As a horse lover and enthusiast, you may have wondered whether or not it is possible to tame a wild horse. Mustangs, free-roaming horses from the Western United States, are known for their untamed spirits and living out in nature with minimal human contact. Could a horse like this be tamed?
Taming a Wild Horse
With careful training and a lot of patience, wild horses can be tamed. A wild horse to transition to be ready for a beginner rise will take several months to up to a year. The taming of a wild horse will take longer than that of a horse used to being in close contact with humans.
Being in a confined space with a wild animal can be dangerous, and so the taming of horses such as mustangs needs to be done with caution.
How hard is it to tame a wild horse?
It takes a lot of experience and practice to be able to tame wild horses. This is not a task an inexperienced horse handler could or should take on. It requires an understanding of basic equine behavior and a certain level of confidence around horses. So what does the process involve?
“The first couple of hours is spent establishing some initial trust and respect between the horse and the person.”
The reason confidence around wild horses is so crucial is because horses are herd animals. Within their herds, there are dominant horses who influence much of the movement and behavior of the herd.
In the taming process, the handler is the one who needs to establish their own sense of dominance and leadership in order for the horse to submit and begin to obey commands.
One of the crucial aspects of taming a wild horse is body language. A handler’s understanding and use of body language can have a big impact on how long it may take for them to build a relationship with a wild horse.
How to tame a wild horse?
Horses who are tamed and trained with non-forceful techniques are proven to be easier to handle and are more respectful of their riders in the long term. Below is a list of the steps to take.
- The handler, especially if taming a horse for the first time, should take a moment and put themselves in the horse’s position. A wild horse who is suddenly in a confined area could be feeling scared, belligerent, and possibly be willing to hurt a handler to gain their freedom.
With the power and strength of horses, it’s important to keep this in mind as there will always be a danger level. If anyone may be more knowledgeable, a handler should contact them for any helpful advice before getting started.
- Place the wild horse in the company of tamed horses in a field to start. Walking to the tame horses in the field and feeding them carrots or treats will show the wild horse that there is nothing to fear. The tame horses should be patted with the use of a soft voice and warm tone. Over time, the wild horse will start to relax and may start even to approach the handler.
- Earn the horse’s trust. This is best done at first on foot with regular contact with the horse. The horse should be given the opportunity and time to get used to the handler’s touch. The handler should use their voice and constant positive reinforcement with carrots or treats to encourage the horse.
- Groom the horse. Regular grooming is relaxing for a horse and is also a crucial part of getting a horse accustomed to being touched all over their bodies. The strokes with the brushes should be slow and smooth so as not to unsettle the horse.
- Introduce the horse to lunging. Once a horse is comfortable being handled, groomed, and wearing a halter, the final step in taming them is introducing them to lunging. This allows the horse to be handled through the walk, trot, and canter.
How do you calm a wild horse?
Just like humans, horses get nervous and uneasy in situations that are unfamiliar. There is a combination of actions that help to calm a wild horse down. These include:
- Making use of your voice with a calm and soothing tone.
- Moving slowly and avoid sudden movements.
- Let the horse inspect any area of their surroundings, which makes them uneasy.
- Don’t make any of the horse’s negative reactions a big deal. Stay calm and move past them when they do happen.
- Keeping breathing. A slow and relaxed breath will keep the horse calm.
How to get a wild horse to come to you
In the wild, horses are prey animals and are naturally on high alert. For this reason, they can be difficult to catch, especially if they are wild. It is never advisable to try and get close to or catch a horse which is completely wild. It is only advisable to get close to horses who are roaming free if they have had some contact with humans.
To encourage a horse to come to you, it is important to move slowly in your approach to them. Keep using your voice as a way of reassuring them, always keeping your voice low and your tone soft.
Pay attention to horses reactions and behavior. If they shy away from your presence as you approach, stop walking. If they stop to look at you with their ears pricked forward, this is a sign of getting their attention and is a positive sign.
Once you have the horse engaged, make use of carrots or other treats to encourage them to come to you. If the horse continues to show interest by keeping your eye contact, walk a few paces forward and stop. Continue to observe their behavior. If they shy away, don’t continue walking towards them.
Continue this engagement with a horse over a few consecutive days. The horse will become comfortable with your presence in their environment. If they do not come to you in the first few instances, leave the treats you have on the ground and retreat, allowing the horse to investigate once you leave.
The horse will, over time, associate your presence with a positive experience (receiving treats) and begin to walk towards you as you enter their space.
How to train a wild horse
One of the most popular ways to train wild horses, especially mustangs, is through respondent training. It is a training method that is considered to be the most direct in terms of calming a horse and setting the tone for a horse’s response to humans.
One of the key objectives when training a wild horse is to ensure that whenever a horse sees a person, they associate this with a positive experience.
The main premise of respondent training is association and is the first stage of training a wild horse. The second phase involves a mix of positive and negative enforcement practices encouraging certain behavior from the horse.
“If the horse has been held under adverse conditions and already has a negative opinion about people, the initial acclimation may take too long using only positive reinforcement.”
From this point, a wild horse is introduced to being touched all over their body, having a halter on their face, and getting close contact from humans regularly. Only when completely comfortable, the horse will be introduced to horse riding tack and having a bridle and saddle on their back.
The final step is getting the horse used to carrying weight on their back. As with training any horse, it is crucial that this process is taken very slowly to avoid any injury to the horse or the handler.
It can take up to 12 months to completely train a wild horse and prepare it to have a ride of any skill on their back.
Is it legal to tame a wild horse?
In most countries around the world, you are not allowed to catch and keep a wild horse. In the United States, for example, legislation exists to protect wild horses and prevent unregulated capturing and taming of these animals.
This does not mean that owning a wild horse is always illegal. While you are not allowed to catch a keep a wild horse, you can apply to adopt a wild horse.
“The cost of adopting a wild horse from the Bureau of Land Management is $125”
A period of 12 months is required for the taming and training of these wild horses before the Bureau will allow these horses to be relocated to a buyer’s property or designated stables.
This adoption program started in 1976 and has seen more than 200,000 horses adopted.