I adopted a mustang- going to chronicle my saga here!

So I did a thing… I adopted a mustang. I was getting ready to bring my horse home finally!!! And of course he was going to need a buddy. So I explored a couple of options, i put in an application with Canter, I put in an application to adopt a donkey, and then I came across this mustang for adoption. He was really cute, and he had been with young man who did mustang makeover challenges, so I figured… why not?

I got a chance to meet him, and of course at the place he felt safe I could lead him around, pick up his feet, lead him around obstacles in the arena, the young man even had about 15 rides on him. So I committed. Got my BLM application approved, and then realized even though he was “gentled” I still had to meet the BLM enclosure requirements. So my $1000 horse suddenly became a $3000 horse after I bought a round pen. The lady at the BLM said that they often revert when moved to a new place. Boy oh boy was I glad I had the round pen LOL. I am pretty sure that if I had turned him out, I would not have caught him again for a while.

Meet Ranger. Ranger is a 3-ish year old adorable 14 hands-ish palomino that is cute as a button and still half feral. Part of me thinks I have lost my mind. I alternate between “I’m insane” and “it will have been worth it someday”.

I have advertised for board because I can’t take one horse out of the pasture without the one left behind losing their mind. I am ready to take in a boarder or two so at least the one left behind will have some company.

The mustang was delivered 5 days before my horse came home, and in those 5 days I was able to lead him up and down my driveway. I have a 1/4 mile long gravel driveway, so to the end and back is 1/2 mile. His feet are really long, so it’s been helping naturally trim them down and shape them a little. I’m a barefoot trimmer, and it’s killing me to see his feet as long as they are, but I;m still a ways from getting to do that. I was able to do a VERY rough trim on his front feet before my horse came home. I was able to do more while I was the only companion in his life. Once my horse “S” came home and he had a buddy again, it all changed. He follows S everywhere.

Taking him for walks down the driveway is a challenge now. S screams for his buddy, and R stops constantly trying to turn back. He does respond to pressure in the rope halter, but it’s constantly stop and go. At one point he reared up striking out at me with his front feet multiple times, rearing while stepping towards me on his hind feet. I have to admit, it scared me. It only happened on one of our walks early on after S came home, but seriously, I’m too old for this!

I have started clicker training, and for the most part, it’s going well, I love the concept of the +R training but progress is really slow. We are working on picking up feet, touching a target, dropping his head with poll pressure. There have been a few times when he has decided he wants no part of it and swings butt to me and backs up at me threatening. We are working on tying, also, which is another thing he did well before he came to me, but reverted to. He definitely know he is stronger and will use his body to try and push me around while tying.

I have no timeframe, I have no agenda to accomplish specific things on any time frame, and I have no ego in this. I am willing to throw a world of patience at this, but I need to maintain safety as much as I possibly can.

I plan on using this as sort of my “diary” on how things are going, and I’ll gladly take any input or advice from those who have been through this successfully! Pic of the cute wicked little thing. Oh and he thinks everything is going to eat him. Especially the lacrosse net near the paddock.



You need to work with someone familiar with training the feral horse. This horse has no respect for you and has taken over leadership. I would get in the habit of carrying a dressage whip to defend yourself. He will hurt you at some point unless you do something to gain his respect and take the leadership role back. You don’t have to beat him, be the leader. Start a daily routine of ground work, moving his body around and don’t take no for an answer. Carry a lunge whip and the next time he swings his butt towards you, nail him with it. That rearing and striking out needs to be dealt with immediately. Wear a helmet every time you work with him. There’s a few people on here that have a lot more experience working with problem horses and hope they chime in here.


Exciting! Attending a mustang adoption event changed the entire trajectory of my horse-owning life (without ever even owning a mustang myself).


Congrats! I would like to adopt a mustang one day! I’ve never worked with one, but just getting a new young green horse can be challenging. I bought a 3 year old draft cross a few years ago and had to deal with a lot of issues with leading, loading, lunging, hoof handling, etc that were scary and disheartening at times but a couple of years later, we are in a great place and it’s been a great journey. Good luck and keep us posted!

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This morning I decided I would keep it simple, very short and positive. I brought him into the pen, and was planning on just a minute or two of a quick reviews of what we can do, and the leave it for today. So we did rubbing all over, click/treat. Dropping his head a few times c/t. Picking up feet was good for three feet and 4th foot swung his butt at me. So I sent him away, even though the pen isn’t exactly round, I was still able to send him away and around. When I asked him to whoa he tried to turn away a few time with his butt at me, I sent him on again, he did get a smack at one point when he really threatened me. After a few times, he turned in toward me and that got a c/t. I asked him to trot out and whoa again, after a few times of turning in towards me when I asked for whoa, I called it done for the morning with a big reward in his bucket.

How much is too much for one day? If I keep the sessions shorter, will I overwhelm him if I do this twice a day?


He is still young so I would keep it shorter. But honestly you need to read your own horse to know what’s a productive length of time. Groundwork and clicker training is mentally intense for a horse. I’d say under ten minutes, maybe a lot less.

End on a lesson learned as today.

Horses in a field do ground work each other but it’s once and done. Move over. Get out of my face. Leave my protege alone. Let’s have our morning insane gallop. Etc. They don’t keep picking at another horse for 5 or 10 minutes.

I think multiple short sessions are fine.

My main mare will lock onto clicker tricks and will happily play nose ball for half an hour with visiting children at our open house.

My project mare will do a trick maybe 3 times then starts thinking she needs to switch it up.

Spending quiet time is also good for a horse. Just sitting and watching him. If you don’t have pasture going on a grass walk. Etc.


I haven’t owned a mustang personally, so I know I probably sound like a keyboard warrior with no real experience. But It’s always better to stop too soon than too late.

I think at this point, you can kind of think of every interaction as a mini-training session. But keep it short and sweet and don’t pick battles.

You want to have a mindset that sets you and him up for success. Having the mindset of, “today my goal is to work on picking his feet” as opposed to “today I’m going to pick all four feet.” If you get all four feet done without issue, great. If he swings his butt at you like he did today, do what you need to do to re-establish the relationship like you did and find a positive note to quit on (which may or may not involve that last foot depending on the horse). Don’t stress if it’s not exactly what you had planned. You can always improve next time if the relationship is there, but it’s harder to overcome a negative experience as that relationship is still forming.

That’s how I approach my unhandled horses and young horses.

It sounds like everything you did was great.


My homebred did really well with multiple short sessions a day with a good long break between sessions.


Our mustang has turned out to be the best trail horse. He came to me still intact (didn’t acquire him through the BLM) and 350 lbs underweight. I already owned one stallion; so, handling one wasn’t new to me nor the short list of ins and outs regarding the ‘mustang challenge’ :wink: I was lucky in that this guy was clearly one who bonds with people once you earn his trust AND respect. When I first met him, there was no question that he had a good mind and I observed how he interacted with his herd which gave me some insight. Being the boss mare to my herd is second nature for me. I don’t think it hurt that he could see how the other horses interacted with me and respect me. Again, I’ve handled stallions and had a breeding program which I was retiring when I acquired my mustang.

Horses appreciate a person who is fair, consistent, black and white with the rules and a decision maker. This, I have found to be especially true for mustangs. Once he gained the weight needed, I gelded him; but I was riding him before that happened. He’s been relatively straight forward as long as I presented him with things that made sense to him. Mine is an energy conservationist and thrives on routine.

I also agree with the others in that training sessions kept short because you choose to end on a good note will have far more positive impact than insisting on seeing something through that was just too much to achieve in one session. Breaking things down into really small pieces, achieving them and praising are remembered just as those lessons that don’t reach success…you cannot unlearn a mustang. Some will never be gentled but if they’re willing to sidle up to a human, then training them for more isn’t impossible. You just have to think before you act and make sure every question you pose is set up for the horse to not just be able to give you the right answer but the choice to do so is the obvious choice. Good luck, I would definitely acquire another one if I had more room at our Inn.


I agree with others here. And do remember that, even though he has been handled and gotten some training - he knows NOTHING. He is basically the little horse from Mars. Don’t expect him to “get” things right away. And that whole turning his butt toward you and the deciding when the session is over is a big old hell no. If he ever turns his butt toward you and starts backing at you he gets an ass whipping like you would not believe - that’s just dangerous. If he tries that in the round pen make sure when you send him away make sure he works and works hard otherwise it will be just a game to him. Black and white is best way to go. Do not let him turn towards you to stop - that gives them the idea that they can run over you. Stop means stop - and stay put - right now.

Is it possible for you to have his former trainer keep working with him and you as well? Also, we have a few people here that have mustangs and train as well, so let them help you.

Otherwise - no you’re not crazy. And good luck and have fun! Keep us updated. And more pics please.
Do you know where he was originally from?


He is from Antelope Valley. His former trainer is about 1 1/2 hours from me, and still in high school, so I am not sure if that would work, although I may reach out to him for a phone convo at least. I have a friend who has given me the info of a tip trainer about an hour from me that I plan to reach out to.

Nothing much will be happening today, I’ve got Covid and am exhausted.


Sounds like you are doing pretty good so far, good call with the redirecting turning his butt to you.

I’d recomend watching Sam VanFleet’s training sessions with her 2020 Players Choice mare, Roulette. She was a challange at first with agressive behaviors. Heres the playlist: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qPWYm2DKdjg&list=PLIzeLLalrkDfBnX6U7Uqsijxlgo2BVV1i

I’ll be keeping an eye on this thread as i work towards my first mustang too! I’ve got binders full of notes from watching youtube videos/books/trainers I’ve befriended


The tip trainer is coming out Wednesday to evaluate us and put together a plan. :smiling_face_with_three_hearts:


Right on.

Now go take care of yourself and I hope you feel better soon!


Trainer came out today, and we had a really good session. I know this sounds really, really dumb, and I feel dumb saying it, LOLOL, but so much of what I already know with a non-feral horse applies to a mustang too. I was able to get past the worry of “if I’m too much in charge, I’ll never be able to catch him again”. We worked on some really basic things like personal space, leading, body language. Things clicked for me about working through a distraction/ attention disobedience, vs working through something scary. It was some pretty basic stuff, but I feel like we made progress in leaps and bounds, and I got to work through some of my own misconceptions. I feel like we are off to a much better start now. :slight_smile:


There’s a difference between being a bully and being a leader. Our being his friend. Sounds like you are on the right path. :smiley:


Had a nice session today. i pulled him out for a walk down the driveway during my lunch break, started out a little obstinate and did not want to leave the pasture, so we had a little mini lunging session right there at the gate. Once we got past the gate, we had a very pleasant walk down driveway, we survived the garbage truck going by twice, and was even brave enough to touch the survey flag with his nose. E Earlier today I picked out all four feet.



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awesome! So excited to hear more!!

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I’ve gone down the rabbit hole too and 4 mos into a Mustang who had already been gentled and sold to someone but wasn’t handled much for a year. Then returned to the original and very talented trainer. When he came to me I was told he could do the basics (clip, bathe, feet, load) but found most of that not anywhere near under threshhold or willing. So have spent 4 months getting all that in place and yes, very very short sessions. Watching for the slightest losing confidence or getting worried and backing off. Going back to what CAN we do?

Also using R+ to create curiosity and approaching scary objects. That has worked incredibly well.

Any horse takes time to settle in and so much more with your new guy. Yes, down to your bones do not have an agenda. Detecting the slightest negative change in his eye, expressions, tension in his muzzle. Back off when you see that. It’s the secret. He’s got to be comfortable and confident and come to see you as the protector.

Maybe work with him IN the pasture where he’s comfortable. Someday you go down the driveway but not right now.

My Mustang LOVES to come running up to me in the pasture and walk along with me. Yes, I loaded all that with hay pellets and R+. I’m now walking him around my property but it’s 4 months later. He clips, bathes, picks up his feet mostly pretty well. We rasp most days - all for 10 sec each foot. I want him comfortable and wanting to work for me.

I’m not on my guy yet as he said repeatedly he was not comfortable. Found he had a bad tooth, had a FEC of 2100! and found three nasty beans in his sheath. Got that tooth pulled but all that has slowed us down.

While you’re not feeling well (I’m sorry to hear about your COVID) how about curling up and having a nice distraction? Watch the Wilson Sisters docu called Mustang Ride which followed them pick up 5 Mustangs and gentle and then compete in a Mustang Makeover. You can watch for FREE with a one week trial membership on UPFaith and Family TV. It was SO good and you LEARN from watching them. And you feel NORMAL because you see them afraid, make mistakes etc. Lots to be said about that too.

Then, for $10 you join Horse and Country TV and can watch all 8 or more episodes of a show calling
Keeping Up with The Kaimanaws. It’s a reality TV show following the Wilson Sisters about their experience taming wild horses in New Zealand. 1 in 8 New Zealanders watched the show and they started a national movement to stop the horses mostly going to slaughter. Watch them for 30 days and then cancel. All for $10.

Here’s an episode on youtube to give you an idea how good it is:

One more idea at the moment is a recent podcast with Warwick Schiller and Amanda Wilson and she talks about moving even more slowly these days to back off when her wild horses are uncomfortable and how you go faster later when you go slower to start. Episode 86. Highly recommend all his
interviews. All truly remarkable. I listen while mowing, driving, etc. https://www.warwickschiller.com/podcast/

Look forward to following your journey!