Tips For Training Mustangs And Wild Horses

These days with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) rounding up more and more of our horses from our public lands every day, it behooves genuine horse lovers to do everything they can to provide safe and appropriate homes for these American icons. Beautiful as they are, Mustangs and wild horses present specific challenges that are unlike those presented by domesticated horses. In this article, we provide sound tips and advice to help you train your wild horse or mustang. Read on to learn more on training mustangs.

Tame Before You Train

adopting a wild horse

One of the most important things to understand about wild horses is that they are simply not accustomed to being around people.

For this reason, it’s essential that you invest a great deal of time in getting to know your wild horse, helping him or her become accustomed to human presence and developing a strong bond.

If you try to skip this step, you’ll face a great deal of resistance and any training you provide will resemble old-fashioned, inhumane horse breaking rather than sensible, humane horse training.

Furthermore, attempting to work with a wild horse without proper acclimatization to human presence is far more dangerous than working with a horse who has learned to be around humans comfortably and to trust them.

Become A Horse Whisperer

Luckily, these days there are lots of alternatives to “breaking” horses. There are many good, humane methods such as Parelli Natural Horsemanship Techniques.

It’s a good idea to become familiar with gentle and respectful training methods before you begin working with any horse.

Provide For Your Horse’s Needs

You may be very eager to get to work with your new horse, but it’s smarter to let your new horse set the pace.

Provide a safe, comfortable, secure paddock and stall (per BLM guidelines) for your new charge and set about establishing a solid, predictable daily feeding and socialization schedule.

When your new horse comes to realize that you turn up at the same time every day bearing food and fresh water and offering no threat, he or she will begin trusting you.

During feeding time, putter quietly around the paddock and stall cleaning, talking, singing and basically being a non-threatening human being.

TIP: Be sure that fences surrounding the facilities where your horse is kept are tall, sturdy and free of anything that could hurt your horse. Metal pipe fencing at least 6 feet high is best.

A round pen configuration is best for your horse’s paddock as it will not present any areas where your horse may feel cornered and threatened.

This arrangement will allow you to interact effectively with your horse throughout his training without having to deal with potentially problematic transfers to a separate, round pen training setting.

Let Your Horse Come To You

Don’t make any effort to approach your new horse in the early days. Horses are naturally curious animals, and as your horse begins losing his or her fear of you, curiosity will begin to take over.

Within a month or so, your new horse should be whinnying excitedly when you approach and trotting to meet you when you enter the paddock.

As you bumble about taking care of this and that, you will soon find that your horse is edging closer and closer to you and taking an interest in your activities.

This is a good time to bring a strong resin or plastic lawn chair into the paddock and sit quietly with a book.

Let your horse get used to this for a few days and then begin holding his feed dish in your lap as you sit in your chair.

Your horse should feel perfectly safe to come to you to eat, and you can begin stroking his head and face and getting him used to your presence and your touch.

You’ll soon find that your horse follows you around as you take care of your tasks in the paddock and stall.

Take advantage of his desire to connect with you by encouraging him to walk with you and mirror your actions (turning, stopping, starting and varying walking and trotting speeds).

Talk with your horse as you move about together. Use the same words, in the same way, to mean the same thing, when you turn, stop, start, back, walk and trot.

This builds your horse’s understood vocabulary and strengthens your communication and your bond.

Introduce Grooming And Haltering

Grooming And Haltering

As your horse becomes more and more used to coming to you and being touched and stroked, you can begin introducing grooming implements, halter and lead rope.

Closely observe and listen to your horse to determine which you should introduce first.

If your horse seems to be head shy, you may want to just begin by focusing on firm stroking of the neck and shoulders, moving on toward the back.

Don’t make any sudden moves, and don’t do anything unusual. If you frighten your horse, you may get kicked.

Move gradually toward the hindquarters. Always present a gentle, nonthreatening, confident approach.

Don’t make anxious, tentative moves. Instead, lay the palms of your hands firmly against your horse’s coat and stroke with confidence.

Avoid breaking contact and move steadily around until you’re able to touch and stroke your horse all over his body.

Once he is all right with being handled all over, you can introduce halter, lead rope and grooming implements by allowing him to smell them and then stroking them over him just as you have done with your hands.

If he seems afraid of any of these implements, set them out where he can smell them and examine them on his own and then pick them up and try again.

TIP: Horses who seem afraid of grooming implements at first may do better with grooming gloves to begin with.

Transfer Your Bonding Skills

Transfer Your Bonding Skills

If you’ve been bonding with your horse and have been successful in getting him or her to walk with you and mirror your actions, you’ll have no trouble transferring this knowledge to halter training.

Once your horse is comfortable with being touched and stroked with the halter, you should have no problem putting it on your horse.

Follow this up by having your horse do all of the things that you’ve been doing together, with the addition of the halter.

Lay the lead rope over your horse’s neck or back and let him walk around with it a little bit to get used to the idea that there’s nothing dangerous about it.

Attach the lead rope to the halter and then continue with your usual actions having your horse follow you, turn, start and stop just as you have been doing free-form with verbal communication.

The only difference is that now you and your horse will be connected by the halter and lead rope, and you can begin adding pressure on the rope to signal him as to what you wish to do.

Continue using verbal communication as well. You will eventually be able to fade this so that you can communicate with physical or verbal cues or a combination of the two.

Continue Introducing New Elements Of Taming And Training

Take your time allowing your horse to become used to each new thing that you introduce. Always introduce new things (e.g. handling, grooming tools, halter, lead rope, saddle blanket, saddle, mounting, riding etc.) in the same way.

Maintain a calm, quiet, trustworthy demeanor at all times. Never lose your temper, shout or wave your arms.

Always present yourself as being competent, confident and securely in charge. This is what your horse wants, and this will help you bond. Bonding is the most important part of taming and training any equine.

Be Patient And Empathetic

This kind of training takes a long time, but it’s well worth it. Give your horse all the time he needs (sometimes a month or more) to get used to every new concept and new step. Ensure that he feels secure in trusting you every step of the way.

Horses can live to be well over thirty years old, so if you take your time to build trust, you can count on having a true friend and partner for life in your wild horse or mustang.

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions
1. Are wild mustangs as trainable as domesticated horses?

Wild mustangs take longer to train than domesticated horses, but they are generally smarter and sharper. Once they are trained they are typically more capable and versatile than domesticated horses.

2. What is a TIP trainer?

TIP trainers are members of the Mustang Heritage Foundation’s Trainer Incentive Program. These are skilled horse trainers who gentle and halter train some burros and horses offered by the BLM. When an animal has found a good placement, the trainer receives $1000 from the Mustang Heritage Foundation.

3. How are horses with TIP training placed?

TIP trainers are responsible for finding qualified homes for the horses and burros they train. The Mustang Heritage Foundation provides advertising tools to help with this.

4. How long does TIP training take?

TIP training can be completed in ten days, but up to 90 days may be allowed.

5. What does a TIP trainer teach a wild horse or burro?

Tip trainers teach the animals to accept haltering and leading, grooming and hoof care. They also teach them to load up in a trailer.


6 thoughts on “Tips For Training Mustangs And Wild Horses”

  1. I’ve had my mustang since June 10th 2022 he will follow me stop whinny and take hay out of my hands I sit in the round pen with and he is very nosey he messes with my hair and touches me all over but will not allow me to touch him is this normal or is there something else I need to try .

    • I’m sorry it’s taken so long for us to reply to your question. I see that you asked in mid-July of 2022, and you acquired your Mustang on June 10 of 2022. So, you had only had him for a little over a month at that time.

      When we say your horse will need a month or more for every new concept, we mean each and every one. Him approaching and touching you is one concept. You approaching and touching him is another.

      It sounds like you had made great progress and were doing all the right things in the summer of ‘22. This is just a matter of time, patience and persistence. I’ll bet you are petting, catching, grooming and riding with no problem by now!


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