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My Join-Up® Experience

Mustang help

I have a mustang mare I got 5 months ago. She came with a halter on but for the first 4 months we were in a bigger paddock with a run in stall. 
I was able to do a bit with her in the paddock. She understand to come into me, but will not join up. She gives all the signals. She will not let me physically touch her. I was able to have her in her stall and get a lead rope on her. I was able to go out and have her go around and stop them pick it up. But since it's been to wet its since frayed off. 
She is now in the round pen. Does the join up queue, will come in but no join up. I have sat there for about half hour once. I'll go up and ask her to join, she will walk away. She is decently mellow, she will let me get about 3 feet from her and I'll offer my hand out in a relaxed fist and she has no interest in smelling me or anything. 
I am considering just roping her and using that to get the new lead rope on her so I can start desensitizing her more efficiently. 
Thoughts? Questions? Help!
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Have you watched one of Monty's Joinup videos? You may be doing something just a little wrong in the eyes of the horse and you don't know it. You also have to remember, mustangs are very sensitive. Just suggestion.
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Hi Cora & welcome to the Uni. As your profile has no accreditations as yet I'm assuming you're new-ish to Monty's concepts. If that is the case then you have chosen to explore an incredibly exciting path. I have had some results with my 4, a mixture of homebreds & brought in individuals, that can only be described as dynamic. Like when Kirk buried his whole foreleg through the tubular bars of a metal gate, a situation that can easily result in serious injury or death to both horse & the human attempting a rescue. Fortunately, Kirk has total trust in me & I have total trust in him so, without a single doubt, I calmly & confidently took hold of his knee & hoof & successfully manoeuvred his leg out of the gate - with not a single hair damaged on either of us, although I was a little puffed out from the physical effort. 
Join up is a conversation between the human & the horse. I agree with Quincy, I think your body language/breathing & expectations need work. All this is a skill &, as with any skill, it needs to be honed & perfected. You say your mare gives you the signs of Join up but won't let you touch her & you have sat with her for up to 30 minutes without success. She shows no interest in smelling or touching you. I have never worked with a Mustang, we don't have them in Scotland. However, I have been learned ( mostly via Monty ) about them. In all likelihood she was born in the wild, was rounded up & manhandled through various experiences in order to be in your care now. Your conversation with her is going to need to be REALLY convincing after all of that. If she gives you the signs of ear, smaller circle, licking & chewing & lowered head then she is telling you she is open minded enough to allow you a chance but your responses to her are not yet convincing enough for her to allow you into her space. Bearing in mind her experiences of humans so far, that's a perfectly reasonable reaction. 
So, how can we help you gain the trust of this mare? I start with what NOT to do - PLEASE forget about the constant halter & line. This is wholly negative for your mare. It was FORCED on her, she cannot escape it, she cannot get relief from the pressure of it & it is dangerous. If she gets it snagged she will panic & in panic will fight for her life. No one will be safe to rescue her & at best, you will have added a further MAJOR NEGATIVE to this horses life experience. I understand why someone would think having a line on her would be helpful but, just think it through, having it in place just opens the possibility of you grabbing it. Well yeah, that's what it's for. Precisely! You want this mare to TRUST YOU. Then you need to TRUST that your work, with Montys help through the Uni, causes her to CHOOSE to come to you, to find VALUE in allowing you into her space. If you can achieve that, without a halter in place, then you will have the firm foundations of a very special relationship. You describe her as mellow. You already have a foothold on the ladder of success. Study the lessons, paying particular attention to controlling your eyes, your breathing & adrenaline levels. Practice these skills - you can do this almost anywhere, crossing the road, riding a bike, navigating around in a busy supermarket. Your mare will encourage you in your efforts as she will read you - as you become calmer & more trusting of her she will respond in kind. Do not expect massive changes, horses are masters of the subtle, the almost unnoticeable change. She will allow you just that little bit closer because your gaze is lowered, but not to touch. Reward her by turning, move your shoulders to 45 degrees & step away. One day, soon, she will move a hoof towards you & if, you continue over the next few days in the same way, she will decide to walk to you. Actual touching may take longer but if you read her & pause your slow hand movement towards her when she shows its getting too close for her comfort, she will start to trust you. 
We wish you success & look forward to hearing how things progress. There are no shortcuts to gaining trust but, when the horse decides to work with you, progress can happen really fast. Good luck. Cheers, Jo.
Miriam (Holland&Germany)
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Hi Cora,
Welcome to the Uni and the forum!
Jo's advice is wonderful, as always...TRUST is the key to all relationships!
Let me add some things that I've learned working with untouched foals, that were weaned shortly before I met them, having spent their first months with NO human contact at all.
Have your mustang in a relatively small enclosure, be it a large stable or a small paddock.
Have water and hay in it at all time, so you can reward by withdrawing from her space and let her eat and drink. Start your conversation from the outside of the pen, she will notice your presence and show by her behavior how much she trusts you for the moment. She might go to the opposite corner, she might come to the gate....Maybe start with sitting on a chair outside the gate and just BE there, breathing slow and relaxed, not looking her in the eye, but acknowledging her presence. Then leave the scene for five minutes.
Come back to the gate and go inside in a non invasive manner, staying at the gate, which is shoulders at 45 degrees, not looking at her, etc. Watch her reaction: she might raise her head, step away, turn her backside towards you etc.
Now it's up to you to find out, what she finds acceptable and where her "bubble" is.
With bubble is meant the pressure zone, where she needs to react to your coming closer.
As soon as you feel where she can accept you, acknowledge it by taking even more pressure off. This means you take a small step back, or shift your weight to the leg that is furthest from her. Breathe out and wait...As soon as you feel she 'gives' a little bit, step out and let her digest what just happened.
This way you establish with her a trust, that you see her reactions and act accordingly, she can tell you when to advance. Important is that she pays attention to you, so ask her not to eat during the conversation. Any time she needs a moment off, let her drink.
Next step would be to come back to where you left off, finding out if she lets you take a small step in her direction. Too much will make her turn away or even move off, it's your task to find out how she can accept you. Take a step back when it's too much and come back to it. She'll find a 'sweetspot' in her paddock, a place where she feels the safest. Let her go there and advance/retreat. Any major progress, may it be so small, must be acknowledged by you leaving the pen. Work in parts of 10 minutes, give her a break , and come back again. She will 'train' you, how far to come closer, when to leave her etc.
When you find she establishes quite well with you in the pen, find out how far she needs you to be away from her, before she steps away. Stand at this safe distance and start 'painting' your mare in the air: your hand with closed fingers moves as if to touch her, but far away enough to not shy her. The back of your hand moves in circular motions, first towards the shoulder/whithers, then along her back, even up her neck, but always keeping your distance. She'll get your intention, without feeling the pressure. She might give a sigh or breathe out, please ackowledge it by retreating a bit. Keep your weight at the leg furthest away, play with shifting it on the other leg, always staying safe and breathing low.
Any time you get a fright ( it will happen! ) step away and wait until your heartrate settles again.
Now you can either make your moves larger, coming closer to her, or use a bamboo stick with a softened end as an extention of your arm, to make the first physical contant. Remember to step away immediately, to show her you're not invasive. She might even think it was 'by accident'. Give her time to digest what happened and come back to where you left off. She needs a lot of small working units, never an overload of information.
Set her up for success, and let her sleep over what you both acchieved.
Next day confirm your trust, before coming to the next level. It might take a couple of days, but it'll pay off by the deep level of trust and understanding of each other.
After your first touch, you can hand-groom her, letting her find value in some nice scratches at the whithers and moving on from there. Later you bring in a 'horseman's rope', keep it inside your closed hand and groom her with that, so she gets used to the touch of a rougher material. As soon as she accepts that, let a small part of the rope dangle from your hand during your grooming. Always be safe and able to step away with any spooky reaction! At a certain point you can let the rope sit over her neck and immediately step away, so she can deal with it on her own. Best to step outside the pen!
But it's hers to deal with...As soon as she settles with the rope, come back in and play with it, put it around her nose etc., it'll be your first make-believe halter that she can accept with no pressure. 
From here it's so many nice steps towards handling, but this might be too much information!
I hope this helps, please stay safe at all times, wear a helmet, good shoes, work on good ground and set yourself and your mare up for success! Have fun!
Please keep us posted,