Book Review: Mustang

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From Wild Horse to Riding Horse

By Vivian Gabor

Published by Trafalgar Square Books/, ISBN: 9781570769740, 159 pages, Paperback
Reviewed by Margaret Evans

“Curiosity is a horse’s essential drive to explore his world. He sizes up what could possibly be dangerous, but also what could help his survival. It could be a new source of food or water, but also an encounter with a horse that might become a new companion. Curiosity is closely linked with learning behaviour and dealing with new situations. Being curious enough to assess an unfamiliar situation is, therefore, important for survival.”

MUSTANG From Wild Horse to Riding Horse is a fascinating, in-depth account of training a wild horse in 90 days.

“Mona” was born in the wild in the United States and, like thousands of Mustangs, she was captured in the annual roundups conducted by the Bureau of Land Management as part of their management policy. The twofold goal is to reduce overgrazing by the wild horses and find them homes through “Mustang Makeovers.”

“Around 10,000 horses are caught every year in the United States, but only 5,000 find homes,” writes Gabor, a behavioural biologist and equine scientist. “Mustang Makeovers are held to facilitate and speed up adoption of captured Mustangs. Trainers work with the Mustangs for a specific period [90 days] before these events, and then show off the Mustangs’ skills to an audience to encourage them to buy the animals.”

American Mustang Germany works to bring attention to the plight of the Mustangs, and some 15 to 20 Mustangs are imported into Germany for vetted trainers to work with them. Gabor, one of those trainers, was tasked with training Mona, starting with the very basics of horse-to-human contact.

“I try to touch Mona’s body more and more frequently,” she writes. “She doesn’t really like being touched. Why would she? She isn’t familiar with it. My touch doesn’t make sense to her. Apart from another horse, what other animal would touch a horse in the wild?”

Gabor’s insightful and profoundly intuitive approach to training Mona, and helping her make sense of her world within a human world, illustrates the depth necessary to achieve success and make progress. From the first suppling exercises to lungeing, saddling, farrier work, arena work, and being ridden, Gabor takes the reader through the minute details of every step. She shares with the reader her own thoughts, feelings, cautions, and worries as she approaches each new stage. And part of the training is when Mona makes her first appearance in front of an audience.

A huge bonus in this book is the many beautiful and explicit colour photos to illustrate every stage of Mona’s training process and achievements.

Mona’s story and her impact on Gabor make fascinating and compelling reading. MUSTANG From Wild Horse to Riding Horse belongs on every equestrian’s bookshelf.

Book Review: Mustang