Training a Mustang – Considerations from Monty Roberts

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Q/A from Monty Roberts Newsletter

“Image courtesy of Monty and Pat Roberts Inc.”*PHOTO CREDITS: Christopher Dydyck
“Image courtesy of Monty and Pat Roberts Inc.”*PHOTO CREDITS: Christopher Dydyck

Do you have a mustang? Are you training it yourself? Do you have questions or concerns on your progress or time spent? Read this Question / Answer from Monty Robert’s newsletter:

I have a little farm in Battle Ground, Washington. My husband, Tom and I have been for the past two years ground training Zoey, my 4 year old horse and we now have Sadie a 1 1/2 yr old. Zoey came to my farm as a very wild BLM Mustang and had barely been handled by people. It took me months before she could trust me and would finally let me touch her. I got a old copy of an early book of yours, The Man Who Listens To Horses. Tom read it and I am now reading it. I also recently got your book Shy Boy. Tom just finished this book and I will start on it next.
What I want to know is, is it okay to take my time at training these horses? My farrier says don’t rush it, that taking my time is smart and all of the ground work that I am doing will pay off. When I walk in the corral, Zoey usually follows me around in-stead of running off. She appears to be interested in being with me and tries to fol-low the commands on backing, turning in circles and leading with the correct lead. I also have put a saddle blanket and saddle on her, but have come just short of get-ting on her.
Now that we have the new horse, Zoey has become very jealous of the new horse, kicking her and biting initially, so we have them separated unless we are close by. I suspect that this jealousy is usual. Zoey hasn’t been around another horse for years and here is this new horse in her corral. Yesterday we did have the two horses out in the pasture together and they were for the most part getting along. Then Zoey started after Sadie and was verbally reprimanded and she stopped then tried again and Sadie ran to my side for protection.
Tom and I will keep working with the girls on the ground work and eventually we will get back to the saddle with Zoey. Its been 4 weeks now since the girls first met. I guess I shouldn’t rush it but just be consistent with my training.
Aletha and Tom, Twin Creeks Farm
Dear Althea,
It appears that you are writing a question to an 80 year old man asking for permission to take a very long time to do what I might want done in a few days. I often say, “Get your procedures right and then go at them like you have all the time in the world and success might come in the first session.” You have not told me what your level of riding is like. With this in mind I could never recommend that you donate yourself as a first rider of any horse let alone a mustang. If you have not ridden to an expert level then you should not be a first rider.
It is also true that you have not mentioned your age and I have to tell you that I no longer want to be the first rider on any horse and yet I have been riding tens of thousands of horses since the age of four. I won nine world championships in the show ring and two in rodeo and I know enough to state that it just isn’t worth it to expose yourself to the potential injury from a horse that has not had a rider on. In fact, I would go so far as to say that unless you are an excellent rider who “has extensive experience as a first rider,” I can’t recommend it.
There are plenty of young athletes around that have been trained to ride as “first timers.” It is my bet that the fee they would charge is far less than that of the doctors and the emergency room. Horses have a bad enough reputation with the hospitals as it is. Should you become injured by your horse statistics will go into the books blaming the horse for causing injuries to another human. It is my opinion that you would not want this for your horse or for yourself. I do not want to seem simply negative but I am trying to give you prudent information.
Reading your question leaves me with the strong opinion that you have not done the full complement of procedures that I recommend to everyone that intends to introduce their horse to its first saddle and rider. Have you had a surcingle on the horse, tightened the girth and allowed the horse to talk trot and canter with that equipment in place? Have you worked the horse on double lines? Have you desensitized the horse to plastic bags all over it body? Have you made up or utilized some form of mannequin rider to test your horses acceptance?
From My Hands to Yours is my textbook on the procedures I recommend. It, along with my Equus Online University, is loaded with suggestions and education in the area of causing the horse to accept its first rider. Please avail yourself of easily available advice on how to accomplish this procedure while keeping yourself in the safest possible environment. I recently viewed a video from a scientist who considers himself a horseman. It was extremely scary to observe what this man was suggesting as adequate preparation for the first mounting.
In no way am I trying to persuade you to give up your thirst for knowledge about training horses. It is also true that I am not asking you to compromise your feeling of bonding with your particular horse. I am advising you that it is all too often that I am asked to advise people that have already taken their chances, sustained their injuries and have become too frightened of horses to continue their work with them. This is difficult for me to process given that with more than 75 years of first rider experience I have seen the pitfalls first hand.
Please take my advice and seek further information before taking unnecessary chances.
~ Monty

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