Mustang Gal, Val — A Horse of a Different Color … AND Personality

"Valentine" - A Beautiful Pewter Grulla

"Valentine" - A Beautiful Pewter Grulla

Today let’s take a look at the Wood horse personality type. The element Wood in Traditional Chinese Medicine relates to, among other things, the liver and gallbladder, the eyes, connective tissue and, emotionally … anger (uh oh).

Interesting implications there for a horse, huh?

Valentine (Val for short) is a 7-year-old Mustang mare owned by, yep you guessed it, my friend Stephanie. Val was Stephanie’s second Mustang and was adopted as a baby. She is, as this blog’s title implies, a unique color, which one doesn’t really see in domesticated horses and which isn’t so common in the wild either. She’s what’s called a “grulla,” a gorgeous pewter-like color that sometimes gleams grey, sometimes bronze’ish, and she has a dark dorsal stripe running down her back. She is also very large for a Mustang, and quite talented (when she wants to be), so attracts a lot of attention and admiration at the jumping  shows she competes in. And she usually wins. That is if she doesn’t decide to dump Stephanie first.

But back  to the attributes of the Wood horse. Here are a few of Dr. Madalyn Ward’s comments about same in her book, Horse Harmony–Understanding Horse Types and Temperaments:

Personality: “The Ultimate Competitor”

Motto: “I WILL Win!”

… tremendous presence … naturally bold and often has a strong, muscular conformation …

You can feel the power of a Wood horse when you ride him. He loves to be physically active and challenged … On the ground [his] competitive nature will cause him to push you just to see if he can get away with a particular behavior, and if you do not handle this right away he might literally walk right over you. The same is true under saddle, as he is constantly testing the limits, and he will begin to pay attention only when you step up and set boundaries. With a Wood horse a boundary is a dynamic phenomenon that is open to discussion, but once you set it firmly it will only take a quick reminder to convince him that you mean now, tomorrow, and always.

These horses are tremendously athletic and have a mind of their own. They are not particularly eager to please or responsive to affection, so gaining their respect is key. They get bored easily so need to be worked consistently, and they are often very alpha in the herd — and not always a kind alpha.

Valentine demonstrated all of these traits early on when as a yearling she kicked Stephanie in the stomach at feeding time. After chasing her around the paddock and throwing feed buckets at her for a while, and then taking two or three days to recover, Stephanie asked me to talk to Val to make sure she understood there were lines never to be crossed, ever again.

Val listened, rather indifferently, showing me clearly how wild-at-heart she still was, and how alpha, but she “got” it and more or less agreed. And she has never laid hoof or tooth on Stephanie again. Because of her talent and size and yes, her independent nature, she is  well suited to be one of Stephanie’s favorites, Stephanie being rather a maverick type herself. But they still go round and round not infrequently, and Stephanie really has to lay down the law and beef up her aids when she rides in order to remind Val of her job and who’s boss.

Even then, as happened not long ago, for some off-the-wall reason known only to Val, she will head out into the show ring and dump Stephanie before the first jump, thereby disqualifying them of course. Go figure!

Most of the time Valentine flies, and Stephanie sails, and they win, and it is all worthwhile!

Valentine at her best, with Stephanie aboard!

The moral of this blog?

Don’t get a Wood horse, especially a Mustang Wood horse, unless you are up to an ongoing, supreme challenge!


3 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Valerie said,

    I have a 7 yr old Mustang gelding. He is trained to 1st level dressage and started on 2nd level. He is sweet and mellow but he has panic moments and does a3-4 second freak out hopping forward and I completely become unseated. I end up just being rolled off while trying to regain my lost seat. Other than these moments he is an awesome ride and like a puppy on th ground. So now I have taken him back to ‘pony kindergarten’ with extensive ground work…hopefully this will get him over his issues. I have only had him 4 months.

    • 2

      Wow, I think for having him only four months you are doing great! No telling what that little panic moment is about, but I’m sure there’s a history. So backing up with some of your training is a perfect idea. If you would like to post a picture of him, I have a “fan” FB page,, and I think you could put it up there. Being a huge Mustang fan myself, I would love to see him and hear more about him. Thanks for posting! Leta

      • 3

        Valerie – I just noticed your moniker “percheronwoman” which made me smile. Because my Mustang, Bella, is from a herd in Wyoming that has Percheron genes. She’s HUGE and very black, but has a long wavy tail and feathers, so people never know what in the world she is, and usually think she’s a Fresian. Does your Mustang have some Percheron? Just curious (and I do love how it makes them mellow).

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