Sunday, March 4, 2012

Our Horses Are Going to Come From Nevada!

Horses are on the horizon for us, but probably not until this Fall.
Hank Curry, the trainer in charge of the Mustang Training Program

The Mustang Training Center at the Stewart Conservation Camp, a Men's Correctional Facility in Carson City, Nevada
Kim has always dreamed of having a Mustang, but we were worried they might be too much horse for us.  Many of our friends and family members have warned us to stay away from them saying they are too wild to handle, skittish, and small.

At first, we were dissuaded, but we took an opportunity to fly to Carson City Nevada where there is a Mustang training program at the state correctional facility.  The inmates learn to gentle and saddle-train the Mustangs (a way to keep them busy and learn a trade), and then (after an intensive four month program) the Mustangs are auctioned off to the highest bidder.  Bids range from $150 (the starting bid) to $4,000 (a rare high).

What we saw on our weekend trip was nothing short of amazing!  Sixteen horses were up for auction. Every one was beautiful, well mannered, and quite well saddle trained.  We had the opportunity to meet all the horses, nose to nose, talk to the trainers, ask all the questions we wanted, and then see all the horses perform in a group exhibition before the auction.  It was a beautiful sight to behold, and it was hard to remember that these horses had never been handled just four months before!

The Mustangs in formation after the exhibition ride
When the bidding started, each horse was brought out individually and his rider put him through his paces in front of the crowd (all the horses were geldings in this auction).  All the horses circled the arena at a trot and canter, changing gates and direction with ease and with very little direction from their rider.  They all stopped on a dime, backed up well, side stepped beautifully, stood still while being mounted, and allowed their hooves to be picked up without any trouble.  Many of the riders demonstrated that their horses could also be ridden bare back, remain unconcerned even when flags and ropes were waved over their head and in the face, would stand still even if you mounted on the wrong side, would follow the rider around the arena if they dismounted and let the rains drop and walked away, would turn any direction the rider pointed to while the rider was on the ground not holding the reins, helped open gates with the rider mounted, and allowed the rider to dismount by sliding off over their rump without any concern.  Two even allowed their rider to stand on top of the saddle and lay prone on their bare back with their feet on top of the horses head!  All without flinching or shying in any way. 

As to size, the smallest was 14 hands (which did seem a little small for us), and the tallest was 15.3 hands (a little BIG!).  Most were about 14.3 hands, which seemed just right.  We were assured by all the riders and many spectators that any of the horses (even the 14 handers) could easily carry an adult rider without any concern.

The Love of Kim's Life - Dollar the Mustang
Though Kim and I were not there to bid on any of the horses (since our facilities are not ready), both of us fell in love with all the Mustangs after seeing these demonstrations!  Kim's special favorite was Dollar (shown in the adjacent photo).  Though his photo many not show it, Dollar was especially charismatic and playful.  He loved people coming up to him and showed it.

The most surprising thing about the day was that most of the horses sold for less than $500!  They were all worth over $1,000 given the skills they demonstrated.  Apparently, it is a sign of the times, economically speaking. 

So, we are now convinced that we can and will be able to handle horses trained by this facility, and we will be back in October to pick out our two Mustangs!

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