When we got to Susan’s to pick up my three newly adopted wild mustangs, we decided to back my trailer into their pen and start feeding in it in hopes that they would learn to “self-load” before I had to head home. Susan had done this successfully with a wild stallion she once had to transport, but while she had weeks in which to acclimate him to the idea, we had only four days.
Fortunately, it didn’t take long before the pinto was going in and out of the trailer, completely unfazed by the high step up that reached nearly to his chest. The other two, however, simply stared longingly at the hay and wouldn’t go in. We gave them only a little hay outside the trailer, hoping that hunger would finally help them to (literally) make the leap, but they weren’t budging. My nerves started to fray as I envisioned the rodeo we could be facing if we couldn’t get the horses to load up on their own.
With only a couple of days to go, we set up a game camera in the trailer, praying that we would see all three venturing in, but footage the next day showed only the pinto enjoying having all that hay to himself. What to do? Thank goodness Susan’s husband Mike came to the rescue by building a ramp out of compacted sand to decrease the tall step into the trailer. Once the ramp was in place, all three mustangs immediately started going in and out of the trailer with ease – yeah!
When it was time to start for home, I put some hay in the trailer and watched with relief as all three horses walked in and let me close the door. Since we couldn’t unload the mustangs and wanted to get them home as soon as possible, my boyfriend Colin had flown down to Reno so we could take shifts driving back. We wondered what adventures might befall us hauling all that way with three horses we couldn’t touch, but thankfully, the mustangs were phenomenal on the trip home – quiet, calm, and sensible. Nonetheless, after 33 hours of driving and some tense moments at the border due to a small glitch in the paperwork, I had never been more relieved to be home!
As a horse trainer and passionate horse enthusiast who has been riding for the last 23 years, I’ve worked with many different kinds of horses and I love them all. However, I truly believe there is something special about mustangs – a deep feel and purity that comes from living in the wild without human contact. I felt a particular connection with the Nevada mustangs during my time there, so when the opportunity arose to help both them and the outstanding organization Susan works with, it seemed like fate. Since I’ve had the great privilege of being mentored by Canadian horse trainer and clinician Josh Nichol for the past six years, my goal is to train these great horses using his Relationship Horsemanship principles, and then find loving homes for them.
Though I am just getting to know the three mustangs, I am already so amazed by the intelligence and adaptability of these horses. They are truly remarkable animals that clearly show the benefits of growing up in the wild, combined with nearly 200 years of natural selection. I hope you will join me on my journey as I gentle and train these mustangs, which is going to be the experience of a lifetime!
Horse trainer Robyn Szybunka adopts three Nevada mustangs and brings them home to Alberta. Follow her journey as she gentles and trains these wild horses.