Mustangs are our YourDressage Breed of the Month for June! Known for their wild and majestic spirit, these free-roaming horses are rounded up periodically to be sold to new homes where they will be tamed. These unique equines are living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West.
Dressage enthusiasts who ride Mustangs have the opportunity to earn special awards through the Adequan®/USDF All-Breeds Awards as The American Mustang & Burro Association Inc. is a Participating Organization.
We recently asked our social media followers to share stories about what makes these horses so special. Here, a Region 1 rider shares about her Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Mustang Reno, and how she worked to build a partnership of trust with him, culminating in reaching FEI Levels together.
By Ines Ritter
My story with Reno started almost six years ago with a social media post, me having watched approximately 50,000 horse ad videos, and with a house for sale. In the spring of 2015, while browsing equine sales ads online, I found an ad for a 15hh black Mustang that struck my interest.
Growing up in Germany, I rode many German Riding Ponies and always had the dream, even as an adult, to import one for dressage. Owning a Mustang was honestly never on my mind until that day when I discovered Reno’s ad. At the time, my husband and I had a house under contract with an excellent profit in sight. Everything seemed to have lined up, and I thought I was closer to buying what appeared to be a very special little horse; however, the home buyers backed out on closing day, Reno sold, and I moved on to continue looking at hundreds more videos online.
Not even half a year later, my trainer called me and said, “Your Mustang is back on the market,” and this time, he was close to us. By this time, the house had sold, so we went to see him. After meeting Reno and riding him, I was sold. We sealed the deal and Reno was mine.
My goal was to start showing Reno and eventually earn my USDF Bronze Medal on him, but Reno had other plans. He did not take the frequent change of ownership lightly and was very suspicious and untrusting. Our first ride at home ended with me on the ground, Reno running off, a torn bridle, and many unimpressed eyewitnesses. Reno would bolt almost every time while being mounted, he overreacted at the slightest change in his surroundings, and was just overall incredibly quirky. I know many of my barn friends thought I was crazy to deal with his behavior, but my trainer and I both saw the potential through the quirks.
Besides all that, he was really my only option as a dressage horse at that point. So, instead of showing, I ended up starting from square one: building trust, creating a partnership, and trying to survive cantering a 20m circle while my trainer dared to adjust her sock. At one point, I told Reno that all he had to do was help me earn my bronze medal. It is a good thing he didn’t understand me! Six years and many exciting and bizarre (some funny, some not) moments later, we are now showing FEI Intermediate I, and (to my knowledge) Reno is one of only three BLM branded Mustangs who have made it to this level.
With Reno as my partner, I recently earned my first two scores for the USDF Gold Medal. Reno and his antics established very early on that I would be the only one to ride him. Still, we never would have achieved our success without the help from our fantastic dressage trainer Koby Robson, who always supports us no matter what. The opportunity to own Reno has taught me a lot about riding and training a not-so-easy horse. Besides giving me the chance to train a horse to the FEI Levels, he also taught me a lot about patience and that even a horse not specifically bred for dressage can make it to the upper levels and keep a good sense of humor in the process.
Reno, just like many Mustangs, is incredibly athletic, talented, very hardy, and versatile (he is also a pretty good jumper when given a chance). Reno is now 17 years old, barefoot, schooling all of the Grand Prix movements (his favorites are passage and tempi changes), and shows no signs of slowing down. I am glad that a BLM Mustang became my dressage partner, and I hope that our success will inspire other riders, particularly those on a budget, to consider a BLM Mustang as their future dressage partner.
Want to follow more of Reno’s adventures? He has his own Facebook page!
Stay tuned to YourDressage all month long as we celebrate this breed, with photo galleries and exclusive stories from Mustang enthusiasts across the country!