Wild Horse Mentors at the
Vallejo Wild Horse Adoption
April, 1998

This was the first time we as a group actually worked with the folks from Ukiah and Susanville. What a great bunch of people to work with! It was really refreshing to get involved with folks that had a "can do" attitude and tried to use some imagination in promoting safe and effective adoptions for the horses in their care. Pardee Bardwell, Jeff Fontana and the rest of the BLM contingent made us feel quite welcome and this informal get together was just the first of many productive activities involving the mentors and BLM.

We worked with horses of various ages and experiences. The purpose of the exercises was to develop thinking skills in the horses which would replace their more natural "flight or fight" instincts; consider and respond what was going on rather than react to it. The product which we would achieve through this practice is a horse whose reaction time to something unexpected was less instantaneous, which would allow the average rider time to recognize what was going on, apply an aid or cue, and have the horse be likely to respond to the rider rather than simply react to the upsetting stimulus.

Obstacles which we presented to the horses included tire rings, plastic bags, a blue plastic tarp which rippled in the breeze, a labyrinth, ground poles, a dragging tire, and a lightweight plastic culvert which would move if the horses kicked it and which we hid inside a terry cloth towel tied to a string which we could yank out (rabbit out of a pipe trick). We used some TTEAM methods to encourage the horses to relax and focus and "Learn-Learn" to encourage them to approach and handle the obstacles without force.

The mentors practiced these skills to the point that they could ride the horses through the obstacles while waving a plastic grocery bag all around on the end of a crop. These events were recorded on videotape to share amongst the group. These approaches will be useful when helping other adopters get their horses emotionally grounded as well as safe and reliable to work with. In the successive pages of this document we will show the different obstacles and how we worked with them.


Patty and CJ

Emotions under control:

The horse can maintain control and respond to the rider in spite of scary objects on the ground or moving around him. (How fast the flag is moving around CJ is evidenced by the bent crop.)

These are intermediate level skills that adopters need to master.

Note that CJ is only wearing a halter

Continue to Page 2

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