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Rio Turns Three

By Audrey Pavia, Urban Farm Contributing Editor

Monday, January 10, 2011

Spanish Mustang

Photo by Audrey Pavia

Rio, my Spanish Mustang, turned 3 years old this week. As goofy as he can be, he's been a dream come true.

Since the age of 9, I have been obsessed with spotted horses. Since that same age, I’ve also been obsessed with Mustangs. So when I bought my first spotted Spanish Mustang a year ago last December, it literally was a dream come true.

His name is Rio. When I bought him, he was almost 2 years old. He looked like a baby when he got off the trailer from Texas, even though he was no longer a foal. His momma and poppa are small horses, like most Spanish Mustangs, only around 14 hands high. So it made sense that at nearly 2, Rio was still a pretty small guy.

This past week, my little boy turned 3 years old. He’s growing up, and fulfilling another one of my dreams: to raise a young horse to adulthood.

Spanish Mustangs are slow to mature, so even though Rio is 3, he is still small in stature compared to many other horses his age. Quarter Horses, Paints, thoroughbreds and warmbloods are all considerably larger by the time they hit Rio’s age. My boy, on the other hand, is still slight of stature and not really big enough to ride.

Am I worried about this? After all, some horses are winning the Kentucky Derby by the time they are Rio’s age. And I’m still not looking to start teaching him to work under saddle. But that’s because Rio is no thoroughbred. He is the descendent of the original horses brought to the New World by the Spaniards in the 1400s. His ancestors once numbered in the millions and roamed the West in large feral bands. Cowboys, Indians, mountain men and outlaws depended on these herds for their saddle horses, which though small, were known for their sturdiness, their stamina and their incredible hearts. 

As I watch my young horse in his paddock, pestering his older “brother” Milagro, chasing the chickens that dare walk into his space, and trying to dump over his water trough, I sometimes strain to associate this monkey-in-a-horse-suit with his breed’s incredibly honorable and astounding history. And I wonder if 150 years ago, Native Americans trying to teach young mustangs like Rio how to be great warrior mounts had to deal with the same silly behavior that I witness in this great equine goofball.

To celebrate Rio’s birthday this week, I took him on a long trail ride, ponying him off Milagro. He started out making trouble by rearing, trying to nip at me and generally bouncing around like a Jack Russell Terrier. I responded by taking both horses on a very steep, mile-long trail and asking them to trot. What started out as a race in Rio’s mind ended up a task that left him lacking enough energy to be stupid. After 20 minutes of stupidity, he finished the rest of the ride in good behavior.

Sometimes I can’t believe it’s true that I have this amazing little horse, with his spotted coat, his striped hooves, and his amazing heritage. Judging by the way he handles the hectic urban trails in my community when being ponied, he’s going to make an incredible trail horse, along with a good parade horse, gymkhana horse, dressage horse and anything else I might want to do with him. That is the beauty of the amazing Spanish Mustang. With this breed, you can do just about anything—including watch your dreams come true.

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Interesting
a', Houston, TX
Posted: 9/30/2013 8:03:32 PM
Audrey, I'm glad that you have accomplished your dream and are living the life you have wanted since age nine. I'm also glad that the rains have stopped for your area. We here in Nebraska just had a 12 inch snow with single digits. The horses here have to be weather durable and fed extra feed to stay warm and deal with the extra energy to walk around in a foot of snow.

I hope that you have many years to enjoy that dream with Rio.

Happy Birthday Rio with wishes for you to have many more.
David, Omaha, NE
Posted: 1/11/2011 8:09:18 AM
Mustangs were a common "adoption" when I was young. Their intelligence FAR exceeds other breeds that have not been allowed to "survive" in worldly conditions.

Easy to train IF done correctly, One of my old favorites was an mustang we ... (ended up with by accident) had added by adopting ONE and getting TWO in the process.

LOVE the mustangs, considered getting another to be my OLD WOMAN horse, but after borrowing one for a race... I quickly remembered the rougher ride I could handle as a younger person.

MY old woman horse is a cold blooded horse with the same height as a mustang. And also MY DREAM horse.

Congrats on achieving that dream. BUT what's the next?
Amber, Fairview, NC
Posted: 1/10/2011 12:23:35 PM
I too have always loved Mustangs and now have 25 acres to put one on in Tennessee. My question is, are they difficult to train? I have never trained a horse, but definitely have a way with them.I'm of a "certain age" that would keep me from being able to do anything too strenuous - and advice would be appreciate. Enjoy your boy!
Kathleen, Decaturville, TN
Posted: 1/10/2011 10:05:48 AM

About the Blogger

Audrey Pavia

Audrey Pavia

Keeping farm animals in the city can be a real hoot. Follow freelance writer Audrey Pavia's adventures in Southern California with a yard full of urban livestock, including horses, chickens, a Corgi and an urban barn cat. She somehow manages all these silly critters while working full-time, with no one to help her but her husband, Randy, a born-and-raised New Yorker. And you thought "The Simple Life" was out there?

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