or a ranch horse yourself.

      Pat

  2. This is a very touching article. Thank you for sharing your experience with the breaking of a wild mustang. I like the way you approached it and especially the fact that you tried to build trust while breaking it. The sings and the melodies surely would work positively. 

    The whip is certainly not a good choice. You worked with patience and perseverance, which was in your honor and the animal was not able to resist, as you worked step by step. Congratulations. Keep the good work.

    1. Thank you for your comments.  It was easier to sing than to try to ride a bucking horse. By singing to him, I gained his trust rather than breaking his spirit.  I enjoyed working with him as he really was a sweetheart.  

      Pat

  3. Such an intreresting piece to read. Like they say, slow and steady wins the game at last and that is what you finally achieved by breaking the horse. It could really be annoying and dangerous to get entangled with such task, you did make it simple I must. Thanks so much for letting us read this your experience.

    1. Hi Roland,

      Yes, it took time and patience; and it was simple, but not easy, trust me, there were times I wished I could send him back to the wilderness, dangerous yes, especially when I first tried to hoof pick his feet, but we worked our way through; I learned to move quickly, and he soon learned that I wasn’t trying to hurt him so he stopped trying to lean on me or kick me.   

      Thank you for your comments.  I’m glad you enjoyed the read.

  4. It takes extra care and time to tame a wild animal from the wilderness. It is fun anyway. When people are exposed to a certain routine for some time like a month or more, they get used to it. So, am not surprised seeing this animal adapting to be one of the loving pet we can ever imagine. Thanks for putting us through on how to cajole and control mustang to trust it’s rearer and give the rearer a better service.

    1. Hi Stella, 

      Yes, it does take time and patience; and it was fun after I got over being afraid of him.  But he did get used to me and my songs and proved to be a wonderful ride. 

      Thank you for your comments.

  5. Hi, I am very happy to see your experience with Mustangs. I also love wild mustang but sometimes I feel afraid how I manage it. Your article gives me confident & motivation to cope up with wild Mustangs. We all know that Mustangs usually have an even temperament. They are very intelligent and willing to learn. These horses can be used for a variety of disciplines, from pleasure riding to endurance.

    1. Hello Patricia,

      You are so right, they are highly intelligent and willing to learn, that’s why it was essential to gain Bluewater’s trust and to be patient.  

      They make excellent riding animals and are great for trail riding; calm and even gaited.  

      Thank you for your comments.

      Pat

  6. Hi, a mustang is a completely strange animal to me but when I was going through your article I understood many facts on taming wild horses. You have written those methods as a story and it us so easy to keep remember every fact .Not only in this article, in other articles of yours,you have written on animals and different facts. And also in your article you showed how to show the kindness to an animal. After reading your blog I really wonder how talented you are.I wish you to be in success in your every fields and write many more blogs on these topics which are very valuable. Thank you.

    Shiromi from Sri Lanka

    1. Hello Shiromi,

      Thank you for your kind comments.  I am not familiar with the animals in Sri Lanka, either, but I am glad I was able to introduce you to mustangs as I was introduced to them. I had read a lot about them when I was younger, but believe me when I say working with them was way different from reading about them or seeing them in the movies.  I hope my introduction helped you get to know them and if you have any questions that I can answer, please do not hesitate to ask.

      Pat

  7. Wow! Glad to see a post on this. I have quite a good experience with mustang. Breaking a mustang softly is no easy task. It takes much time, dedication, compassion, and patience and most of all. It is very important to understand the concept of fear—if you aggravate or scare them, they will not respond well. Also, be  prepared to be bucked, kicked and even bitten at first. Wild Mustang have an innate fight or flight response. One should use compassion and connection to bridge the gap of master and beast, until the mustang learns to respond positively to your presence.

    Regards!

    1. Hello Jordan,

      Yes, you are so right.  It took a while before he responded at all.  I would sit a distance away when I first started singing and talking to him.  I think, no, I know, we were afraid of each other.  Fortunately, I was in a position to spend the time with him.  I was surprised the first time he actually let me touch him.  But, what a thrill.  I like to think we got to be friends.  I know he liked to play with me by leaning into me; making me think he was going to smash or fall on me, but then he would snicker and stand straight, so I knew he was playing.  He also liked to untie himself,  the mules and other horses on the picket line; but he would eventually come when I called him, especially if I had an apple.  

      The trust came slowly, but it did come.  

      Thank you for your comments.

      Pat

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *