By Alyssa Dietrich, MCR Adopter
I was seven years old the first time I climbed onto a horse for more than just a pony ride. My parents finally deemed me old enough to begin taking riding lessons, though if the choice had been mine, I would have started much sooner. Horse-themed birthday parties and carnival pony rides were never enough to satisfy. I remember vividly the black-and-pink “I want a pretty pony” tank top I wore to my first lesson and the older chestnut horse named “Blaze” whom I rode. As soon as my feet hit those stirrups, I never truly climbed down from the saddle.
My name is Alyssa Dietrich. I am a 23-year-old college graduate born and raised in Maryland with a passion for all things equine. Since Maryland hosts a large horse-racing industry, I have spent most of my life around off-the-track thoroughbreds. Through high school, I leased an OTTB named Max whom I showed consistently. After college, I bought my first horse—also an OTTB whom I named Rummy and retrained myself for hunter/jumpers. I wanted to do more than just jump around a ring, though.
While I do adore thoroughbreds and their talent for versatility, they are a rather delicate breed better suited for softer terrain and an occasional fox hunt. I wanted to explore the world of trail riding and camping with the horses over terrain I knew would be too harsh for Rummy’s feet even with shoes or boots. It was then that I began hunting for a sturdier horse to add to my family. Perhaps a quarter horse? No, too common. A fjord would be nice, but expensive to purchase. What about a mustang?
I knew of mustangs from repeatedly watching the movie Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron as a child and from pictures my father once captured of wild horses while in Nevada, but I had otherwise not given them much thought and I was certainly ignorant to their plight in the West. A mustang would be a sturdy trail horse and built to withstand any type of trail riding in which I wanted to participate. I had also heard they were the type of horses to build strong bonds with their riders.
Yes, I wanted a mustang.
My search began first on Facebook. I bought Rummy after seeing him posted for sale on Facebook, so that seemed like a decent place to start. Meanwhile, I was also researching mustangs online, learning everything I could about their temperament and trainability. Almost everyone described them the same way: stubborn and independent, but the best horses they ever owned. My search on Facebook turned up a few results along the East Coast, but most of the horses were outside of my price range or the pictures of the horses did not speak to me the same way when I first saw my thoroughbred.
Eventually I found my way to the Double Devil Corrals’ Facebook page and I started browsing through the available horses. I remember this beautiful, stocky bay gelding with the blackest legs I have ever seen. Plain bay was never my style, but he held my attention for days and solidified my desire for a mustang. I dearly wanted to adopt him, but he was un-gentled and I inexperienced with the breed. Although I have broken horses before, it would be fair neither to him nor me if brought him home. It certainly would not be fair to bring a wild horse to a farm I do not own where other people would be required to handle him during daily barn operations. My search continued.
I do not recall exactly how I found Montgomery Creek Ranch’s website, but I ended up on the “Available Horses” page staring at a picture of Pocket. She was stunning with a kind eye, beautifully arched neck, and a picturesque build that could outdo any thoroughbred. There was that tugging feeling again, just like the day I saw Rummy’s picture. Pocket was the one and I knew I had to do everything I could to adopt her. I submitted an inquiry about the adoption fee, requirements, and process while praying she was still available. Within 48 hours I submitted an application and was approved. All that was left to do was arrange transportation.
Transportation was a fiasco (none of which was the fault of MCR), but Pocket finally arrived in Maryland on May 25, 2019. She was very shy at first which I expected. Nancy, the head trainer at MCR, gave me a very detailed description of Pocket prior to arrival and was extremely helpful through the entire adoption and transport process. In the following weeks, Pocket grew more accustomed to her new surroundings and her true personality was shining through with blinding intensity.
Pocket is extremely playful and quite the instigator. We had to move her to a new stall because she found it amusing to constantly annoy the grumpy, old fox trotter next door. She still teases him through the fence whenever she has the chance. Everything is a toy to her and any article of clothing not firmly attached to your body is fair game, muck boots included. Honestly, any loose item within reach ends up between her teeth at some point or another: brushes, shampoo bottles, fly spray, etcetera.
She loves to be groomed and bathed. On a hot day, when you spray her with the hose, she spins in circles to ensure you get every inch of her body. Her favorite places to be scratched are along her neck, between her ears, and under her forelock. She will often return the favor and groom you with her top lip or simply press her head into your chest with a happy sigh. That is how she won over my father. He was nervous when I first adopted a mustang because he met a veterinarian during a business trip who warned him about the “strong-willed” and “unpredictable” nature of mustangs. Now, he loves to visit Pocket and will spend as much time as possible petting and talking to her.
Pocket is not yet old enough to ride, though I intend to begin saddling her in the near future. I spend a lot of time forming a bond with her, a critical aspect in her training. I bond with her by grooming, leading, and sitting with her in the field so she trusts me to take care of her in any and all situations. When I took her to an obstacle workshop, she followed me through and over everything with little to no hesitation and it was wonderful to see the results of my effort. The other attending equestrians were impressed by her willingness and curiosity.
We will also be spending a day at the Howard County Fair here in Maryland to spread mustang love and awareness. Woodrow the mustang will be joining us with his owner Ann and two offspring, Boo and McCray. This is the first of many events I intend to participate in and it is my goal to raise awareness here on the East Coast. We are far removed from mustangs and even some of the most knowledgeable horse people do not know what is happening to America’s horses. It is my hope that, together, Pocket and I can change how people look at mustangs.