I want to fist start off by saying that I started writing this blog back in May, but before I could finish, the summer packing season called me to the mountains. As John Muir would say, I went home. With the change in the weather and the end of the season, I now find myself back with our boys and I am so amazed with how strong the trust is. We haven’t touched them since June, and at times it feels as if we just left them yesterday. It’s safe to say, that with a Mustang, a bond is truly for life and is not just a passing phase. So with out further a due, here’s the beginning to the Wild to Willing journey.
Training, and breaking down the walls with the mustangs has been a treat. Moments of shear fear (on both of our parts) as we make our own mistakes. It seems the blind leading the blind can bring real joy as we travel down this path together. The mustangs' walls came down back in early April with the addition of the round pen…..well, more a square pen. I used the approach and retreat method, but applied it to the confines of square corral that was 24ft x 24ft. My method of first contact was most certainly not my hand - this came from a 10ft pole. No chance in hell I’d be getting close enough to get kicked by one of these guys until we can speak the same language. It's no joke with a mustang. They are not like our domesticated horse I’ve come to understand. They have fight in them; a fire that a country song can’t even describe.
Once each one of them realized that they couldn’t run away from me while in the confines of the pen walls, their walls began to come down. Even when standing in opposing corners was not good enough, the fight was the only tool they had. I have never seen such raw power in an animal before. Simply because, for that moment in time; we could not speak the same language. This was fascinating to me. With time (and time I had) I could establish the first “understood word if you will. Simply by keeping the pressure of the pole on their back, no matter where they might move in the corral without making any advancement towards them (which would apply more pressure on them) they realized that I was not something that was going to eat them. And there it was, the first word…..Trust. One by one each one of the boys began to stand and turn both eyes at me while I was in the center of the corral.
At this point, I could offer the release. Once they stood still and turned their eyes towards me I would lift the pole away, letting them know that trust is the only thing I want. I don’t want to break you; I’d like you to go from Wild to Willing. This is where it got cool. If I moved to another spot on their body with the pole, well that was a whole new experience, but I had their back…..pun intended. I could retreat to the original point of contact once they did what I was asking of them. To tell them, YES! That’s it. That’s exactly what I was looking for” From there it became relatively straightforward. Everyday started off the same - with what we had learned the day before. Once that was re-established, I knew that they were using their thinking side of their brains, not the fear side. A horse has two sides, thinking and fear, but they cannot use them at the same time.
But once that was re-established every day, I could begin to have a "conversation" with the, get to know and understand them. Now, we can work together on this new path in life, from Wild to Willing.
Author: Trent Peterson