KBR Training Case Study

(Originally known as "Debbie")

Can older mustangs be trained?

Queen of the mountain!
Please note: This feature was started when Velvet was owned by her original adopter who had named her Debbie. We decided to leave the original portion of this case study unchanged, with her early records referring to her as "Debbie."

Debbie and her foal, Beacon, were adopted by mentor Sara Christensen. Debbie is a prime example of how, even without the perfect environment and training equipment, one can make great headway using some common sense, understanding of horses and approaches to which wild horses respond favorably.

Debbie is 6 years old, considered by some to be too old and difficult to train as wild horses go, however we love to work the older horses as most of them have developed some pretty good common sense. Sara used the pole method which she learned from John Sharp at Wild Horse Workshop '98, and clicker training which she learned from Judy Ryder-Duffy at the LRTC / Wild Horse Mentors' Clicker Training Workshop at Brentwood Oaks.

Debbie came to the ranch to be trimmed, be exposed to a lot of activity, do some advanced ground schooling and be exposed to basic saddle work. She also needed to get used to being handled by men, of whom she was suspicious. Debbie was a little nervous when she first arrived, but settled down nicely into her pen next to the round corral. This case study starts with her first full day after arriving.

Day 1

Sharon played with some targeting and Debbie quickly learned to play games with the stall ball, either touching or kicking the ball on cue. Debbie was easily distracted by activities in her new environment and most activities involved keeping her focused.

Day 2

We worked on walking up and haltering in different size enclosures including the arena. Debbie did well. Then we proceeded to longeing and line work in the arena. Debbie would rather stand than move so we worked on forward motion and not stalling out. She packed a saddle for a short while but it was too late in the day for any sweaty work.

The sun had set, there was still some daylight outside and we decided to walk out to the horse course. Debbie took the obstacles on first approach each time including the bridge, culvert, stairs and even the pit, although she wasn't too sure about the pit and Mary provided just a wee bit of influence by positioning herself and Tess behind Debbie.

Day 3

We focused on more line work and picking up feet. At the end of the day, Sharon demonstrated Debbie's games with the stall ball. Afterward I was having her "count" by slapping the stall ball with her foot on cue and she managed to get her foot through the ball handle and stuck on her foot. Debbie flopped the ball around a couple of times trying to shake it off, and then stood quietly for Sharon to remove it.

Day 4

After more fun in the Horse Course, this time with Sharon as photographer, it was time to trim front feet. Debbie did quite well, better than some domestics I've trimmed, and even would let me bring her feet forward onto the shoeing stand to be dressed off with the rasp. Her hooves were long so we merely trimmed off the excess this time around and will finish the job in about 2 weeks after her feet adjust.

At the end of the trim session, Debbie was in the hay barn. She had apparently seen the other animals go over to the barn and ring the bell for treats. Without any hesitation she walked over to the bell and gave it a smack! She continued this behavior until we ran out of carrot bits!

Day 5

Sharon worked Debbie on the line doing basic NH maneuvers which Debbie picked up quickly. Then Sharon rewarded her with some clicker games. In a few minutes Debbie would, on command, go over to a stall ball which was wedged in the round corral railing and pull the handle with her teeth to bring the ball into the pen. Before long she was picking up the ball from the ground. Hmmm... perhaps we can teach her to fetch the newspaper!

Continue to Part Two

The scary pit
Up the steep side
Bringing a foot forward on the stand
(Uh, Debbie, you're supposed to be
nervous about this farrier stuff...)
Front feet before...
Font feet after
And what do you want?
Ringing the bell

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