Firefly and the Mustang Makover
I’m SO excited! I’m going to bring a mustang home! I can’t wait. It's my first time, but I will be entering the mustang into a competition called "Mustang Makeover" where some people go, get a mustang, and have 90 days to train them and gain the horse's trust, then perform the trust at the competition. You get money if you win, but I don't care about that. If you want you, you can adopt the mustang, or let someone else adopt the horse.
“Mom! Can we go now?! I want to get a good mustang, so we need to get there early.”
“Coming Josie,” Mom said coming out of the kitchen, “go check and make sure the trailer is hitched properly before we leave.”
I wheeled and was about to rush out the door when I stopped. “Hey mom? I don’t really like the idea of forcing a scared horse into a dark trailer.”
“I know, me either, but we have no choice, so if you want to get there early, hurry up!”
I looked each horse over carefully, leaning eagerly over the fence. All the mustangs had their ears pricked, but they were trembling, so they were frightened of us humans, which was understandable.
My eyes rested on a beautiful bay stallion, who was standing in the back of the group, but there was a look of curiosity on his eyes. Good, just what I want.
“Mom, we’re getting that one.
I rubbed my sore legs. I had been standing stock still for over an hour watching the bay. We had taken him home, and let him loose in the round pen, and I was letting him get used to seeing me near him, and used to the round pen.
I watched, waiting for just the right moment when he was relaxed. Now it was time. I moved slowly in, to the middle. He was instantly alert, galloping to as far away from me as he could. I stood in the middle, eyes lowered, arms at my side, and then I murmured, “I’ll call you... Firefly.”
He threw his majestic head at my voice, even though it was low and soothing. Then slowly I raised my arms into a T shape, and stared right into his eyes. He reared, and then took off at a gallop at the edge of the fence around me. I turned in a circle following him with my stare and my body in place.
After a few minutes of galloping, he grew tired and lowered his head submissively.
“Not yet boy.” And I kept him going.
A minute later, he had his head lowered, and was licking his lips, also a submissive sign.
“Alright, I’ll stop.” I lowered my eyes, and my arms, then turned and walked away, hoping he would follow. I smiled when I heard his steady hoof beats. I stopped at the gate, still turned away, then I felt his warm breath tickling my neck. Then I very slowly, turned around to face him, not looking into his eyes, and held out my hand, breathing into his nostrils, a horse greeting.
I was surprised at how quickly he blew back, a friendly sign.
The next day I repeated the process. This time with a halter in my hand, which I let Firefly sniff.
I don’t feed treats or feed out of my hand, which would teach him to bite for food. I taught him it was safe to eat out of a bucket on the ground. He’s already learned to let me touch him all over, though he bolted the first time I tried to touch him, and I had to do the submission thing again. If I ever got frustrated, I stopped and gave us both a break, since he can sense my feelings.
“Good boy! Now tomorrow I'm going to rub this sack all over you. Here are your oats, oh, and a treat,” I said, setting the bucket down, and then tossing a treat into it.
I don’t train Firefly with treats, a whip, or by force, but by trust. I only have 90 days to teach him everything, but I don’t rush, he is such a fast learner though! And after, I want to adopt him.
“Alright boy, eeeeasy.” I leaned over his back a little further, putting in more weight, then he stomped, with his ears back, so I slid off.
“Goooood boy! You did it!” I gave him a rubdown, which he loves. I'm teaching him not to be scared when I get on his back, or right now, lean over it. Because, naturally, he would bolt, because I'm in his blind spot.
On the last week, I did a review on all the things we had learned.
“Alright boy, walk,” he moved easily and gracefully forward. I was riding him without reins, so we had to have good communication, and trust each other greatly.
I taught him how to do all the gaits gracefully, and I could stand on his back.
I also got all my family to help me make him bomb proof, which means we got him not to be scared of loud noises like shouting, or an umbrella in his face. I smiled, that was fun, then Firefly snorted.
“I should be paying more attention, yeah?”
The day has come!
I led firefly confidently into the trailer, scratching his cheek. Then we were on our way!
I was so nervous! Hundreds of people were there, including my family.
“Firefly? I may be nervous, but I trust you, you trust me, and we have worked so hard together, so I know it will go OK, even if we don’t win, I can still have you.”
I mounted up and immediately felt at home.
“Let’s show them what we can do," I whispered.
Ahead of me, the indoor arena, was scary, there were so many people all around. Everything was silent. I glanced at the judges, and one of them grinned at me. I took a deep breath and began. First, I performed the different gaits, and then the sidepass.
I watched Firefly for any signs of stress, there was none. Then I grinned, sending confidence down through the reins, he knew what was next.
To everyone’s surprise, including my family’s, I took off the bridle and performed the gaits for freestyle.
“Good boy! You are so amazing!” Then in the end, I stopped him, and slowly stood up on his back, without reins This was something I had not done before, I was trusting that he would trust me. He stood perfectly still. The crowd erupted in applause! I dismounted, and walked into through the gate, him following me.
“Good boy! You hear that? They are cheering for you!”
I gave him some carrots, and then walked him over to the gate with the rest of the riders listening to see who the winner was.
“And the winner is...” Everything was quiet.
“Josie on Firefly!” the screaming and clapping almost drowned out what he said next, “for their amazing trust and communication to each other! Congratulations!”
I praised Firefly, and then led him out, with the adoption money in hand to the judge. The friendly judge came down from the stand and asked, “Are you planning on adopting Firefly?” he said, stroking Firefly’s forehead. “I would be sad to see such a perfect pair broken up.”
“Oh yes sir, here is the money.”
“I think the prize money will pretty much cover the cost.”
"Oh I’m so happy! Thank you!” I said hugging Firefly. “We’ll always be together,” I whispered to Firefly.
“I hope you will come again sometime Josie, you have a gift with horses.”
“Thank you sir, I definitely will.”