Day One & Two

On Tuesday after lunch we headed into town to pick up the mustangs. In the pens there were maybe five older geldings, two younger mares, a yearling gelding, and two four year old geldings. The mares were small and would only ever be ponies. The yearling male had a sway back and a roman nose. Since we are anticipating re-adopting our mustangs out, we chose the two most adoptable of the boys, the pair of 4 year olds that Bob Browning had called a “matched set” when we saw them on Saturday. Number 33 and 38 were similar to each other indeed, but 33 has a long mane and 38 has a mohawk, naturally almost roached. It hurt to leave the others to fate, but two mustangs was as much as we could feed. They jumped in the trailer and looked relieved that the gate closed between them and the humans.

Sarah and Liz were in the truck behind the trailer and they reported that the boys rode well. This was their second trailer ride, the first being from the forest where they were captured. It is about 50 miles from the holding pens to our pens, 26 of those miles being a bumpy dirt road through the oil field. The drive gave me time to think about their names. I didn’t know anything about their personalities, but I still felt like I could name them…. the only thing I knew about them were their numbers…. hmmm. Trinity and El Ocho, that would work. Trinity has the mane.

We cleared the pens around the gate and drove into the yard. I backed up to the pens and we all went to work. Liz and Sarah turned some old wheelbarrows into feeders by stripping the wood and hardware off. I filled up waterers. They brought some extra panels and we built a chute between the pens and the trailer. I opened the door and we waited. It took a long time before they finally decided to venture down and out into the pens. They took little heed of Roy, the border collie, who is the friend of all E. caballus and enemy of all E. asinus.

They moved like a school of fish, always touching, so we didn’t even try to separate them on the first day. We just threw them a barrow full of USFS hay with a sprinkling of greener alfalfa. They never tasted anything so good!

Wednesday morning (Day II) the Students of Horsemanship had an assignment. Get Ocho and Trinity to eat alfalfa from their hands and spend as much time as possible sitting outside of their pen. The students were to announce “EX” as the mustangs reached for the food. This was make this word into a conditioned reinforcer. I came home from work and the girls were outside the pen handing clumps of alfalfa to the boys. The mustangs are very underweight and could benefit from a little extra feed. We moved panels around and connected two pens together so the boys could be separated. We left them and went in to watch Kitty Lawman tame some mustangs on a DVD while it rained.

I took Cisco into the pen, Sarah took Marla in. We wanted to create a little bit of distraction and not “chase” the boys. Chasing is not the best thing for a mustang and I was sure they had had too much chasing to begin with at the holding pen, where Anthony was using more traditional methods of natural horsemanship involving round pens and whips. We are going to come back to this issue on Day 3.

The mustangs shifted from pen to pen, then Ocho, who is by nature more nervous than Trinty, sprinted through the chute ahead of his mate. I stepped between them and shut the gate. They could now be treated as independent beings.

Sarah and I set to work to teach the mustangs to target our fingers held in a v, like a peace sign gesture. It was only about 15 minutes to get them going on this. Karen came out and got involved while I went and found the camera.

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