Bill and Juanita, owners of Allenspark Lodge B&B, are living their dream...

running a successful business and riding as often as possible.

Friday, March 25, 2011


     Over on Beautiful Mustang, Linda was talking about her wonderful four year old Mustang mare and how she has recently become quite attached to the herd she didn’t use to like. While in a stall run-in, she tried to climb the fence one rail at a time to get back to the main herd. Linda had posed the question to her followers about their experiences with ‘climbing horses’. This was my comment to her:

Yep, Mustangs are really, really good with their feet. Until Jesse reached her grown size, she would "climb through" our buck fence, literally, putting her feet in various places to walk right through the rails. When she got too big to do that (about 14 or so hands), she discovered she was strong enough to "pick up" the fence to get out. We had strung a hot wire around the fence to get her to quit going through, so she found the one little section by the feeder without a wire, put her head under the bottom rail, stiffened her neck and lifted, at the same time continuing to walk forward. The rail would slide down her neck onto her back as she lifted her head higher (lifting the entire fence for 3-4 sections). As she continued walking, the rail would slide along her back and drop off over the tail. Several times the neighbors called to say she was out wandering around and I would walk the fence line looking for a break in the wire or any sign of jump marks (she sails over things on a whim, also). Nothing. One slightly muddy morning I saw tracks that looked like she literally walked through the fence. How? A couple of days later, when I was out cleaning the corral, I noticed the fence 'wiggling' and turned around in time to see it thump off her butt. She looked at me like she wanted me to know how it was done; just stood there then walked over to the gate to be let back in!!! Now this is not a small fence, made up of 12 ft. poles, with posts about 8 ft. apart and 4 ft. high, crossed in and out at the center with about a 3 ft. spread at the posts - a pretty normal mountain cross-buck fence. Imagine its weight and you know how strong these guys are. Oh, and don't let the old horse guys tell you a horse can't go under something lower than its withers. If I tell Jesse to duck, she will splay out her front feet to lower her withers and wiggle forward, lowering her butt to get under just about any hitch rail we've been around. Something she learned crawling through the fence. You have to work really hard to stay ahead of the young ones.

     Now, Jesse has always been a Houdini. I had gotten her at five months old and before she was a year, she had proven difficult to keep in any enclosure. A trainer friend told me to teach her tricks. ??? He said that for every 10-15 minutes a day you work with them, they will spend the next 24 hours working the trick out in their head. Sure enough, as long as I spent time with her on a fairly daily basis, she was no longer a problem. However, when we would get extra busy at the Lodge, Jesse would be seen more and more around the neighborhood, sampling their grass. As she got older and bigger, her escape methods became more sophisticated, hence the fence “pick-up” (at about age 5 – 6 yo). I thought she was just ultra smart, however, after going to a clicker training clinic with a friend I learned that clicker training helps them to learn a sort of cognitive-type thinking. It encourages them to ‘think’ and try new methods to get the outcome they want – a treat. Now don’t just think food when you hear the word treat. In true clicker training, a treat can be anything the horse likes; some grass, a goodie, a rest from pressure, etc. I had used clicker training for Jesse and she is a thinker, so in my opinion, I have a pretty smart horse that has been trained better “learning patterns”.

     All I can say to Beautiful Mustang and her person is you have a lot of fun and challenges ahead of you.  Enjoy every minute.


  1. Very cool story, Juanita. Horses are very smart...and especially mustangs. Love that, I mean, Houdini!

  2. :) That is an amazing story. It's interesting that she's always "thinking". That is how Beautiful is, too. I don't know if it's a Mustang thing or just our specific horses. Personally, I think being born in the wild makes them much more tuned into taking care of their own survival, which translates to being aware and thinking... alot. I'd love to hear more about your clicker training with her.

  3. Horses are so smart! Well, except when a particular gelding on our property is well... not smart. But he IS strong, and that makes up for it when it comes time to breaking fences, no?

    Love your stories!

  4. That must be another plus for my quad Juanita, it don't think to much but by golly when I tell it to stay....

    it stays put....*snicker*

    just saying....

  5. Linda,
    A couple of comments first. I think these horses are indeed brighter than the general horse population; I personally feel that we as a human group have bred out a lot of thinking while being so involved in wanting certain colors, confirmation, personality types, athletic ability, etc. It goes along with Temple Grandin's idea of the great chicken fiasco. Have you read any of her books? "Animals in Translation" can be difficult to get through, but for you I think not so tough, and worthy of the time spent.

    Second, we both have mares. You have heard the old addage, I'm sure: Ask a gelding, tell a stallion, and discuss it with a mare. That statement should tell people something, as in - they think! Julie Goodnight, at one of her get-togethers at a local tack shop, said it takes a special person to actually enjoy owning a mare; not just working with or training one, but choosing to own one. When she asked how many people owned a mare by choice, there were only three of us, out of about 50 people, who raised our hands. Everyone else wanted geldings or a stallion, in about equal proportion. I found that pretty amazing.

    Clicker training: this one was just getting too long and complicated, so check out next blog on It's a Horse Life.

    Geldings are just different creatures - strong boys and mostly laid back. Washoe doesn't give a darn about anything around him as long as HE gets the attention.

    Mr. Daddy,
    You don't get spontaneous hugs and kisses, or following you on command...and I don't have to worry about losing the keys.

    Momma Fargo,
    Gotta love my Houdini, and her goofy sidekick, Washoe!


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