chad kelly

Mustang tamer and trainer Chad Kelly likes the way the formerly wild horses respond to his efforts.

Horse trainer Chad Kelly has seen all types of horses over the years—big horses, little horses and horses of all different breeds.

However, the Monett, Mo., cowboy has never seen or trained anything quite like the wild mustangs he is working with now in conjunction with the Mustang Heritage Foundation and the Bureau of Land Management.

Kelly got involved in the trainer incentive program through the Foundation when his family entered him in the Extreme Mustang Makeover competition in 2007.

“I got interested in the program after competing in the mustang challenge in Ft. Worth,” Kelly says.

The basis of the competition is to take a wild horse and spend 100 days preparing it for the competition.

“In the competition the horses need to be able to take leads, pivot, stop and spin,” he explains. “There is also a trail course the horses compete in where they have to cross over things and go through gates.”

Kelly made the competition, and even though he didn’t win, it was obvious he had what it took to train horses, wild or otherwise.

“At the end of the hundred days I was riding, roping and shooting off my mustang—without a bridle on,” he laughs.

Even one of Kelly’s most admired horsemen commented on the fact that he sure could train a horse.

“After I lost, J.D. Yates told me I sure could ride a horse I just couldn’t count after I spun him too many times,” Kelly says.

That experience led him to really focus on the trainer incentive program which provides bonus money to trainers interested in starting and adopting out American mustangs.

“These mustangs are horses that the Spanish let lose in the wild,” he explains. “Now there are several bands of feral horses across the country and my job is to train them and adopt them out.”

According to Kelly, the bands are located in California, Wyoming, Nevada, Utah and New Mexico.

“More than anything this is a way to take horses that have gained a bad public perception over the years and show that they are competent and capable of the same things other horses are,” he says.

Both Kelly and the Mustang Heritage Foundation want to show that Mustangs are worth something and can be very enjoyable to own and to ride.

“The big issue involved with mustangs is that there are too many of them for the land they are on,” he explains.

Kelly says even he had a picture in his mind of what mustangs were before he actually started working with them.

“My mindset was that these were slow moving, big headed horses with small butts,” Kelly says.

However, after working with mustangs, he has changed that mindset.

“Some of them are small, some are large, some are good with cattle, some aren’t,” he explains.”

The bottom line though, according to Kelly, is that these are the same horses that were used 100 to 200 years ago to do what Quarter Horses are used for now.

In addition to ranch work Kelly says mustangs have been used for English riding, dressage, cutting or anything.

“I have ridden lots and lots of horses over the years but there is something unique about mustangs,” he explains.

They are unique, he says, in the fact that once you gain their trust you can do anything on them.

“These horses have never been around people, they haven’t learned bad habits like many horses do,” he says. “They are blank slates, the only thing they know is what you teach them.”

However, in order to teach them anything he says they have to trust you.

“Once you have their trust it is there unconditionally,” he explains.

Kelly gains that trust by working with them a few at a time in a round pen at first. He has found it works best to start a few at a time because if they all see it is going to be alright they all learn faster.

According to him, they are just afraid and need a little assurance.

“I start out getting them used to being touched,” Kelly says. “I rub all over them, lay over their backs and crawl all over them.”

Once they are calm enough to saddle Kelly does, then he walks away and lets them get used to it.

“When I know I can get on them I get on and ride them around the round-pen for a while,” he says.

After that, he moves to the pasture then to longer rides. Kelly says he rides horses from 30 to 90 days before they are ready to be adopted out.

Even though the adoption process is a positive time for Kelly, he feels the best part about working with mustang’s is the satisfaction of taking a horse from zero to something people can appreciate.

“In addition to that, I am helping change the perception of mustang’s,” he explains.

Every horse he rides is up for adoption when he has completed their training.

“You can come adopt these horses for $125 all day long,” he says. “You are getting a lot of horse for not much money.”

According to him, wheth-er you want a trail horse, one to rope on or just a trustworthy mount, the mustangs are a great choice.

For more information on the Mustang Heritage Foundation, contact Chad Kelly at (417) 437-8934.

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