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Adopting, training, and competing mustangs can be very rewarding. I know this because I am on my way back from competing in the Maryland TIP Mustang challenge with my two mustangs, and we’re coming home with the championship buckle. My little mustang Elon who won the championship was from the silver king’s HMA (herd management area).
When considering adopting a mustang, there are a few things to consider. These horses tend to be very compact, hardy and with good feet. They can live outside comfortably and, in most cases, off hay or grass alone, making them easy keepers. It is important to keep in mind that when the mustangs arrive, their feet are not always in the best shape because they don’t get regular trimming, they also don’t get routine vaccinations, but they do get dewormed twice a year.
We have to start the gentling process to get them used to having their feet trimmed and preparing them for vaccinations. Too gentle a mustang, they must be easy to catch and lead and comfortable with touching and picking up their feet. You want to look for any physical issues they might have because if a mustang is deemed unrideable, in some cases, they’ve determined the best course of action is to put them down, but that is very rare. When it comes to the nutrition side, very minimal supplementation is necessary, but of course, each horse is different. I provide my mustangs with a vitamin and mineral supplement, Omega Alpha Body Flow, added fat, and Omega Alpha Biotic Eight, probiotic.
A Mustang’s size and colour can depend on where they come from; this is called the HMA’s. HMA’s or herd management areas are managed by the BLM (The Bureau of Land Management). The BLM is a government organization in the United States that governs where these wild horses are and manages how they are on the land; they’ve given them these different HMA categories to group horses from specific areas. Now, of course, they’re wild horses, so they travel and sometimes a horse may travel from one HMA to another HMA because they are no physical barriers.
I have had horses from several different HMA’s. The horses that come from Oregon are known for being quiet with a good brain. I’ve had one horse from Warm Springs, Oregon; he was the easiest horse to get started and train. He was pretty much safe for beginners and kids to get on with only a month or two of training under his belt. He was so quiet that he filmed a commercial for TSN sports when he was only three months into his training process.
Mustangs can be a mixture of breeds of horses; this is because different breeds of horses have been released or escaped over the year into the wild. For example, depending on where you are, these horses are known to have Spanish breeding in Utah. I have had one horse from Bible springs; he was a very fancy mover and carried himself nicely, had a natural round top line, and displayed some of those Spanish bloodline traits. Kibou, on the other hand, came from Warm Springs in Oregon. That area has different types of breeds; they are known to have more ranch stock lines, even some Saddlebred breeding.
If you are looking for a particular type of horse, it is essential to research the HMA’s.
My first mustang was a little black Mustang from Antelope Valley, and he was straightforward to get handled and very easy and friendly for leading. However, he was a little bit hard to judge, I had a student who was helping me at the time, and he had a couple of good rides under his belt, but she ended up falling off him. I found he started to be a little bit more stubborn, opinionated about things, and a bit on the lazy side. Even though we used a lot of positive reinforcement in our Harmony Horsemanship training, it took a lot of motivating a lot of positive reinforcement for him to want to do different things.
My next Mustangs were Meraki and Kibou, Meraki was a little bay from Nevada, and Kibou was from Warm Springs, Oregon. These two were the easiest to get started; Meraki took a little longer to gentle because he was very flighty and reactive to things walking behind him and more sensitive in general to cues. Kibou finished ninth in the Georgia challenge.
Next was a horse named Valenti from Bible springs, Utah; he had Spanish breeding. Valenti took a little bit more to gain his trust. And he would be a little bit spookier about things like the tarp. He was talented and athletic, with a beautiful trot, canter, and a lovely jump. Valenti ended up finishing Reserve Champion in a virtual challenge.
My latest Mustangs, Timmy, and Elon were both from Silver Kings, Nevada. This HMA is known for producing a bit more of a flighty mustang. Elon ended up being braver out of the two. He is easygoing, very patient, and willing. Timmy is more extroverted, and he’s more fidgety if something’s not right. He tends to speed through things, so even though they’re from the same HMA at the same time, they have very different personalities. We must address the horse on their own merits, but the HMAs can give you other similarities in their size, build hardiness and movement.
And then I have a seventh Mustang that I’m just picking up, and we’ll be bringing to Canada soon. Tom’s Treasure is a Palomino Mustang from Antelope Valley, the same as Valenti. She has already started the gentling process; she has been handled and lead but has shown to be a little reactive.
The process to get a Mustang is a little different for Americans than it is for Canadians. The most popular way is to get a mustang through one of the mustang training programs called the TIP Challenge. You can also sign up for their auction events but going through the training challenge has perks; for example, the competition coordinator will arrange for a pickup date, and they sort out all the paperwork and arrange the pickup times. For me, especially being Canadian and having to go across the border, it’s easier to go through a competition challenge. When you go through one of the challenges, all the horses cost $125. If you’re a youth, it’s only $25. If you go through the adoptions process, the mustangs can get bid up high even as an unhandled Mustang. If you’re bidding a horse from a desirable HMA or desirable colour, those horses can be over $5,000 and sometimes even over $10,000.
The first step to enter a Tip Challenge is visiting the Bureau of Land Management website and complete the application form. Once they accept you, all the trainers get to choose Mustangs. There are different ways of picking a mustang; some are first-come, first-serve, or they may have a list of 50 horses that you get to choose from, or they let you pick in order of how the applications were received. Another way is that they let all Canadians choose from one set of horses, and all the people who live in the States choose from another group of horses. And the reason for that is that there are two types of horses that come from the BLM; you can have titled horses or sale authority horses. Or you can have horses that are adoption horses, and so their title belongs to the government.
When the horses get rounded up, they start as adoption horses whose title belongs to the government. And what that means is that those horses need to stay in the United States for an entire year before they become your official property, and the title transfers to your name, and then you can move them outside of the United States. So as a Canadian who wants to take my horse home to Canada. I can only choose from the sales authority horses, which can leave immediately. Now how a horse becomes a sales authority horse is interesting; they have to be passed over three times at other adoption events or through challenges before a Canadian can choose a horse; this is how a got Elon and Timmy. On the other hand, my Palomino Mustang was an adoption horse and had to be boarded in the States for an entire year.
The Tip Challenges are a great way to acquire a mustang because they are in hand challenges only. It’s an excellent way to start to build trust without the added pressure of riding. The Extreme Mustang Makeovers are a bit different, as you are required to ride. And at the end of the event, there’s a mandatory auction, so technically, you don’t own the horse. If you want to buy the horse, then you have to buy it from the auction. However, there is a perk as the trainer; you get 50% of the sale price. If you want to buy the horse and it bids up to $5,000, you would only pay $2,500. There are many holding facilities in the United States; the closest one is in Illinois. When you pick up your mustang, they will have all the paperwork ready, with a health certificate and vaccination records. If you’re from Canada, you have an extra step of getting the USDA to stamp that health certificate before taking it to Canada.
Owning and training a mustang is so rewarding. When your horse finally lets you touch it and put the halter on, it’s so exciting. Not to mention all the milestones, like going to their first show or first offsite experience or walking over their first little bridge or obstacle. It’s incredible to see all the growth, and it can be entertaining and challenging to work with the different horses with different personalities. I find them easy to work with, and my approach is a very gentle approach with a lot of positive reinforcement. You can check out the Harmony Horsemanship Connection Club at https://harmonyhorsemanshipacademy.org/p/hhacademy (add as a link). There, I post all my Mustang videos to see the first touches, the first halter, etc. One thing is for sure when you go to a Mustang challenge, you can see and hear and feel all the love that these trainers have for these horses, and they’re so dedicated to helping them have the best start in life, and that’s so special to be a part of.
Thanks so much, bye for now.