A Marvelous Mustang: Tales From The Life Of A Spanish Horse
By: Janice M. Ladendorf
Publication Date: December 2010
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: April 2013
A Marvelous Mustang tells the true story of Skan, a registered Spanish Mustang who was bred and raised on the ranges of North Dakota by the Horse Head Ranch. While he was “owned” by humans, he really was born wild, enjoying his first months of life roaming with the herd. One day, while he was still at his mother’s side, he was rounded up and sold to “Wind,” a human so named by Skan because of her clean scent. This is the story of how Wind tamed and trained Skan, while he, at the same time, trained Wind to the ways of the mustang.
Told in the first person by Skan, the reader sees and experiences everything the young mustang encounters. From his early fear of humans, to his encounters with a veterinarian and blacksmith, Skan has a lot to share. During the horse’s first year, he slowly comes around to easing his fear of humans, but also tests them to see just who is herd boss. As an example of this testing, once the colt had figured out that treats were good, he decided that perhaps he could control how many (more, lots more!) treats he could get. He used horse language (what else?) to “encourage” Wind to dispense more treats. He laid his ears flat back against his neck, and pushed her with his nose. When that didn’t work, Skan next bared his teeth and finally, charged at her. But Wind also “spoke horse” and body slammed the colt, almost knocking him down. Lesson learned.
The book follows Skan through his four-year-old year and saddle training. He gets moved to a few different barns and reading his reactions to new environments is fun and informative. The horse must adjust to new smells, new horses, and new people. Along the way, the much loved mustang also observes a couple of other horses being mistreated by their humans. While he tries to figure out why a human would want to hurt their horse, the reader too, will be wondering.
Told in the first person by a horse, a story such as this can be hard to pull off. I admit that it did take a little getting used to as Skan told his story, but after the first few chapters, it failed to be an issue and the story could be enjoyed. Chapters were fairly short and made for easy reading, broken up into sections by the age of Skan. Also, at the end of each chapter were “New Rules for My Survival Code” which was a summary of what Skan had learned in that chapter.
There are a lot of lessons in A Marvelous Mustang, both for the horse as well as the humans involved as the author explores the mind of a mustang. Skan is not a “normal” (raised from birth in captivity) horse and so his reactions can be a bit different. Fear must be overcome – slowly – before any real training can begin. Again and again, fear came into the picture as Skan resorted to his strong, natural survival instincts. Some of the horse reactions, explanations, and training methods are fairly basic and will do well to educate the new horse owner, while there are still several where experienced equestrians just may learn a thing or two.
Quill says: Whether a new horse lover or an experienced horse trainer, A Marvelous Mustang is sure to entertain.