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Understand Your Mustang

General Horse Articles - Understand Your Mustang
By Allison Griest

Wild Mustangs are beautiful creatures. If you travel through some of the western states like Wyoming, Nevada and California, you might just spot a herd grazing in the distance or traveling across the land.

Thanks to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the government agency that is in charge of public lands, you can adopt a Mustang! However, adopting a wild horse is very different from getting a horse from a trainer or rescue facility.

How to Adopt a Mustang
The BLM has several different programs that help Mustangs find new homes. To make sure there is enough water and grass for wild horses and other wildlife that live on the land, the BLM gathers horses and burros and brings them to BLM corrals where they are cared for before they get adopted. The gathers also help the land stay healthy so future generations of horses and burros can survive on the land.

Many of these corrals are out west, so there are also satellite adoptions for people who live in other parts of the country. Fifty to 70 Mustangs are trailered to adoption locations, like a barn or horse park, so you can visit them. The BLM also has a foster and trainer incentive program. Call the BLM to see if there's a horse in a foster home near you.

You have to be at least 18 years old and provide documentation to the BLM showing you can provide a Mustang with good food, water and shelter before you are allowed to adopt one, so talk to you parents about getting a Mustang.

If you're interested in adopting a Mustang or want to learn more about Mustangs that will be up for adoption in your area, call the BLM at 866-4Mustangs or visit its website at

Training a Mustang
A Mustang that you adopt from the BLM has most likely never been around people, so for your safety and the safety of the horse, you should work with a trainer or knowledgeable horse person when you get a Mustang.

The horse is a flight animal, meaning he's going to run from anything that he thinks is threatening. Horses that are born in a breeding stable or at your boarding barn interact with people moments after they are born. They know we only want to be nice to them, but a Mustang doesn't.
According to Hank Curry, an experienced Mustang trainer, the first thing you do when you start working with a Mustang is show him you're not going to hurt him. Hank has been the head trainer of the Carson City Prison Wild Horse Training program at the Northern Nevada Correctional Center in Carson City, Nev. for seven years.

The Carson City Prison Wild Horse Training program is one of many prison-inmate rehabilitation programs. Trainers like Hank work with inmates who ride the Mustangs so the horses have an opportunity to get some training before they get adopted. Horses can have between 30 to 120 days of training by the time an adoption takes place. The great thing about Mustangs that come from these programs is they have already started to trust people. However, a Mustang will still have a lot to learn when you bring him home.

Working with a Mustang can be a very rewarding experience. Hank finds that once a Mustang gets past his fear, the fear turns into confidence. "Then you've got a really loyal animal," he says.

Mustang Herd Dynamics
Unlike Hollywood movies where a stallion gallops up a hill with a herd following him, a wild horse herd is actually controlled by a mare, called the lead mare. The lead mare is usually an older mare that knows the area and knows what it takes to keep the herd alive. If she senses danger, she will give a signal to the herd, such as a snort. She will get ready to run and the herd will follow her lead. She knows where to find food, where to find water, and where her herd should and should not be.

A stallion protects the lead mare and the rest of the herd until another stallion challenges him and wins the herd. Besides the stallion and lead mare, the rest of the herd is typically made up of other mares, foals and young horses. Most colts are pushed out of the herd when they are about two years old. Young colts and single colts of any age, called bachelor studs, will often band together.

When you adopt a Mustang, keep in mind that because he is a herd animal, he might be really scared when you take him away from his herd. Give him time to adjust to his new environment, just like you'd give a weanling time to adjust from being away from his mother.

Mustangs and You
Mustangs are an intelligent breed, so they're quick learners. They have great endurance and very strong hooves, so they're suitable for a lot of riding disciplines. Once you bond with your Mustang, you could be winning ribbons in show rings or having a blast on the trail!



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