The Problem

There is a looming problem on my horizon. Dan Elkins is all geared up to catch horses in July so the USFS is likely to have a bunch. I want to train them, but I really don’t want to go back to the Browning Ranch.


  1. My garden will die.
  2. My dogs will be a problem.
  3. My equids will be a problem.
  4. There is no shade and it’s hotter at that elevation.
  5. There is no shower.
  6. Have to use a port-a-potty.
  7. The noises there make it hard to train horses.
  8. Have to fight with Bob to keep him from messing up the horses.
  9. It’s like Grand Central Station with people always distracting me.
  10. It’s a hard place to have people come learn how to train horses.

I really wish the USFS would let me take 6 at a time up here. The USFS work is a lot less money than the Trainer Incentive Program from the Mustang Heritage Foundation and when you add it all up, I only make about $5/hour on the local horses because of all the non-training stuff like helping with gelding and dealing with adopters. But I love working with the horses and finding them good homes. It’s a problem. Some kind of solution will emerge before then.

Objective One: habituate to humans

Our goal today is to be able to hand feed the boys inside their pens. Everything goes in stages and is rewarded with positive reinforcement.

    Stages in Habituate to Humans

  1. Look at human
  2. Turn body towards human
  3. Take a step towards human
  4. Come near when human is sitting
  5. Eat from hand when human is sitting
  6. Eat from hand when human is standing
  7. Eat from hand from active human
  8. Move around pen to eat from hand
  9. Eat from hand from human in pen
  10. Follow human around to eat from hand

As of 11 a.m. we are just starting task five. This phase of training is time intensive and I just have to spend my day next to the pens. Lucky for me the biting midges (aka sage gnats) are not biting too hard. I am chewed up from the last few days. It was totally stressful until I found the last drops of skin-so-soft in the tack shed.

I tossed a few beet pulp pellets into their feeders last night. The pellets were left in the bottom with some tufts of moldy hay this morning. Here I am once again fighting the problem of having no non-hay treat items to reward the ‘stangs with. There has to be a sensible solution, but I have tried so many things with no success. Nevertheless, I’m going to toss a couple of horse candy chunks into the troughs just in case they want to experiment.

The names have been chosen: Big Mike and Gus. Big Mike is the picky eater with the black face. Gus is the one seeking gustatory pleasure.

Gus has a broken off pinyon twig sticking out of his eyelid. It doesn’t seem to be bothering him, but my goal for tomorrow is to have my hands on that guy and get it out of there. That will require another set of objectives.

2010: The Year of the Mustang?

Anthony called me on Monday afternoon. He had a couple of mustang studs in a horse trailer and was driving west. Was I interested in gentling them?
I couldn’t say YES! fast enough. Bring ’em on! A couple of stallions sounded like a challenging project, but I’ve been scraping by waiting for some mustangs… no, I take that back, it hasn’t been “waiting” at all, its been too intensive to call it “waiting”.
For the last month John and I have been improving the corrals and pens. There is an almost completed Mustang Receiving Pen that attaches to an alley along the mustang stalls. When it is finished, the mustangs can be released from the trailer into the round Receiving Pen and then sorted into stalls. The receiving pen is 40ft in diameter and is made of 44 rail road ties (about every 2 feet) tied together with solid metal rods. It could be also used as an elephant receiving pen, if any elephants need that service. It’s not quite ready for the two stallions, but my stalls are.

So early Tuesday, Anthony showed up with the studly beasts. I was shocked to find they are just ponies, skinny ponies of a lovely roan color. One is a black faced roan and the other a bay faced roan. Classic looking mustangs, but tiny.
It doesn’t matter how tiny they are, Cisco has been guarding the fence to make sure these boys don’t challenge his herd or try to steal his mare, the lovely Paisley.