'Cool Running Creek'

'Cool Running Creek'

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Meet "Medicine Man"

OK guys, the time has come. I'm going to try to update you on the status of "Medicine Man," our Mustang Makeover project.

"Medicine Man"is named after his capture area in Maverick-Medicine, NV in July, 2006. Upon capture he was held in a containment area (large holding pens with little people contact) except for his trip to the Doctor for shots, guilding and a Coggins test. His feet were trimmed one time about 4 months ago in a squeeze chute. He was selected along with 99 other mustangs from the Bureau of Land Management National Wild Horse Burro Center at Palomino Valley, NV for the 'Extreme Mustang Makeover'. The EMM is a competition created by the Mustang Heritage Foundation and supported by the Bureau of Land Management to increase the interest in the wild mustang and its many uses.

Around the first of June he was shipped to Oklahoma City, OK where he was held for pick-up by a fellow trainer and transported to SC. We picked him up on Saturday after a 5 hr trip to Moncks Corner, SC. "Doc" as we'll call him for short, is a dark Bay with a star and snip on his face, two white spots on each rear hock wonderful black feet, huge hips and a working horse neck. He has good withers, a wide face and a small mustache just above his lip...The loading went well with him already separated from the other two mustangs earlier that day. Once being offered the open trailer he only challenged the entrance a couple of times before entering. (I hauled him in a 14' stock trailer back to Pittsboro.) During the trip back we stopped a couple of times to check on his status, finding him a bit on edge from the commotion along I-95. We arrived back home around 5:00 pm.

I was faced with a bit of a challenge after we got home because I wanted to remove his halter and lead rope. It is a requirement at any BLM agency to place a halter on all horses before being released to the new owner. (This is done in a confined chute where the horse has no moving room). After all the horror stories I've read, I just hate to leave a halter on a horse overnight. Deciding to take on this task while he was still in the trailer, I used a long wire to hook the lead rope, coax him towards the side and with little resistance from him I was able to settle him down and within a few minutes remove the halter. Was I surprised! This horse really has a mild disposition. We then released him in the training pen with an attached alley-way to a 12x24 covered shelter. Was he ever glad to get off the trailer. Head held high, stepping out with an attitude to take on the world! Seems as if water was his first priority with a roll in the arena afterwards. To me this is really a sign of a relaxed horse. With 6 people standing around the outside of the pen he still rolled...This was definitely a sign that he wasn't completely freaked out by our presence. We fed him some hay laced with sweet feed ( doesn't know that it is food...they don't have that in wild!) and left him alone for the remainder of the evening.

This trailer stuff is really getting old!

Day 2

The second day came with mostly just watching him adjust to his surroundings with the other horses within earshot. I know some folks like to give a new horse a buddy, but I kinda like to keep all his attention on humans for a time. He had a great deal of curiosity about my 3 dogs; they would share water without bother from either. After seeing how well he had adjusted, I decided to work with him later in the day. It was really hot during the day (92) so I waited until late evening. The first thing we did was round pen for approx 5-8 minutes. He has a wonderful gait, and gave me immediate attention in the middle. He showed his 2 sidedness quickly by only offering me his left side on turn arounds. Any turns to the left resulted in a quick outside turn. His attention to this lesson was wonderful. I was able to advance towards him during each rest period and able to close the distance to about 10 feet. As the evening approached I wanted to get my hands on him, so a lariat was the next step for a little control. His lack of shock when the rope went around his neck was a welcomed response. He responded with very little tension to square up to me as we progressed. In most cases, the rope was used to despook him by flipping it on his back, front and rear legs, hips etc to calm him down. All was going well and we were well on our way to voluntary contact and then it happened...It got dark! A lesson I learned with my first mustang is that they are a diffrent animal after the sun goes down. The predator vrs prey instinct comes out and everything is going to "eat them up." I really had to back down and give him his space. By 9:30 we have touched him several times by advancing and retreating with him standing unrestrained. I want to point at no time was he ever restrained. I only used the rope to keep him facing me. By 10:00 we had removed the numbered tag that identified him through BLM, removed the rope, and put on and off a halter several times, then put him to bed...I continued to notice that he was very one sided; he really protectes his right side. Probably came from the very limited human contact that was always on the left side. (Horses are really 2 sided, they have to be trained on each side to accept things) At no time would he offer his right side up to me. A challenge for another day.

Medicine Man taking it in on Day 2

Day 3
My son, Chapin, a 17 year old horse enthusiastic and part time trainer was going to catch "Medicine Man" with no aids. A halter and lead rope were his only tools. Repetition is the best training method I've found and after 10:00 pm on the night before we did not quite get all the bugs worked out. Chapin was able to put on the halter within 1 1/2 hours. That is surely a patient young man...We repeated this step 10-15 times to calm the storm and things went well. A thunder storm saved "Doc" from any further training for the day.

Day 4
My goal for today was to really work the right side equal to the left. This took quite a bit of advancing/retreating, rubbing, touching, and a lot of him backing. Emily, my 21 yo daughter, helped out quite a bit in this; we almost rubbed blisters on his right side with our hands, but in the end his right was just as soft as the left. Also, we have picked up both front feet on demand with little resistance from him. He will now stand as you approach, face you and only quivers when you first touch him after being left alone for a while. May not seem like much to us but to be four years old and have all this happen in the past week is really a cultural shock...Tomorrow: pick up his back feet, a full body massage, and leading!

5000 Miles and still tread!

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