From Schmitten, Germany, Céline Elouise
loves American Mustangs. She is the owner of Diego, a rescued Mustang whom she
met while working as a volunteer at Diane Delano’s Wild Horse Rescue
Center in Mims, Florida USA.
At 19, Céline became familiar with America’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM); the political veil and the challenges of the Wild Mustangs. In Mims, she found the horse of her dreams, and knew she had to take him home…
How did you become a rescue worker in Mims, Florida?
After I finished school and got my Abitur (diploma from German secondary school qualifying for university admission or matriculation) I wanted to do something different before I went to university. I decided to do something social and without profit, I rather wanted to do something helpful. I wanted to work with animals and learning more about their habitat. I looked for various organizations who offered such work as a volunteer. There were a few projects but none of them sounded really good for my ideas. For example building a new hiking trail in New Zealand and things like this. Then the women from one organization told me at the telephone that they had a new project but never tested it before and where not sure if they will take it into their concept. It is something with wild horses, but they have no further information about it. I booked it and took the plane to Orlando, not really knowing what expected me. A really nice woman in Justin boots and a sign with a horse was picking me up at the airport. She drove a big truck and was really nice to me. It was Diane Delano the founder of Wild Horse Rescue Center.
What type of work did you do with the Mustangs?
I loved to work with all the mustangs in different individual ways. For instance, with natural horsemanship or with clicker training to get their trust into human beings; but, we not only did ground work, but also saddle training and trail rides so the horses gained confidence.
They had different mustangs there, living in different groups. The mares, the geldings, the mustangs who are not gentled up yet, and the sanctuary horses living on a pasture. I learned to work with wild horses by different people. It was the first time for me to ride in a western saddle. I got to know different ways to gentle up a wild horse, for example the natural horsemanship or the clicker training. I got some “project horses.” I worked with Annie, a very small mustang mare who was afraid of almost everything, due to she was separated from her mother when she was a baby. I worked with Annie with the clicker. Foxie was a young buckskin mare; we worked with her with natural horsemanship. Both ways were successful - they both made really good progress. We also made trail rides, it was fantastic to ride on the Orlando Wetlands and see the beautiful nature on a horse’s back.
What is your opinion on the BLM's management of the Wild Mustangs?
I think it is important to find new homes for all the captured mustangs. I think it's better for them to have a home then to live in pens and holding facilities with hundreds of other mustangs. BUT I think it is very important to find a good caring home, because they all deserve it to be loved and treated right. Unfortunately many of them were adopted by people who don't really know enough about them and that they are different from domestic horses. I also do not find it good to adopt mustangs to Mexico where a lot of them are mistreated for illegal rodeo and something like this. In my opinion there should be more education in the population about them. If more people would know about the mustangs and how beautiful and inspiring and intelligent horses they are, it would be easier to find good loving homes for them.
Do you have a favorite mustang anecdote to share?
My favorite mustang anecdote is the one from Diane Delano (founder of Wild Horse Rescue Center) and her very first rescue, a white mare called Wyomie. This was in 2000. Wyomie changed Diane's way of thinking. She showed her that some mustangs need to find freedom with themselves, while others enjoy being around people. Diane brought Wyomie to the Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary to live out her life there.
What is the sanctuary band?
The sanctuary horses are mostly horses that were very badly mishandled by people. They have very often a trauma and are not okay being with people. It is horrible what people can do to animals. They just want to live in freedom. They are living in a band on a pasture with natural water sources and we just look after them from time to time and feed hay and grain.
Diego is my once in a lifetime horse. I loved all of the horses at the rescue, but I didn’t have the intention to buy one of the horses and become a horse owner. Two weeks before I had to leave America, Diego was brought to the rescue center. From the first second I saw him I was fascinated by his charisma. It is difficult to describe it but I felt a bond to him from the first moment. He was very curious and attentive.
But transport an American Mustang to Germany? This seemed impossible and very greenly for some people; for me, too, at the beginning, especially because I didn't really know this horse. I had never ridden him and I never saw all of his three gaits. I didn’t even know if he was really healthy. However I bought him and brought him to Germany. It was the best decision I've ever made in my life.
I had to leave America and I flew home alone. At home, I organized a transport company who picked him up at the rescue center and drove him to the quarantine station, where he spent four weeks with eight other horses before flying to Europe. Everything was very exiting! For my family it was also very exciting because they've never seen our new family member before. And finally the day of his arrival came. I was so happy to have him by my side, never having the fear that someone else could take him away (he was up for adoption before I bought him).
Now, one year later, we went through many ups and downs, but definitely more ups than downs. Because of him I called many things into question concerning the handling with horses. He showed and still shows me the right way how a human should treat a horse. I work with Diego very often on the ground. When I ride him, I only ride him without a bit. Generally our contact is without dominance, all the more with trust and friendship. Everything I know now about horses - especially wild horses - I've learned from him. He is my best teacher. For example, we are going for a walk in the forest together and not because I want him to go with me. We are working as less as possible with tools and as free as possible. But it is an ongoing process and we still have to learn a lot.
What are your hopes and dreams for the future?
My dreams and hopes for the future are simple. I just want to enjoy the time with my horse and I also want that he is enjoying spending time with me. Going on long, long trail rides and enjoying nature together. If Diego likes it, maybe we will go for an endurance ride. But if not, it doesn't matter. I just want him to be happy. The journey is the reward.
Connect with Céline