The story of our Mustangs
In February 2005 I received a phone call from Albert Botha, a film producer who owns a company called Primitive Pictures. We had just released a film entitled "Quiet Man, Quiet Horse" which had been produced by Albert and his team. Albert called to tell me that he had been contacted by a horse activist from Alaska who had seen Quiet Man, Quiet Horse, and was pleased at the quiet and gentle approach of training displayed in the film.
This activist had learned that the American government, who after protecting the wild Mustangs and Burros for the last thirty five years, had just recently passed a bill in congress stating that any wild Mustang over the age of ten could be sold. There had always been an adoption program for these horses from age two and under. Still, there was an increasing number of older horses who, when captured, were being housed in government owned and run facilities. With the passing of the new bill their futures were in serious doubt as they now could be sold for whatever purpose the buyer deemed. It was thought that these horses were too wild and dangerous to be trained and therefore had no purpose in the adoption program. It was for this reason that the activist had called Albert - to see if we would be interesting in taking one or two of the older horses to try and train, to prove to the US government and the rest of the world that these older horses could have a useful and productive life.
The US government had agreed, as a pilot project, to let us come down to their holding facilities in Rock Springs, Wyoming and select some of the older horses which we would be allowed to bring back to Canada. Up until then, only an American citizen could own an American Mustang. These would be the first ones allowed out of the US.
In March we headed to Wyoming with Albert and his team of Rob and Mike Davidson with James Gardner, as well as Leah McLaren from the Globe and Mail to select the horses and begin filming what was to become a documentary of the entire project. When we got to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) yard where the horses were being held, the selection began. Out of thirty five geldings all over the age of ten, we selected five. From the eight older mares, we chose three. The BLM had arranged transportation for the geldings to my facility in Harwood and the three mares were taken to a paddock at St. Anne's Inn and Spa in nearby Grafton, Ontario where Alberta would be in charge of their care.
I had named the geldings Caspar, Cheyenne, Colton, Ferron and Cody - all after Wyoming towns. After studying them for a couple of weeks and letting them settle in, I decided that the black gelding Caspar would be the one I would attempt to train. These were extremely wild and dangerous horses, and thankfully my work on some Mustangs several years earlier had helped to prepare me for the tremendous task ahead.
At first the training went slowly and Caspar seemed to fight at every turn. I really could not blame him though as I realized that they had been running wild in Utah as stallions a mere five weeks before they had come to us. Finally after six weeks, Caspar seemed to turn a corner and started to respond very nicely to the training. By December I had been able to put a full harness on him. It was at this time that I decided to bring him into the stable for the winter which proved very much to be a feat in itself. He had never seen the inside of a building such as this in his life. As with the other challenges I had given him, in no time had he settled in and seemed to be enjoying his new home.
The schooling continued throughout the winter, always with careful planning and a large amount of patience. In mid March 2006 he was ready to be given his first drive. This was to be done on our rugged training cart. After a few minor setbacks, with the film crew capturing our every move, Caspar was hooked to the vehicle. Even with the six inches of newly fallen snow he trotted nicely around the track, just as if he had done it all his life. This proved, beyond a doubt, that the older Mustangs could be trained. As for the mares at St. Anne's, two weeks after their arrival the first one had foaled. The second of the foals born, known as Cody Jr., has been trained to ride and drive and is one of the "equine stars" in the newly released film "Saving the Mustang" which aired on PET Network and iChannel in December 2011.
With the release of this film our project had come to completion. We had accomplished all that we had been asked to do, which was to raise awareness to the plight of the older Mustangs and prove that they could be trained. One of the most important things that had been accomplished with the project was saving these eight horses lives. A large part of the credit for our success was due in part to Albert Botha and his team at Primitive Pictures. Thanks also to Stornoway Productions of Toronto who were also partners in the making of the film.
Randy Bird Equine Education
5200 White Road North, Harwood, Ontario, Canada, K0K 2H0
Home: (905) 342 - 3053 Stable: (905) 342 - 5557 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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