The First Hello

Coal was gathered from the Little Book Cliffs in October of 2018, recently brought to the BLM holding facility and onto auction. His first impressions with humans was unkind; losing his herd, home, and identity. He was adopted on Saturday, by a young lady named Jade, making her dreams come true. This was Coal’s first gentling session with Anna, his first hello and first impression. Less is more in the beginning. Quiet confidence while communicating with a gentle purpose are a few of the key elements to your relationship with a Mustang. “If you ever have the opportunity to spend a day with Anna Twinney, please do. When it comes to connecting with Mustangs she’s one of the very best.”

~ George Brauneis

Mustang Demo with Jade and Cole and Anna

Above, Anna instructs Jade with regards to the Mustang’s unique Language.

Watch below the video of Anna saying Hello to Coal for the first time.  Simply click on the video to watch.

Read the story of how Jade met Coal and the lengths she went to to bring him home with her in this article in The Daily Sentinel:

“During a hike with her grandmother in the Little Book Cliffs last March, Jade Walker caught sight of a magnificent wild horse — a blue-gray beauty with black marks and a long black mane.

The girl was thrilled when the horse came toward her a ways over a small hill. She, in turn, followed him back.

“I think we have a connection somewhere,” Jade said Saturday as the Mustang waited nearby in a pen with other wild horses.”

Read the Rest of the Story Here

Mr. Vin and the Killer Horse: The Most Important Lesson I Ever Learned from a Horse.

“He’s an aggressive horse”, she said, “He attacked someone and ran them out of the round pen”.   This was my introduction to the horse that I was going to work with for a week.  

As the other half of Reach Out to Horses, I’ve had the fortune of participating in almost all of our events over the years.  Last year I was able to spend the week in one of my favorite courses, Reach Out to the Untouched Horse. In this wild horse experience, folks get to spend the week, one-on-one with a wild mustang, gentling him without ropes, chains, chutes, or any other tools of dominance.  The tools are only communication, compassion and a methodology that Anna has perfected over many years and thousands of horses.  With Anna’s master teaching and coaching I was given seven days to help a mustang learn a new world, and hopefully show him that humans had a positive role to play in his life.
My mustang, though, didn’t come untouched, straight from the BLM holding pens, as most of the horses in the event.  He was previously adopted by a well-meaning couple, hoping to give him a second chance at life.  So many people see the suffering these horses endure when they are traumatically rounded up from their homes, ripped from their family, and forced into holding pens.  My horse was one of those, now over 50,000 horses, waiting for the “powers that be” to determine their fate. So this couple decided to rescue him, train him and give him a new home and a new life.
They did what so many well-intentioned, but misinformed people do with a mustang.  They treated Mustangs like a horse.  Big mistake.  One of the most common misconceptions is that a horse is a horse is a horse, and that mustangs are simply domestic horses in the wild.  They are not.  Mustangs are, in an equine way, what wolves are to dogs.  They are wild animals, they are smart and they have an independent nature that can make them difficult, and downright dangerous, to train if you don’t know what you are doing.  Train a mustang like a domestic horse and you never know what you are going to get other than, most likely, injured at some point.
They began my mustang’s training, as many horses do, in the round pen.  But when they attempted to get him to move he attacked them.  He charged his handler and ran him out of the pen.  Already branded with a bad reputation as a mustang, that was all they needed to see.  Clearly this horse was dangerous and aggressive.  The decision was made that he would be left alone in a pasture until they could find help.
Turns out, this course and I were that help.  My job… turn this guy around. Change his mind.  Gentle an aggressive horse.
I joined him in our 24’ by 12’ run and he quickly moved as far away from me as he could, placing his head in the corner so I would not be able to approach him without entering his kick zone.  If he didn’t interact with me, perhaps I would leave him alone.  When I presented him with food, he was bold enough to eat, even with me right next to him.  But touch, connection, was out of the question. Initially he didn’t seem particularly aggressive.  We wanted to see if his reputation was accurate, Anna assessed him and looked for his triggers. She found them and in response he double barreled towards her.
That was all we needed to see to know that this guy was for real!  He made it perfectly clear.  “Mess with me, and there are consequences.” 
I decided that, of all the training I could do, the best thing I could teach him, if anything, was that humans weren’t all bad. I thought if I could convince him that I had value, that I could be trusted, perhaps he would be open to listening.  That became my goal.  
I worked slowly, giving him space, asking him to try a little bit at a time, consistently pushing the boundaries but never demanding more than I felt he could give.  Days passed and I began to doubt if he would ever come around.  I wanted to push him, to “just get the job done” and get him gentled.  But I knew that, not only was that dangerous, it wouldn’t work.  And that voice in my head that wanted to “fix” this horse was nothing but pride.  That voice wanted to look good, accomplish something no one else could, WIN!  That voice had my ego’s best interest in mind, but certainly not the horse’s.  
I wondered how many horses, over eons of time, had to suffer at the hands of men and women with these exact same thoughts.  I wondered how much abuse animals (and humans) had to endure due to ignorance, arrogance and pride.  That thought kept me focused on my goal; value and trust.
Finally, after 4 days, we touched for the first time.  It was an exhilarating and emotional moment I’ll never forget.  For the first time, he was willing to see me, to give me a chance.  I continued to work with him, slowly, showing him that his willingness to connect wasn’t a mistake.  He relaxed more and more with each day, and over the course of the next three days I had him haltered and leading.  The final day of leading was magical.  He wasn’t spooky, he didn’t try to get away, or pull against the rope.  He walked with me; a true partner.   
I only wished that I had another week with him, or even that I could take him home.  I knew with more time, he would have come around.  But I was happy with what we had accomplished, with what he had accomplished.  He had come so far in a very short period of time.
I finished the week with a great feeling of personal satisfaction.  After all, my goal was to show him I had value and to gain his trust, and I had done that.  But as I reflected on my time with him, I realized that I had learned so much more than a powerful horsemanship methodology.  In fact my most important lesson had nothing to do with horsemanship.  I realized, in that moment, that he wasn’t an aggressive horse at all.  
Horses are thrown into the “aggressive” label any time they lash out, attack, or injure someone, especially if it appears to be for “no reason”.  Although the reason may not be apparent to the human, it is perfectly clear to the horse.
My horse wasn’t aggressive, he was defensive.  In his mind, he was put in a confined space by a human and chased, or even attacked by a human!  He wasn’t trying to kill anyone.  He was defending himself.  After all, if he was truly aggressive, then he would have attacked me at some point.  But he didn’t.  Why?  Because I gave him no reason to attack. I pushed him, I asked him, I moved him out of his comfort zone.  But he tried.  He tried hard.  He didn’t want to hurt anyone, but he would defend himself if needed.
Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not saying all aggressive horses are secretly sweet little foals yearning to be understood.  Sometimes that aggressive title fits.  But if we callously label all trouble horses as aggressive, we not only give them a label that follows them for life, but we never give that horse the opportunity to be understood and possibly even find their way to a partnership with humans.
It wasn’t an aggressive horse, but a lack of communication that was the real problem.  I knew, in that moment, this dangerous horse gave me a gift I will always cherish.  I taught him that I had value, that he could trust me.  He taught me that every being has a reason to do what they do and simply categorizing any one, or any thing, as aggressive or dangerous tells more about me and my ignorance than it does about the being I am labeling.  I taught him to be comfortable around humans, he taught me to truly see each individual for who they are, and not what I think they are.  Finally, I taught him to accept the halter and to be led by the gentle and kind hand of a human.  He taught me to keep my heart open and overcome prejudice, allowing me to help a troubled soul.
Who really taught who?  Thank you my friend.

The Amazing Nakota Horses of North Dakota and the Kuntz Ranch

Photos Courtesy of Susan Solomon, Kathy King Raedeke and Anna Twinney
Photos Courtesy of Susan Solomon, Kathy King Raedeke and Anna Twinney

I often wonder what it is about the wild horses that keeps calling to my heart.  Is it the tremendous empathy I have for them?  Or am I able to relate to them in an unusual manner?

Throughout my life I have found myself in situations in which I needed to adapt to living in brand new counties, to new languages, to both City and Country life, and to a man’s world and learn to be self-reliant.  Although we truly cannot walk in our horses’ hooves we can certainly relate to all that they endure in our world and help them ease their way into our society.  Over 3 decades ago I began by learning their language, the language of Equus.

When I was invited to join Leo Kuntz at his ranch in North Dakota I felt intrigued and excited to meet not only the man behind this mission but the horses as well.  Over the years I have been blessed to work with many Mustangs and wild horses including: Cerbats, Kiger-Mustangs (Spirit – The Mustang from the Cimarron), Shy Boy (Monty Robert’s famous Mustang), Pryor Mountain & McCullough Peaks herds, Sulphur Springs, the Wilbur-Cruce herds and many more.  This was a chance to meet the Nokota horses…what gratitude I felt.

Our experience was memorable and it brings me great joy to share in some of the moments spent gentling Leo’s horses and watching them interact in their family groups.

I hope you enjoy,
Anna Twinney,
Founder, Reach Out to Horses

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 A word from Leo….

Leo
I thank Anna and friends for coming to the ranch for a very interesting clinic.  Over the years I have attended 622and watched many clinics.  I respect Anna’s methods in introducing the wild horse to the human world and think it has a place in everyone’s horse program.  I would also like to thank Anna for introducing more of the horse world to the Nokota Horse, a forgotten historic rancher strain of horses that find their foundation in the war and buffalo horses taken from Sitting Bull and other Chiefs upon their surrender, after Custer’s Last Stand.  These horses became the preferred ranch horses of the northern great plains. [Dobie..The Mustangs]

Hopefully, Anna’s methods and the Nokota Horse have a good future in the horse world.  Leo Kuntz, ND
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A video journal of our Nokota horse experience   
Introducing…the Nokota horses and Leo Kuntz through ROTH

Nokota wild horses – EXTREME Stallion behavior

Do you have what it takes to tame a wild horse?
We do at Reach Out to Horses

Control of body, mind & energy. A FEEL like no other – do you have what it takes to tame a wild horse safely for both you and the horse? “I respect what Annas doing. There is a set way of how the trainers do it. You go against the grain and you are putting yourself out there. Nobody teaches putting a wild horse in a box stall without a halter. Acclimatizing into a way of life they are going into…Leo Kuntz

ROTH gentle Nokota horses at the Kuntz Ranch in North Dakota

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Alecia Evans (CO):
“Thank for you allowing me to partake in this workshop and trusting me to come up to the task. I knew that it was going to be life-chaning and transformative, I just didn’t know how much. Having horses and being around domesticated horses is a completely different experience than being around an untouched wild horse. The awareness that my experience with Moonshine and the other horses provided me about the true essence and sensitivity of these majestic beings was often beyond words. It led me to a new level of being present, of being trustworthy and of the responsibility I now carry to do my best by all horses and humans. Anna, you are an extraordinary teacher and leader and I was truly blown away by your full presence every minute of every day. Thank you for sharing your gifts and knowledge with us all and for all that you sacrifice to do so.
And to Leo who so graciously allowed us into his home and into his herd, I thank you so much for being so open to sharing your experiences, knowledge and heart with us and the horses you love so dearly.”

Karen (NY):
“I’m really glad I came. I took a leap of faith and thought to myself just jump into the unknown, be adventurous. I learned a bit more about myself and about the horses. I’ve never seen or been anywhere like this (Leo Kuntzs Ranch in ND). Getting to know Leo and having him with us throughout the clinic was invaluable and really added tremendously to the experience. (Thank you Leo)”.

Kathy (OH):
“I cannot tell you how much I love this man! Ive been blessed by him. It’s a privilege and honor to know him through these horses. It was important for me to bring Anna here and her magic. Ive been struggling for a long time where I would bring my horsemanship. I came in fragile and I couldn’t ask for a better experience. Thank you both for taking a leap of faith!”

Laurent (CO):
“Thank you Leo for letting us in your museum. Thank you Ms Anna, with respect, for your good work and good advice. What I want to thank most of all is the horse! I started a friendship with Snowstorm and we had intimate moments. He doesn’t belong anywhere else.”

Susan (NC):
“I think you know I’m adaptive to whatever. When you said we are going to ND and I don’t know where, I said: “I don’t care”. This sings to my heart. Every time I work with the horse they ground me and allow me to again give back to people. hopefully I have given something to the horses as they have given everything to me.” Thank you as it truly was a remarkable experience. Wishing I were back there now!

Winsome (WA):
“Sitting here left with the feeling….its more of a re-ignition. Everything we have done in 6 days. I appreciate your letting me come as I know there were prerequisites. Its left me with a feeling of what I can do next to help. I knew this experience would help me as a parent (to be) and as a person. I know looking back this is a life-changer!”

Leo (ND) & Founder:
“I’m skeptical. We all know the horses will tell you what the trainers know. I watched Anna maintain the same, I would see it work on him. He (Billy) challenged more than any horses I know in my barn. She took it out of him. You don’t see or realize the progress of the horses. Ive seen the change!

Anna haltering Billy
“You know she can so its not impossible what she’s asking”
Leo Kuntz

“I respect what Annas doing. There is a set way of how the trainers do it. You go against the grain and you are putting yourself out there. Nobody teaches putting a wild horse in a box stall without a halter. Acclimatizing into a way of life they are going into…Leo Kuntz

“I’M THE LEADER.”

Tango, 3 month old McCullough Peaks Mustang colt, continues his 6-day foal handling training. Tango demonstrates the “whisper” as he learns his first steps towards leading. With his mother, Corona, ungentled, the training program takes its own shape.

Desensitizing Firsts with PMU’s

Equine Angels PMU youngsters have found heaven on Earth at Centerline Stables in Ossining, NY. During her trip Anna is actively involved with their program & provides tips for progress & success. From first touches, fourth rides, through to trail courses – pride fills the day.