Jan 28, 2023

Now On Course: Woodrow Goes Wild to Mild

Ann Hanlin and Woodrow. GRC Photo

Did you know that there are over 53,000 wild mustangs in holding facilities across the United States? My mustang journey began in February 2018 after losing my heart horse whom I had just shy of 20 years. I wanted another horse of color, and my friend sent me the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) internet adoption link. I was amazed at all of the horses available on the internet auction, but I quickly fell in love with Woodrow. I learned that he was a popular band stallion in Wyoming and had been followed by photographers for close to three years.

Woodrow was a wild band stallion for seven years in Wyoming and is from the Salt Wells Creek herd management area (HMA). He had seven mares and countless foals under him in the wild. When his foals were two to three years old he would run them out of his band and they would have to find their way. This is done by stallions to help control the size of their band and to help prevent inbreeding. After seeing him in the photos in the wild I started my search to find other members of his band. Thus far, I have helped bring three of his daughters, one of his mares, and one of his sons to Maryland. This would not have been possible without help from the photographers who have now become dear friends of mine.

Woodrow in the wild. Rafter 3 Imagery photo.

I won Woodrow’s bid in February 2018, and he was shipped to New Jersey for me to pick up on April 13, 2018. Little did I know that this was the beginning of a remarkable journey. I brought him home and let him run off the trailer and into his pen. It took me eight days just to touch his nose, but I learned so much about myself in that short period of time. I have had years of horse experience, but there is just so much to learn from a wild one. In the beginning of our journey, it was about building trust with a lot of pressure and release. This isn’t something that can be rushed, especially with a 7-year-old former wild stallion. He made me work to gain his trust, and although the journey has been beautiful, it hasn’t always been rainbows and butterflies. Simple things that we take for granted with domestic horses are something that can be challenging for a wild horse. For instance, halters, leading, grooming, etc., are all very foreign to them. So, it just takes a lot of patience and consistency to get them used to domestic life.

I did a lot of groundwork in prep for our first ride, which was approximately three months into our journey. He bucked me off on two separate occasions; the first time I asked for it, and the second time I think he had gotten bored. Since those episodes, he hasn’t offered to buck or be naughty under saddle. I learned from them and quickly realized there will always be bumps along the way, it’s how we learn from them that matters most.

Currently, we are competing recognized Novice with room to grow. I have never been in a rush with him, and that is something that will never change. He has put all of his trust in me, and it is up to me to put him in situations that help us grow, but don’t ruin the trust and bond we have formed. The bond I have with Woodrow is like no other I have ever had with a horse in my lifetime, including my heart horse. Woodrow has proven to me that you can have more than one heart horse in your lifetime, you just have to make sure your heart is open to it.

GRC photo.

Woodrow made his eventing debut on April 13, 2019, at a Loch Moy Starter Horse Trials (Adamstown, Maryland). He was exactly one year out of holding and was a total rockstar. He is a quirky boy, and some of that has gone away with exposure and mileage, but some of it will never go away because of his former life.

For instance, warm-up is tricky because he doesn’t like other horses; they were a threat to him and his band, so having horses all over for warm-up is hard for him. In 2021, we competed in numerous unrecognized events, placed in the top-five for all of them, and moved up to Novice.

This year we amped it up and successfully completed several recognized events including the Area II championships at Loch Moy. We also qualified and attended the Waredaca Classic Three-Day Event (Laytonsville, Maryland), which was our big goal for the year. Going recognized doesn’t seem like much to some, but for me it is huge.

I haven’t competed recognized in at least 10 years, and now I am doing it on a mustang that I have brought along from scratch. It is quite an accomplishment, and I wouldn’t be doing any of it without this remarkable horse. Woodrow is not only getting me back out in the competition world but he is showing the public what the mustangs can do by being competitive against the Warmbloods, Irish Sport Horses, and Thoroughbreds.

I'm looking forward to all that 2023 has in store for us and plan to move up to training and work towards our U.S. Dressage Federation bronze medal in dressage.

Woodrow has also encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone in other ways. I have become a Trainer Incentive Program (TIP) trainer through the Mustang Heritage Foundation. In 2021, I was approved to host the first-ever Mustang TIP challenge in Maryland. The 2022 Maryland TIP challenge was a huge success and helped 29 mustangs get out of holding pens. Who would have thought that one horse could not only connect me to so many people but take me on a journey I never knew was possible.

You can learn more about mustangs and to follow Ann Hanlin and Woodrow's journey on Facebook at SBF Mustang Eventing.

The USEA is made up of over 12,000 members, each with their own special horses and experiences. The USEA's Now on Course series highlights the many unique stories of our membership. Do you and your horse have a tale to tell? Do you know someone who deserves recognition? Submit your story to Meagan DeLisle to be featured.

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