Haven’t had time to upload the videos so I haven’t posted to the blog…. dumb! What was I thinking???
The best kind of mustang to train is an itchy one. These guys go into paroxysms of rubbing back against our fingers or jutting body parts out to us to get a better scratch. The interesting thing is that you can leave the corral and come back in five minutes and they will be scared to let you touch them as if you never had. Of course it takes less and less time to convince them to give it a try.
El Ocho is the most itchy and the most fearful. I stand next to him and scratch with both hands. His poor coat is so rough and filled with gray dander, it must be quite uncomfortable. His upper lip stretches out as I scratch. I watch it like a gauge to how much he is enjoying my fingers. With fingers in the mid section of his back, along his backbone, his lip is out about 1.5 inches. Right above his tail, the lip-ometer goes to a full 2 inches. He twists his rump around to aim the top of it directly at me. His tail rises. He is suddenly like the most domestic of horses.
I stop and step back. He looks back at his body as if considering how he could scratch himself with his teeth, then he steps toward me, knowing I will do it for him. For a moment he is bonded to me, but he will forget this moment and only remember humans are scary creatures next time I come to the corral.
The body condition on these guys is pretty bad. They must not have been getting what they needed from the USFS hay. Their backbones stick out, their hipbones stick out, their ribs stick out. I would expect horses in captivity for six weeks would be in better shape. Horses down at that elevation should have slicked off. All the horses in the USFS pens were still shaggy beasts. Perhaps they were near starvation when they were captured?
The short summer coat has started to appear on Trinity. He is a dark bay with red highlights. Trinity is less timid. He is a horse that goes his own way and he might not want you to approach, but he doesn’t seem truly afraid. I showed Sarah how to get him to join up with me where he follows me around the pen. It takes a certain boldness, but it is not magic. Then I ask him to let me scratch him. Ahhh… the virtues of the itchy mustang!