Mustang Madness (part 2)

Little did I know when we bought our property in TX, let our realtor talk us in to purchasing a black miniature horse stallion from some of his other clients, and watching a Netflix documentary he recommended that our equine activities would shoot off on a trajectory in the opposite end of the spectrum from anything I had ever envisioned for myself. The miniature horse he introduced us to became the first of five. That Netflix documentary was the catalyst to joining an equine community I was vaguely aware of, but had never considered joining. Darling Husband who had zero pony experience and very little green horse let alone wild horse experience would soon get a crash course in demonology and natural horsemanship all at once. If you are new to my blog, I recommend checking out Mustang Madness part 1 first.

Here’s a quick recap for anyone too busy or lazy to read that exemplary piece. Our realtor talked us into watching Unbranded on Netflix. We (or more Darling Husband) was inspired. We find a mustang with a tragic back story offered for sale on Facebook. This horse fits our farm goals by being both a rescue (I’m a sucker for hard luck cases, hence the farm name) and a mustang (Unbranded/realtor you’ve worked your magic). Upon meeting said mustang, I’m ready to pass. Per usual the horses I like the least, Darling Husband can’t imagine life without.

Richard aka Battle, our first mustang…

So after yours truly went flying through the air on a solo mission, crash landing, experiencing temporary blindness, and enjoying a delightful trip to the ER through the assistance of our first mustang. Darling Husband decides we need another started by us. Of course none of this was a linear process. The equine assisted dismount into the ER was pretty linear, though. First we realize we’re in over our head with tragic, abused first mustang (aka Richard, aka Battle because who TF names a horse Richard?). So we contact the Mustang Heritage Foundation, a convenient thirty minute drive from our house, and are directed to meet the Miracle Girl of mustangs. I’m a big fan of the TV show Heartland, so you’ll see throw back references sprinkled in my posts.

Battle is shipped off to spend some quality time with Amy Flemming 2.0, and she suggests Darling Husband participate in the Mustangs & Veteran’s Program offered by the Mustang Heritage Foundation. This program requires the adoption of a completely wild, just off the range mustang. Why not? We did so great with the first semi-trained mustang. You can read about Darling Husband’s Mustang & Veteran’s Program experience here. After the six week Mustang & Veteran Program ended, we ended up with a pretty decent little starter horse, new friends that are like family, a new organization to be a part of, new goals, and a greater interest in one the greatest symbols of the Old West, the American Mustang. These four paragraphs are summaries of at least three full length blog posts you should go check out, but that will give you a little insight on how we got here.

I swear I’m not trying to plug movies, documentaries, and TV shows, but if you doubt the power of film craft. We are a shining example of how inspiring a good show can be. During our misadventures with Battle before we met Amy Flemming 2.0, we watched another documentary on Amazon. We really need to stop watching documentaries. Obviously we take them too far. Wild Horse, Wild Ride is a documentary that chronicles eight Extreme Mustang Makeover competitors in their attempts to tame, train, and compete with a mustang a mere 120 days after it is caught in the wild. The thing about Wild Horse, Wild Ride is that these competitors are not professionals. Only one or two of them actually train horses in a professional capacity, the rest of them are elderly and/or have full time day jobs. It just so happens that the Extreme Mustang Makeover is an event put on by the Mustang Heritage Foundation and Amy Flemming 2.0 is a previous winner of the event, multiple time top 10 finisher.

Brent and Koda, his Mustang & Veteran’s horse.

So Unbranded and the Mustangs & Veteran’s Program convince Darling Husband that there is no greater equine than the American Mustang. I’m not saying I disagree. I’ve seen amazing, mind blowing things done with these horses. I’m just saying my rescue Appaloosas and rescue ponies are pretty dang special too. However, after watching Wild Horse, Wild Ride, working with Amy Fleming 2.0, and attending several Extreme Mustang Makeover (EMM) events, it was hard not to get swept up in the excitement. Darling Husband and I decided at some point in our lives we needed (as in need a hole in the head) to try an EMM.

The thing about EMM events that DH and I noticed after joining the mustang community is that quite a few horses originally destined for EMM events never make it. With anything involving horses there is a huge luck factor that separates the winners from the losers. You need skill to work with horses (especially wild ones), but you need an equal amount of luck. Some horses drop out due to injury, illness, or some mentally can’t operate on a 120 day training schedule regardless of how awesome you are as a trainer. So before committing to an EMM, DH and I decided we needed a test run. We would adopt a mustang from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and pretend it was headed to an imaginary EMM. If we managed to have a kinda sorta rideable horse in 120 days, we would consider the experiment a success and sign up for the competition.

This is where the trouble begins…Darling Husband, Offspring (oh yes, we have a toddler), and I loaded up, and headed to Paul’s Valley Oklahoma, a BLM holding facility, to adopt the tester mustang. The Gardner Hard Luck Horse Farm is not a huge property, and space is limited. The original plan was to adopt a single mustang, but before we even crossed the Texas/Oklahoma state line I could tell Darling Husband had already talked himself into two. I mean if one is good, why not two, or three, or four even?! By the time we pulled up for the adoption auction, it was pretty much a foregone conclusion that two were coming back to Texas.

I’m still reeling from the buyer’s remorse/anxiety that happens anytime we bring home a new large animal. Deep down I know everything will work out, but I always get this momentary panic that we’ve finally bit off more than we chew. I started operating outside of my comfort zone six animals ago. At this point I don’t even know what a comfort zone resembles anymore. It usually only takes me a few weeks to reconcile with my new reality and then it’s business as usual again. I didn’t put up much of a fight or really any, when Darling Husband suggested bringing home two mustangs. I could see the downfall of only adopting one, and getting two definitely solves that issue.

Loading up my mustang…

So here’s the thing…Darling Husband and I are functioning with two completely different experience levels when it comes to horses. My family owned horses since before my existence was a consideration. By the time I was five, I had graduated from lead line, and was entered into walk/trot/canter classes at horse shows. At eight I was riding a four year old quarter horse, and started training a sixteen hand jumper at age eleven. Darling Husband helped his neighbors with their horses and mules, but those were dead broke animals. He doesn’t have any formal riding training, and his riding experience is limited to mostly trail riding on broke animals. Darling Husband’s first experience with green/untrained horses actually took place in Texas a mere three years ago. Hence the reason I was the one launched in the air from a horse I don’t even like that much. On the other hand, while I have started several horses, this will be my first experience working with a wild vs domesticated horse. Darling Husband spent six weeks with Miracle Girl as an instructor, and had the benefit of watching the other five veteran’s work their horses at the same time. He has more experience with taming wild caught mustangs.

Anyone that has worked large animals with their spouse can attest that it is not a relaxing endeavor. Darling Husband and I have very different styles when working horses. So for the sake of marital bliss, and to give us twice as much experience we did indeed bring two mustangs back from Paul’s Valley. We each picked out a mustang from the adoption corral, and will have a friendly little competition to see who makes the most progress. There are some aspects of training that will be easier with two people rather than one, so we’ll help each other out along the way. This isn’t a spouse death match or anything, but it will be cool to see how the chips fall. Luck as much as skill plays a big factor in horse endeavors, and I’ve never been accused of being a lucky person.

While you can tell a few things about a horse standing in a corral about ten feet away from you, like good or bad conformation, personality is one of those things that is largely left to chance. You can observe the animals’ behavior toward each other and make a guess, but it’s like a high school cafeteria in those corrals. Everyone is posturing to look cool, but behind the mask they’re all an insecure hot mess. So the first test of luck comes by simply choosing the animal.

Following historical trends, it looks like I came out on top in the first test. Maybe it’s sorcery, but in this case, there were only three animals at the event that I had any interest in bringing home. First and foremost I love color, to the detriment of other important factors. There were only two roan horses at the event, and I like red roans better than bay roans. Voila, my choice was made. I left Darling Husband to figure out his horse while I chased the feral critter that is our Offspring all over the place. Darling Husband liked six horses at the event, one of those just happened to be my second choice horse. Since the other horses he liked were almost the exact same color as his mustang Koda, he adopted my runner up horse. Once we got the two home, it was obvious that the red roan is a calmer more confident animal. The bay roan is supposedly a two year old vs the red roan at four years old, so hopefully confidence will come with age and work.

This is the beginning of our journey. Last night was our official Day 1 of the imaginary EMM competition. I can’t say either one of us made progress during the first working session, but let’s just say my red roan didn’t attempt to clear a six foot panel bending the steel and tearing it away from the pony/mustang shelter. Stay tuned for the excitement! Sit back and enjoy the ride!

My Project Mustang…
Brent’s project mustang…

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