In 2017 I was lucky enough to visit the Wild Mustang Rescue Project in Florida, USA.
It was incredible to see for myself the difference being made to the lives of these horses.
This non-profit rescue centre relies on the support from visitors, donors and volunteers to be able to care, feed & maintain their horses as well as their facilities.
Help is needed in every direction in order to continue rescuing, rehabilitating & finding new homes for these horses. If you own a horse yourself – then you’ll know how much it costs to shoe a horse every 6-8 weeks!
The founder of the rescue has has given up everything for these horses. E.g. even her lovely home (with an indoor pool) now belongs to the volunteers. She lives in a caravan outside. Volunteers are treated like family & are given the chance to experience Florida like a true local.
Mustangs came to the U.S. as domestic horses in the early 1500s by the Spaniards. These horses later formed a large wild population and came to play a critical role in the building of America. The U.S. is virtually built on their backs. Seeing as they are no longer needed for labour and transport, they are sadly being mistreated and exploited at the hands of man. In the early 1900s, the wild mustang population was estimated to be over 2 million. Today, there are only 40,000 left in the wild and about as many in captivity in need of rescue. Caring for a wild horse is drastically different than caring for a tame one. Sadly, this often leads to mistreatment and neglect of wild mustangs in captivity
What the centre does to solve it?
When horses are rescued from abusive and neglectful environments, they are often at the brink of death. The goal is to nurse them back to health, tame and train them so they have a chance to be adopted into a loving home. The majority of them can indeed be tamed, trained, and adopted while others cannot. The founder of the rescue, refers to these horses as “wild at heart” and says she “will never force them to work with her and be tame if they don’t want to”. These wild horses live out their days at the center because their chances of being adopted are minimal.
Also – this is technically an “animal rescue centre” – so be prepared to also look after rescued dogs, chickens, pigs, donkeys, goats & cows too.
What do you get out of it?
Time off – You’ll also get 1.5 days off a week so you’ll have the chance to explore the tourist attractions & culture around Florida such as Disney World, the Kennedy Space Centre, Everglades, take a boat ride (air boat or pontine), spend time at the beautiful beaches or try a go at line dancing etc.
Project Horse – If you are staying for 4 weeks or more, you will be assigned to your own project horse – one which you’ll form a relationship with. You’ll be guided on how to train and work with the horse so it will be ready for adoption. The horses need the stability of one person so they can keep moving forward with their training which is why it’s only offered for 4 weeks +.
Experienced riders – Awesome! You’ll be a lot more confident & given a bit more responsibility.
Just bear in mind that they have their own method of doing things which needs to be respected. On your first day they will show you how they work with the horses. e.g. you can’t lean on the horses when you’re picking up their feet (very tough habit to break) as they don’t want the horses to learn to lean back.
At the end of the day – they are rehabilitating horses for adoption. They have their own methods of training and want the horses to be gentle and quiet for their new owners. So it’s great to learn their horsemanship techniques – again, if you’re a rider then you know that everyone has their own techniques & there’s always something to learn and take from a trainer who comes from a different culture. They are so patient and quiet with the horses so it’s a lovely environment for the horses to learn in.
Project horses – You’ll most likely be matched to a less experienced mustang to work with. If you can ride but you don’t know how to start up a horse or want to develop your methods – this is an awesome experience!
If you’ve never touched a horse before – then that’s great! This is such a lovely environment to be introduced to horses & horsemanship. You will get to ride (as long as you feel confident). It was so cool to see a girl – and by girl I literally mean that girl in the photo above ^^ who had no experience at all & she was out riding on the treks with us. There’s always a mixture of horses at different stages in their training.
Project horses – You’ll be matched with a more experienced horse (so easier to deal with). People have started as volunteers new to horses at this centre and have developed into trainers capable of starting up their very own mustang.
Please keep in mind…
This project is quite physically demanding & not for the faint hearted. If you’ve worked with horses before then you know that there’s always something to do. E.g. mucking out, feeding out hay, making up feeds, working the horses. Wednesday is project day – where you focus on a certain area which needs attention on the ranch. E.g. building fences, painting, picking up wood, sweeping the paths etc. By the way – strapping lads are more than welcome. But be prepared to be put to work.
You can check out some more of my photos & message me here.
If you are wanting a horse project which is more on the holiday side – I’d probably recommend the South Africa Horse Safari Adventure for you instead.