I wrote to Dr. Deb Bennett about any kind of physical therapy we could give to Telikos to help prevent a sway back. I was suprised by her response:

Patricia, thank you for posting this image and for the question. The answers you are asking for can be found under the same reply I gave to RobV in the thread “starting an elk-necked colt right.”

As to your apprehensions about the horse’s appearance: he is not swaybacked. You turn out to be the lucky one here. Do not let this colt go; he should become your own riding horse, unless you’re just so full up that you don’t need any more class-A horses. This animal will grow up to be handsome, proportionate, durable, fast, and athletically capable of just about anything. His head is noble and the temperament will probably match.

So take your time with him and have a care, because great horses like this do not come along just every day; and if he has the kind and generous spirit that I suspect, then you have double responsibility because the animal will actually hurt himself trying to please you.

Concerns over unattractive appearance in a case like this only to go highlight, to me, how mis-educated, I mean TOTALLY mis-educated, people have become as to judging horseflesh.

Good luck with this and please do write back with any questions. I would also highly appreciate receiving photos of this animal periodically — taken at 6-mos. intervals would be ideal. One reason people have difficulty “seeing” young horses is that they do not have the experience to FOREsee how he’s going to look when mature. This is a question I get practically weekly, and you could, if you are willing, help everyone out there. So we hope to hear back about this horse’s progress on a regular basis.

Thanks very much. — Dr. Deb

Wow, and you could adopt this wonderful animal for just $125.

Internet Problems and Hoovered Mustangs

My USB modem went out last week so the blog hasn’t been updated lately.

Our goal for the weekend (if no potential adopters showed up) was to get the ‘stangs where we could run the shop vac on them. Clair calls it being hoovered. I started out grooming Ocho and rubbing him with the detached vacuum hose. He liked that well enough. Then I set the vac up on the other side of the yard (15 meters away). Then we (Lucy, Clair & I) walked the horses up to the vac. When they got their mustang nose over the vac, the boys got a horse cookie. Pretty soon they wanted to be at the vac.

Then we went back across the yard. I would turn on the vac and each horse would get a cookie. We were making the sound of the vac a conditioned reinforcer. It wasn’t long until when the vac switch was flipped on, the mustangs were expecting cookies. Then we moved the ‘stangs closer to the vac. After a minute Ocho and Telikos were standing around a running vacuum cleaner watching us flip the switch. Trinity was must more dubious and would only stand about 2 meters away.

Today we took Ocho out just before lunch and rubbed him with the hose again, once with it off, and then with the shop vac screaming away. I started vacuuming him and he seemed to like it, though he wouldn’t just come up for a full body hoovering. Later we will be hoovering the others.

We measured these boys and they are 13hh tall now. They have grown, but they have a long way to go before they are filled out.

I got quite a few calls from our mustang advertisements but most of the callers want kids horses (already broke to ride) and one of them wanted a horse to eat (YIKES!!) One man called and wanted a mustang to ride while he was herding his sheep. I thought that would be a good life for one of the boys, but the man didn’t show up over the weekend, so perhaps he changed his mind? We will start breaking them to ride when they get a little weight on, but meanwhile they can learn to drive.

Mustang Camp for Juniors

This week we have a class of seven kids and their attendant teachers here to learn about mustangs. Mostly junior high and high school kids, all incredibly bright and focused. Of course they don’t know much about training mustangs, but they have been out all last week talking to all kinds of horse people. Horse therapists, horse rescuers, mustang handlers. They may not know how to put on a halter, but they are all game to try and my animals are all patient with the little people.

Today we started out with halter driving. We practiced on “horses” made of two people. The kids thought they had it down until the real animals presented them with permutations that were quite unplanned. Things fell apart but they kept trying. I stayed out in the far pen with Dylan, Maya, and Cisco. Dylan is quite enamored with Cisco. Cisco is more than 16 hands tall, Dylan is about 4 feet all and only in the 6th grade. He is the youngest of the campers and this is his first time away from home. Cisco did not want to let Dylan on his right side, so I had to step into the circle and help push Cisco into place when it was time to go clockwise. We practiced and practiced and Cisco improved bit by bit. Maya could pretty well manage and Dylan did very well for his size….

Then it was time to bring everyone together and let them show their mastery by halter driving their steeds. Dylan went first and was disappointed by his steeds performance. Chaco made his handlers look proficient. Cracker, Chester, and Tobiah all worked to highlight their handlers deficiencies. On a couple of the demonstrations, I instructed the handlers to unclip the lead rope and show the animal at liberty. The animals generally worked better without a lead than with one. The last person to go was nominally Maya, she showed Cisco to be passable and then unclipped the lead at my request. Cisco followed every move perfectly. Then, realizing the potential of the moment, I instructed Dylan to return to the ring and show Cisco at liberty. The horse and boy went round the ring as a synchronized unit. It was perfect harmony with an awestruck audience gasping at the fluidity of the turns. Mr. Dylan has responded to his newfound equine handling prowess, by losing some of his self-conscious shyness and starting to talk to his peers. He is so loveable that we are all rejoicing for him.

As Dylan was finishing his performance, Anthony Madrid and Jessica, of the USFS, arrived to give a talk on mustangs. Anthony talked for more than an hour because we kept him going with so many questions about the USFS mustang program. It was facinating to hear about Dan Elkins, the mustang herd, the bands, and the land they live in. We heard about the ins and outs of horse adoption. No stone was left unturned, we even talked about mustang birth control drugs and castration. Finally we could ignore lunch no longer and we stopped talking mustangs long enough for some hotdogs and jello.

Maddy has been cooking for the Mustang Camp. She is phenomenal. It might be hotdogs, but with Maddy at the helm they are hotdogs with a flair and the yummiest hotdogs known to human kind. I did not realize that she had such a drive to be a camp catering cook. Her talents have been revealed.

After lunch, we caught up the young mustangs and had them standing tied when Anthony and Jessica came to inspect them. They were quiet and let Anthony come up and pet them, then lead one around. They held up their front feet when asked for them. They weren’t perfect, but I was proud of them. The USFS officials seemed impressed. Then
Anthony drove his bale of hay around to the barn and we pulled it out of the truck bed by tying a strap around it and to the barn poles. He drove the truck out from under where the giant bale was tethered. I asked if there was any funds available for gentling mustangs and Anthony assured me that there are. Dan has the contract, but does not have the time to do the job himself so it is very likely something can be worked out if I am seriously interested. You bet I am! May it be so.

POST BY SARAH:Touching Telikos (part one…)

Written by Sarah:

I think Pat must be a person-whisperer as well, because when I got into the stall I easily out-scared Telikos. Getting ready inside, my suspicions were raised when Pat lent me her ‘flak’ jacket and a helmet. Yesterday Pat led a group of six of us training Telikos to come to ‘target’ and outstretched fingers, and rewarding him with hay. But it’s easier when there’s a group of you, and the worst the horse can do is get stubborn while he chews his last mouthful. Today we were working on getting Telikos to let us touch him, and there was no hay.

Pat entered the ring first, with her ‘arm extension’ (a 10 foot plastic pole). Telikos backed into a corner and watched her from the corner of his eye. When Pat reached out with the pole, my knees went a little wobbly as Telikos flung himself around the Pen, crazy at being unable to get away from Pat and her stick. Pat stuck in the middle as Telikos flew into the walls and fence, following him around and keeping the pole resting on his withers. Eventually Telikos stuck reluctantly in a corner, watching Pat out of the corner of his eye. Pat gently started to use the pole to scratch his withers, and work it slowly up and down his spine. Every time the pole touched somewhere new, Telikos would be off again, around and around the stall, backing up and turning around, trying to work out how to get away from this strange lady and her stick!

Pat switched Clare into the stall. Telikos skittered a little when she put the stick on his back, and Clare followed him with it, until Telikos stuck panting in a corner with the stick resting on his back. Clare started to work the stick up and down his spine a little, and Telikos eventually tolerated it as far as his ears and his tail. On Pat’s advice, Clare kept on moving around, so Teliko gets used to humans moving around near him.

My turn, and Pat came back into the stall, so I could hide behind her. On my turn, I accidentally poked him with the tip, instead of resting it on his back, which spooked him a little. By now though, Telikos was calmer, and would generally just pant in a corner of the stall while we touched him with the stick.

The most unexpected thing, was that after Telikos got so calm he seemed almost to enjoy having his spine scratched, when we tried the same procedure on the other side it was like started all over again. He flew around and around the stall, and I resumed my position hiding behind Pat, as she followed him around with the stick. When he got calm on his flighty side as well, we tried to move the stick to new areas.

We took it in turn; Clare and Pat worked for perhaps an hour to bring the tip of the stick down from his withers, over his shoulder to the top of his leg – but Telikos was having none of this, and would run from the stick when it moved more than a few inches from his spine. Eventually, with this gradual method not showing much progress, Pat stepped in and placed the stick directly against his chest. This time Telikos flew around the stall again, but settled down quicker than earlier in the afternoon – perhaps he was beginning to trust us, or to recognise there wasn’t much he could do to avoid the stick, or perhaps he was just getting tired…

Over the afternoon we got Telikos comfortable with being touched with the stick all over, and not too bothered when we moved closer to him. We could have reached out to touch him, but he didn’t seem calm enough yet. To encourage him to pay attention to us, and to give him a sense of control, we began to reinforce him turning to look at us by removing the stick when he faced us. We didn’t do this all the time- for instance when we were trying to get him used to having it on his legs, but behaviourists reckon on partial reinforcement being stronger anyway. When the stick was on his legs and he began to kick it off, we made sure we held it on, so as not to reinforce kicking.

When he turned away again, we placed the stick on his withers again. At points, he was so chilled out, his eyes and lips were drooping, and we could move the stick to areas where he was scratching at himself. He seemed to enjoy that. At one point when he was very relaxed, I moved closer and eventually my hand was holding the stick so close to his back I could ‘accidentally’ touch him. Too much for Telikos, who was off around the stall again. We had been out with him for around three hours, and I think we were all getting tired. So we worked with him until he was relaxed about the stick again, and ended today’s session when we were ready. Touching him will have to wait until tomorrow. But by the end of the day, I think Telikos and I were a lot less scared of each other.

Snubbing to the Human Bulldozer

Snubbing is a funny word. In the world of bronco equids, it means tying them up short and letting them work out what confinement by rope means. In the old days, folks didn’t have round pens nearly as often as they had snubbing posts. When I worked for Davy Sanchez 40 years ago, we snubbed them to a big strong post set in the middle of the corral. That was in the days when it was also not unusual to “choke them down”, so he had a lariat on the bronco and the bronc pulled until it basically passed out. Then it was over. We never had to do it twice. Was it a bad thing? I don’t know. We don’t have to do things that way much anymore.

Then there are “snubbing horses”. You snub your bronc to the saddle horn of a good neck reining (snubbing) horse and start taking him for a walk around the pen. This method is much more common these days. In his mustang training video, Monte Roberts snubs the mustang to a gentle horse. Roberts is a staunch advocate of gentle methods. No one seems to compare snubbing to a post vs. to a horse in levels of equid abuse. It seems to be because the snubbing point moves.

I watched Richard Shrakes’ mustang video last week. It’s kind of odd. He says it’s a step by step plan for gentling your newly adopted mustang, but it seems to require some very specialized heavy equipment — like a mustang safe bronc chute. Not available at many barns. But after he gets his mustang haltered, he opens the chute with four big men playing mustang tug-of-war. The horse goes crazy for a minute or two. But in about 3 minutes the horse is almost gentle. Hmmm. Mighty magical … might as well try it.

El Ocho had pulled away from me a couple of times the other day. Didn’t want him to learn a new habit, so I gathered up everyone at Mustang Camp and we turned into the best snubbing machine ever invented. Watch the video:

I would shake your hand, but the phone is ringing.

It takes about 20 minutes to train a horse to pick up its front feet for you… even a mustang, providing that you have their favorite horse snack as a treat. Sarah was shocked at how easily she got Trinity to flip up those hooves. Sarah is kind of spooked by hooves, so she thought Trinity would be spooked by hooves too. Once I convinced Sarah that she should actually stand next to the horse, Trinity got serious about up his rate of reinforcement. He was in charge of that and he knew it. He is funny because he will do most anything for a cookie or a good scratch, but he doesn’t really think he might “have” to do something, just because. He knows how to resist when he wants.

I was doing a short video with El Ocho when the phone rang. It was Claire calling from the hostel in Albuquerque. She had arrived from Ireland earlier in the afternoon. She was excited to be in sunny New Mexico and had a great flight next to another horsewoman. We are just getting ready to head down to the bus stop to pick her up. Zeph is coming over to take over my place as Waitress and then we are heading to town.

Three or four other people are on their way to Largo to work with mustangs. We are set to have some fun around here.

Cool News

Letter to Anthony (in charge of the mustang program):

Our blog is at
our videos are at

El Ocho and Trinity graduated to a new paddock yesterday since they
will come up to us and let us catch them. They are kind of
leading….. kind of sketchy still.

They still have to learn how to let their feet be worked on and to
load into a trailer on a lead before they can leave, then we will let
them go to new adoptive homes on the condition that the new adopters
leave them with us until we have another set and they pay for their
feed. AND that they come out and learn how we are handling them. You
set the price. I hope to have those tasks mastered in a week.

Can we arrange to get our next ones as soon as Dan catches them
instead of having them go to Farmington? They could get their vet work
and brands after they are tame.


Anthony called. I had a rough connection and I was busy being a waitress, but I stuck to the phone. Would I take another horse? His last horse in the USFS corral is the little swayback yearling that I turned down for El Ocho and Trinity. I asked if he could help us with some hay….. he can give us two tons. Yep, we can certainly take the little guy. He will haul him out with the hay later this week. Wow!

What is a good name for the Last Mustang. El Ultimo? He’s got to be a cart pony not a riding horse, though Anthony said he would grow to be about 16 hands. Hmmm… somehow I doubt that. He will become Claire’s personal project horse. She arrives from Ireland on Wednesday. Trinity is Sarah’s project horse, and I am obsessed with El Ocho. Karen gives the more domesticated animals more attention.

More mustangs! More fun!