Kathy Wright, of Hanson, Plympton’s Building Department administrative assistant, and her two children, Griffin and Kayleigh Webb, have adopted three mustangs as part of the Bureau of Land Management’s program to keep herds of wild horses to manageable number. Shadow, Hazel and Secret all live together on the Wright family property in Hanson, coming from Oklahoma and Oregon.
Only Shadow, at 4 1/2 is old enough to ride, and Griffin who just turned 18, said it takes a lot to train a mustang. A lot of patience, time, strength, and faith that what you’re doing is going to get through and the animal will learn it can trust you.
Griffin first learned of the mustang adoption program at Norfolk Agricultural High School, where he graduated last month. He has ridden horses practically since he could walk, his mom Kathy remembers. “By 5 he was riding well, by 8 he was barrel racing! … Horses have been his passion since I can remember.”
Why adopt a mustang? Griffin said at first it was for the challenge. Then it was for the bond that developed between horse and trainer, seeing for the first time that Shadow thought she just might be able to trust this young man not to hurt her.
When they went to Orange Extreme Mustang Makeover Adoption to see the horses two years ago, Kathy and Griffin chose Shadow, then a two-year-old. Getting her on and off the trailer was also an adventure. She stood up, forelegs in the air, and wanted nothing to do with these people all around her. “What have I done?” thought Kathy. She was sure someone would get badly hurt.
The Wright property had the required round ring for training, and Griffin would stand by the ring for hours, talking to Shadow, soothing her, but that little filly wanted nothing to do with him. She wanted out. But Griffin stayed the course; he actually spent the night beside the corral, letting Shadow know that he was there and wasn’t giving up. When he woke it was to a curious Shadow nuzzling him. He knew that he had won her trust.
With one hurdle conquered, the big one was yet to come – putting her under saddle! That was another adventure, Kathy remembers. Griffin got on, Shadow bucked him off! “Then there was the time someone was leading her, but she broke loose and threw me into a tree,” Griffin said. Best for mothers not to watch too closely …
The Bureau of Land Management gives its adopters 100 days to make progress with the mustangs. In fact, they don’t turn over title to the animal for a year to be sure the horses have a good home.
Taking the mustang challenge to the extreme, Griffin entered Shadow into the Extreme Mustang Makeover Competition, where horses that have been with their adoptive homes for just 100 days, compete. Griffin and Shadow also attended the Big E in Springfield; Shadow represented the BLM Mustang breed in the breed pavillion, where a representative of every breed of horse is shown. That was quite an honor! Now Griffin works with Hazel, another two year old filly.
A family affair…
Everyone is involved with horses in this family. Along with the three mustangs, there are three other horses on the property. Kathy and both her children take care of them. Griffin plans to attend the University of New Hampshire in a dual pre-veterinary/pre-medical program. His sister Kayleigh seems to be following in his footsteps, and at 13 has adopted a mustang, too. Hers is a baby, 9-month old Secret, a sweet little girl who already loves Kayleigh, though she’s only been at the Hanson home since March. Kayleigh works with Secret, showing her how to lead, longe, and obey commands. When Griffin goes to school in the fall, Kayleigh will take the reins and continue training Hazel and Secret.
Mustangs are wild horses that roam freely in herds in the American west, descendants of horses brought by the Spanish to the Americas. In 1971, the United States Congress recognized that, “wild free-roaming horses and burros are living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West, that continue to contribute to the diversity of life forms within the Nation and enrich the lives of the American people.” The mustang population is managed and protected by the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
How do I adopt a mustang?
There is information on the BLM website. See https://www.blm.gov/adoptahorse/