By Madeline Mangnall Condy
This is my 4-year-old mustang Lady, aka “Picassa” (a sort of homage to the late Picasso, whom I was a big fan of, being a Colorado native)
I am an aspiring trainer and graduated, in 2019, from Colgate University in upstate New York. After graduation, a trail riding accident left me with a severely broken leg, from which it took me almost a year to recover. Once I was back on my feet, and my now-husband had moved to the United States from Scotland, I was finally able to start looking for my first project horse.
I had done a little bit of work with Mustangs before, but really never got to see them in the English riding world as much as I had hoped. There was a little, gray dapple called Tinker Toy at the barn I rode at in high school, and I got to help my trainer turn him into an English lesson and beginner show pony. While he didn’t have the same kind of agility Lady does, he was a very cute hunter and has proven to be a great lesson guy. I believe he should be almost 20 by now! Between that experience, and growing up looking into the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) roundups, I always hoped, but never really thought, I’d get the opportunity to work with a Mustang any time soon, especially when I came out east! I was definitely surprised when I found that there were still quite a few for sale here.
Even though I was leaning towards Thoroughbreds when I first casually began looking, I started to shift my attention when I noticed the ‘stangs. I mean, when I thought about it, I felt like the Mustangs I was looking at were overall sturdier, which was a big concern of mine with Thoroughbreds. In my experience, especially off-track, they often ended up with some kind of health issue that impacted their ability to be a show horse, or even rideable in some cases. This isn’t necessarily a problem for someone looking for a pleasure horse for themselves, but I was looking for either a nice resale or to find one to become my first self-trained competitive horse.
There were several Mustangs that still looked athletic enough to be English prospects, so I reached out to multiple people before eventually stumbling upon Pica.
I came across Picassa while casually looking at horses for sale on the numerous horse Facebook pages I follow, and I was smitten! Color aside (of course she’s a stunner), when I saw photos of her conformation and still frames from videos of her in motion, I was pretty impressed.
After I got some videos and all her information from her owner, I scheduled a visit. An Arizona facility-born baby, her family is known as the Rainbow Herd and had been rounded up in Utah. She was purchased as a yearling and was kept by a lovely mother and her daughter, who taught her how cool humans can be, with plenty of in-hand work and desensitization. They brought her from Arizona to Vermont, until they decided they wanted her to find another home for her training, so she could reach her full potential! They knew she had potential as a sport horse and, to me, she was a diamond in the rough. So, I arranged a visit and, as they say, “the rest is history”.
She came into my life for just $850, as a gangly, adorably inquisitive, and even-tempered little three-year-old. This was a year ago, last May. Since then, I have proudly taken that unbacked three-year-old and helped her develop into a downright incredible little sport horse prospect, all on my own (with some guidance from seasoned trainers when I have questions!). Yes, I’m admittedly a very proud momma when it comes to this little horse. Of course, we are nowhere near finished, but she’s well on her way! I know it’s said a lot, but this little horse truly teaches me with every… single… ride, making me a better rider and equestrian with every interaction – whether under saddle, on the lunge, at liberty, on the trail, or whatever else we do together.
There are so many things that set Picassa apart, but if I had to narrow it down I’d say it is her trainability, athletic ability, and durability. I feel like the durability speaks for itself, since Mustangs are known to be tough as nails and sure-footed. So far, that definitely goes for Lady and she is already almost a master on the trail. Wouldn’t it be so cool to see a pinto Mustang on a hunt?!
To continue, I also mentioned trainability. Unlike what most people think of the breed, she has been very trainable when compared to other breeds I’ve worked with. With an incredible ability to pick up new things quickly and proficiently, which is probably related to her survival instincts, she is, without a doubt, one of the more intelligent horses I’ve had the pleasure to work with. I’ve ridden a few Lipizzans in the last few years and, in terms of brain, that’s what I’d compare her to the most. It’s like a matter-of-fact kind of common sense that she has, as well as the desire to please.
More than that, because of her wild nature, she forges an incredible bond with the people who work with her, which I believe is the reason she takes what we do quite seriously most of the time. I think this “wild” nature is one aspect of Mustangs that is generally misunderstood because it’s more of an asset than people realize. Once they know humans are truly safe, they can really imprint on people, making you their herd, so to speak. It’s incredibly special and brings me back to the foundations of trust our partnerships with equines have all been based upon. Also, it’s given me an appreciation for varying up my training, from liberty to double lunging, to help her grow equally in mind and body.
So far, every trainer that’s seen her has been quite impressed with her brain as much as her physical ability. Really, everyone that meets her, equestrian or not, has noticed the incredible presence she has, especially in her eyes. To me, that is something that truly sets her apart. She can definitely be stubborn when things don’t make sense, but the moment they do, she’s on board, giving it her all again.
In terms of athleticism, I continue to be impressed by both the quality and the strength of her movement. While it is true that not all Mustangs are blessed with a powerful uphill stride, they are definitely out there, and she is a fine example of one of them, who also just happens to have a super cool coat pattern! Though she hasn’t jumped much yet because of her age, from what I have seen she’s got good form, confidence, a nice big butt for propulsion, and snappy knees. Can you blame me for crossing my fingers that she becomes the next painted Stroller or Teddy O’ Connor?
Even if she doesn’t go quite that far, I know that, if the training is done correctly, she will be an impressive athlete, especially in the jumping arenas.
My hope for my lil’ Lady is simply to see her join the ranks of the Mustang ambassadors, and to show how versatile and athletic these horses are. From lesson horses to competitive partners, they’re just fantastic. I do believe she will make a lovely dressage mount and/or eventer, and we will dabble in show jumping, since she has quite a ground covering stride, a lovely bascule, and snappy knees over the small stuff she’s gone over here and there.
Hopefully, I will be able to keep this lovely mare in my life as my own mount, but if the right family or situation comes along, that can take her where I can’t, then I’d let her go if I had to. People need to see how great these horses are and she is simply the whole package.
Thank you for helping provide an opportunity to showcase this wonderful breed!