Nikki Tiesing of Forever T Ranch isn’t done with wild horses.
Tiesing in February was given a wild female mustang from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management she named Chasin' the Rainbow. She only had 100 days to tame the horse, and presented the progress she'd made with Rain at the end of June as part of the Extreme Mustang Makeover challenge.
The challenge was created by the Mustang Heritage Foundation. Tiesing is now participating in the foundation’s trainer incentive program and recently picked up another mustang. She got to name the horse this time, calling him Sharp-dressed Man or Gibbs, for a song by the band ZZ Top and its guitarist, Billy Gibbons.
This time, the training is not part of a 100-day challenge.
"I never really understood how it all worked until I got involved with mustangs," she said.
The Bureau of Land Management tracks mustang herds in the western United States in herd management areas. When those herds grow to a size that would threaten food supplies, the bureau transports a portion of the mustangs to holding facilities.
Those interested in mustangs or the incentive program should contact Tiesing, she said.
"In these holding pens, the only thing that happens is that stallions are castrated, they're branded and registered as property of the United States government. So, they belong to Bureau of Land Management," Tiesing said.
Because the horses are considered government property, that also means they are fed and housed with government funds. The bureau adopts the horses out to trainers and the general public, but Teising warned that these horses aren’t for casual riders.
"The average person in the general public can't handle a wild horse,” Tiesing said. “There is no training that takes place in these holding pens,"
The Mustang Heritage Foundation works with the bureau to help find homes for the horses. In the trainer incentive program, trainers receive approval to obtain a mustang. After the mustang is trained to program requirements, the trainer can sell the horse. There also are requirements for those who purchase a tamed mustang, such as five-foot fencing and a three-sided shelter with a roof. The cost to adopt a mustang is $125, either from a trainer or directly from the bureau.
"If you only have to pay $125 as an adopter, it's much easier to pick it up from somebody who already is doing all the gentling work for your," Tiesing said.
The bureau does a background and facility check on adopters, who have one year in which to train the horse to bureau standards.
"My biggest thing is getting mustangs into appropriate homes. There's something like 40,000 or 50,000 mustangs in holding pens all over the county. They're such an amazing breed and they're so versatile," Tiesing said.
The closest holding facility to Missouri is in Ewing, Illinois, which is where Tiesing picked up Gibbs. He has proven to be much easier to gentle than Rain, she said. Within a week, Tiesing has halter trained Gibbs, which took Rain two months.
"It's made me realize [Rain] was an odd duck, and that's why it was so much more difficult with her than it was with [Gibbs]," she said.
Tiesing realized after working with Rain and the difficulties she presented that she could do the same work with any mustang. Rain still has a ways to go, though, before she is completely trained. When she went to challenge, Tiesing had not yet put a saddle on her back. Rain is now getting used to wearing a saddle, but still has not had a person ride her, Tiesing said.
"Every horse has its own timeline, and it's not up to us to decide what the timeline is," she said.