Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Challenge Painting #166 : Adjustments Robert Carlson and Watson 2011Fort Collins EMM


Tonight for the Mustang A Day Challenge I am revisiting Watson. Watson as you might remember is the highest bid horse from the 2011 Fort Collins Mustang Makeover. Trained and competed by Robert Carlson.
Watson 2011 Ft Collins Makeover 
8 by 10 inches Watercolor on embossed paper
by LindaLMartinArtist

One can greatly appreciate the resilience of a mustang when looking back over the individual history of the each horse. When on the range they are born into the challenges of nature and no protection or intervention from man. The strongest and the healthiest survive. That Survival knowledge is passed down through their Dam, Aunts and Band Stallion.

A young horse learns very early to adapt to their circumstances. Weather is often times the first change they must face. Landscape is the second as the herd goes from location to location in search of the best most nourishing pasture. During the breeding season, generally following foaling, the young horse must learn to adapted and adjust to changes in the herd. Sometimes a new mare and her offspring will be added and sometimes the foal and his dam may be stolen by another band stallion. Quickly learning ones position in the band and adjusting to the new hierarchy is a matter of survival.

Later when they reach a certain age and development state they are forced by both the band stallion and their Dam to leave the only security they have ever known and strike out on their own. The ones who adjust the quickest soon find other horses their on their own, make connections and help each other survive. Those who can’t adjust are open to punishment and sometimes without the bonds of other horses extreme hardship in finding food and protection during the most extreme times of the year. They soon learn that there is safety and sustenance in their new surroundings.

Then comes the time when some of them are faced with a new adjustment the adjustment of confinement and separation when they are rounded up. The most resilient again adapt the quickest. There are never any guarantees that a horse going through the “gather” process will find a good trainer, a happy life, and the sweet end being loved and appreciated. This is true with every horse be they domestic or wild mustang. However in the best of circumstances those that adjust the fasted and learn the quickest find themselves quite well off and well loved.

In Watson’s case he quickly went through his times of adjustment due to good natural horsemanship and consistent treatment. Each step of the way by Robert’s development of trust with the horse brought him closer to his amazing performance at the Fort Collin’s Makeover. However that was simply the beginning. The Green broke stage as the old timers used to call it. Now for the few months past Ft Collins this amazing Mustang is receiving the polish he needs to become a Civil War reenactment horse.

This means even more adjustments. He will have adjustments to period saddle and noises, and adjustment to period bits. Even more adjustments are to crowd noises, smoke from mock battles, close quarters with strange horses and strange surroundings. Watson will have to show courage and bravery under Musket and rifle fire, and the one that gives me the shivers, the clang of sabers and swords. He will have to learn to live a different sort of confinement and a different sort of freedom.

Now some people, especially those who haven’t understood either the history or the idea of this sort of discipline for a horse may be under the misapprehension that only domestic horses were used in the US Cavalry. But the truth is that it was many specially up-bred mustangs improved with stallions from the Remount that were tough enough and resilient enough to have the endurance and battle savvy to carry the men into battle, especially in the West..

The infusion into some of the wild mustang herds with the blood of thoroughbreds, standardbreds, morgans and saddlebreds, improved the usability of the mustangs. These up graded mustangs were then rounded up as needed when aged at 2,3 or 4, selected according to height, color, and type then trained to carry men into battle and keep the peace.

The well bred stallions brought height, speed, refinement and in some cases a horse that was easy to sit for long times in the saddle. The Mustang offspring were savvy to different terrain, strong in limb and especially those hard mustang hooves, wild horses are known for. And one of the traits I admire most about the mustangs is because of their wild beginnings instead of learning to be co-dependent on  humans, they learned to think independently, on a horse level. This trait came in very handy at times to the men they were partnered with when in desperate situations.

I don’t want to sugar coat this and make it sound like a fairytale relationship. I had the opportunity to talk with quite a few old remount men who grew up and worked at the Front Royal, Virginia Remount, when I was a teenager. They didn’t use natural horsemanship then. Horses were shipped in at the rail head. A raw recruit  assigned 10 horses and  told to tack up the horse he was either handed or could catch and then lead the remaining nine horses the 5 miles to the Remount Station, through town and up the mountain. Some of the riders had barely been on a horse. Some of these horses had been shipped right off the range. One of the old timers told me once, “ If they didn’t know how to ride when they met the train, by the time they reached the Remount they had learned it quickly!”

The old way of training was rough and brutal on the horses as well as the men. The men and the horses sometimes were forced to learn together with only the riding sergeant as the experienced one. Some of the men demanded blind obedience from their men and horses and at times that didn’t bode well with either horses or men when battles of fear and will ensued.

The smart men learned quickly, from the horses and the riding sergeant, that a kind relationship got the best from the horse. The stubborn men in the field who couldn’t recognize the need for it often found themselves a foot.

Fortunately, Watson will never know the rough and rowdy training methods of the 1800s. He has a trainer who understands his nature and works with it, in Robert Carlson. His new owner is experienced and a wonderful “horseman” who knows how to challenge with a passionate love for the partnership of the horse. In several more months Watson will head to his new home in Virginia, ready to adjust to his new life with even more exciting challenges and a prospect of living out a full and happy life as a cherished  Happy Adopted Mustang.

Reference Photography by Amy Spivey of Lightning Bug Creek Photography. A special Thanks to Amy for some awesome reference shots.

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