Kylie Jensen dreams a little wilder than most. Her ambition to tame and train wild horses was born after being given a link to the film Wild Horse, Wild Ride by her instructor, Tony McKee, at the Remuda Horseman Program, an equine-assisted leadership and social skill development program.
Unable to make her dream a reality close to home, the teen from Stony Plain, Alberta sought an opportunity across the border. She sent her application to compete in the 2014 BLM 100 Day Challenge, held last July in Nampa, Idaho, and was thrilled to be accepted. Kylie placed 10th overall in the Youth Division with her assigned horse, a two-year old-gelding named Oden. After falling in love with him during the competition, Kylie adopted Oden, but was unable to bring him home until April 2015, due to paperwork delays.
Enthused by her experience, Kylie was eager to continue training wild horses. “These horses are so much more willing than any domestic horse I’ve ever worked with,” she said. “If you take the time to gain their trust and let them understand what you’re asking of them, the sky is the limit.”
Kylie’s next opportunity presented itself in February 2015, with the news of a wild horse capture set to take place in the Ghost River Equine Zone in Alberta, by the Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development (ESRD). This seasonal horse capture was nothing new, but, for the first time, horses were being offered to the public.
Wild Horses of Alberta Society (WHOAS), with whom the ESRD has a five-year Moratorium of Understanding for a pilot project and study that combines adoption and PZP (a form of contraception via vaccine) in the Sundre Equine Zone, had first dibs on the horses that were captured. Any horses that WHOAS could not take into their facility for gentling and adoption, due to space constraints, were offered at public auction.
Kylie decided she would purchase a horse at auction as opposed to adopting through WHOAS because she said she “knew whatever horses WHOAS took in were going to be safe and well taken care of. The horses going through the auction were the ones in danger of falling between the cracks and ending up in a bad place.” She launched a GoFundMe page to raise the money, and, thanks to the generosity of wild horse advocates, the campaign was a huge success.
On auction day, the news program W5 was there hoping to follow the stories of people who adopted the wild horses. Kylie agreed to participate in their story, but, focused on the task at hand, the 18-year-old was indifferent to the cameras pointed at her. “It was weird,” she admitted, “but I was just thinking about bidding and bringing a horse home.”
Kylie ended up buying a mature bay stud that caught her eye for $500. “I liked his looks,” she said, “and I also knew that not as many people would be anxious to take on a stallion, thinking that they would be too hard to work with.”
As it turned out, the colt had been captured mere days before the auction was held on February 28th. As such, Kylie was prepared for it to take a while to get him on the trailer, but the horse that only a few days earlier had been running free in the wild, loaded like a champ.
Knowing she had a special horse, Kylie wanted to make sure his name reflected this. She decided to name him Canadian Legend, calling him Legend for short.
Once they were home, Kylie started a Facebook page to share her journey and advocate for the wild horses, then set to work getting to know Legend. At first, she just let him settle into his new surroundings, as her immediate concern was earning his trust. She was in no rush, and, she said, the beautiful bay with the “soft eyes” responded well.
While working on familiarizing Legend with touch, Kylie noticed he was especially sensitive to being approached from his left side. Having made the decision to geld him, Kylie used the opportunity to have the vet ‘age’ him and check out his left eye to see if there was any physical reason for his sensitivity. The vet’s exam revealed that Legend was likely seven or eight years old, and in good health. Kylie continued to post updates with pictures and videos, sharing their ups and downs with humour and honesty.
Following his castration, they hit a rough patch. Legend seemed frustrated and Kylie was worried about their progress, especially since Oden was due to come home. She wondered how Legend would react to her absence, followed by the arrival of a new horse. It turned out her worry was for nothing. When she returned with Oden, Kylie found Legend happy to pick up where they left off. And, as an added bonus, perhaps recognizing a kindred spirit in Oden, Legend responded well to his presence. In fact, he seemed to welcome it.
Legend’s funny, quirky personality began to show more as his training progressed. Kylie said she was amazed and delighted to see his confidence grow each day. By the end of April, he had reached the point where he would accept the saddle on his back.
May 20th marked a huge milestone for the duo, as Kylie sat astride Legend bareback for the first time. Although it ended ingloriously with Kylie “eating dirt”, she said she couldn’t be any prouder of her Canadian Legend. On her Facebook page, she posted: “Poor Legend probably wouldn’t have been so quick to sign up to train a human if he knew how hard it would be.”
Kylie has recently added long-lining to Legend’s routine, and, she said, he is more relaxed and supple with every session. In order to mix things up and keep Legend interested, Kylie has also incorporated free jumping into his liberty play sessions. She said he seems enthusiastic about this new activity and excels at it.
Comparing Legend’s and Oden’s progress, Kylie likens it to comparing apples and oranges. Oden was captured as a young colt and was used to humans from being in a holding facility before Kylie worked with him. Legend was a mature stud that had lived in the wild, and was captured and run through the auction within a few days. Oden may have ‘come around’ quicker, but Kylie feels that Legend’s progress is remarkable, considering his background.
Plus, Kylie noted, she had the luxury of devoting all her time to working with Oden during the competition, while working with Legend is something she must incorporate into all of life’s other responsibilities. And so, she said, this makes it difficult to draw any fair comparisons.
The future looks bright for Kylie and her “little wild man”, as they continue to grow and learn together. Having found her heart’s desire, she plans to continue advocating for the wild horses and to travel with Legend one day, so people can see the lovability and trainability of these horses firsthand.
You can find Kylie and Legend on Facebook, their page is CWHH – Canadian Legend. Kylie will be revisited by W5 in August to film the progress she and Legend have made since the auction. The air date for the W5 episode had yet to be announced as of press time, but is speculated to be this fall.