When HN reader Chelsea Gammon adopted a dappled palomino mustang a month ago, she knew she’d found her dream horse. What she didn’t realize was how many people — nearly 10,000 and counting! — would want to follow along on their journey.
Here at Horse Nation, we are huge fans of mustangs. So naturally, when we saw the Facebook page that Chelsea Gammon, of Glenmoore, Pennsylvania, had set up for her new mustang Folly, we were head-over-heels in love! In less than a month Folly has earned herself a huge fan base, and it’s no surprise: Folly seems to possess all the traits that adopted mustangs are known for — toughness, smarts, athleticism and a remarkable willingness to embrace their new lives.
Chelsea is new to mustang ownership herself. She grew up riding in the Pony Club, has a hunter/jumper background and has mainly worked with transitioning OTTBs to new careers. She currently has two thoroughbred geldings, Exy (Exeter) and Chill (Chill Wind), and recently sold her project horse. Realizing that she preferred the herd dynamics of having a third horse, she began casually looking for the “right” horse to come along.
Enter Folly. Recently we asked Chelsea to tell us about her journey thus far with Folly, beginning with her reasons for choosing a mustang and the adoption process to Folly’s current training and her goals for the mare. Here’s what she had to say.
All photos used with permission from Chelsea Gammon.
I had never really considered a mustang for the reason I think most people don’t, especially on the east coast. First, they’re not really on our radar up here, something I’m hoping to change with Folly. Second, I wasn’t that aware of just how much they’re capable of, and the success they’ve been having in the English disciplines. Despite working with green thoroughbreds, I’ve never started a horse myself, not to mention gentling one. But then I found myself on the BLM’s website during one of their internet adoptions and saw a spunky dappled palomino mare who I fell in love with.
Over the next few days I found myself back on that site, just staring at her pictures, wishing it was possible to get her. Then I started researching more about the breed, researching the adoption process, haulers to bring her east, and a trainer who would be willing to do the initial gentling and breaking for me. As the pieces of the puzzle started falling in place, I realized all those reasons I thought were stopping me from getting a mustang had pretty easy solutions.
Once I decided to bid on her, the first step was to fill out the BLM’s simple adoption application. I had already decided on a trainer to gentle her, Richard Garner of Fish Tail Bar G, LLC in Chesapeake, Virginia, who has competed in some of the Mustang Makeover competitions, and who provided me with a simple facility sketch. The BLM uses this to verify that the pen where you’ll be keeping the horse has the requisite 6′ tall fences, is of a required size, and has a shelter. Once the horse is gentled, it can be kept in 5′ fences. They also ask for basic details about the trailer that you or your hauler will be using to pick up the horse to make sure it doesn’t have a ramp. I emailed the application and was approved by the next morning. To get a bidder ID they take a $125 deposit (the starting bid for all these horses), which is refunded if you don’t buy one of the horses.
It was at this point that I decided to name her Folly, after a quote from National Velvet where Mrs. Brown is giving Velvet the money she won swimming the English Channel for Velvet’s Grand National entrance fee. She says, “I, too, believe that everyone should have a chance at a breathtaking piece of Folly once in his life.” I’m sure some of my family and friends considered my goal to adopt a mustang a bit crazy, but what better than to take a chance on a breathtaking little mare who I had such good feeling about. Luckily, I won the bidding, arranged to have her picked up by my hauler at their Kentucky pickup, and was there when she arrived at the trainer’s in Virginia.
The first thing that everyone notices about Folly, and the thing that first caught my eye, is of course her lovely dappled palomino coloring. She is four years old, born in the Fallon, Nevada holding facility to a mare shortly after one of the BLM’s roundups, and spent her life there up until the auction. She was listed as 14 hands but is more like 13.3. Adopting based on pictures only was a bit of a guessing game. I couldn’t really tell how she moved, but some of her spunk came through the photos, as well as a very kind eye. And suddenly I could see all these possible futures for her. I could see her strutting around a dressage test, boldly going cross-country, and once I saw her move when she was here, carting my future kids around the hunter ring.
However, looks aren’t everything, and Folly has shown she has a brain and personality to match. In under four weeks, she has mastered leading, picking up her front feet, tying, bathing, all sorts of desensitizing, being saddled, having weight put in the stirrups, ground driving, wearing a bit and bridle, lunging, and going through obstacle courses. Everyone who has a mustang always talks about their hearts, their smarts, and their “mustang adaptability,” something I’d never seen before working with Folly and something that blows me away every time I work with her.
The moment I realized what an amazing horse I had on my hands was the day after she arrived, when we were able to halter and touch her for the first time. I had just gone into the round pen and walked up to her, about to pet her, when she reached out her nose to sniff me, demonstrating an earnest curiosity that is a main facet of her personality. Although her training, like with any horse, isn’t always linear forward progression, the pace she’s learning at never ceases to amaze me.
Rich, her trainer, uses a variety of methods, especially some of those used by the popular clinicians, and has attended and given clinics himself. The thing that cemented him as my choice for her trainer is the patience and understanding he has for these animals during training, and the way they respond and take comfort in him as their leader.
The goal is for her to stay there for another five weeks, at which point she’ll have had some initial rides on her, and then come home to Pennsylvania where I will start training her in the various English disciplines. It will be up to Folly to show us what she excels at, but my aim is to make her a well-rounded English show pony, doing hunter/jumper shows, dressage, and some eventing down the line, in addition to some trail riding and trick training. With her trademark mustang intelligence and athleticism, I don’t think anything could stand in her way.
She does have quite the following and has really touched the heart of many already. To some, she is their dream horse, the kind of horse we all wished we had when we were 9-year-old girls playing with barbies. Some of her followers are living vicariously through us, wishing they were able to adopt a mustang, as well as those who were inspired by her to get one of their own.
But I think one of the biggest reasons people have been drawn to her is that they are now part of this amazing underdog journey, and get to follow her all the way through everything the future holds for her. She inspires people, she makes them laugh, and smile, and dream, and most importantly to me, she is expanding people’s perceptions of mustangs and showing what they’re capable of. With around 40,000 mustangs in holding facilities across the United States, I’m hoping Folly’s story inspires more people to take a chance on one of these amazing horses.