Horse trainer creates bond with mustang through unique methods

Published: Jan. 10, 2014 at 6:00 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 14, 2014 at 11:57 PM EST
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BRUNSWICK COUNTY, NC (WECT) – "Do unto others as you would want done unto you." That's the message one horse trainer in Brunswick County is hoping to share with others.

Lauryn Zepeda and her mustang, Gringo, have recently been featured in equine magazine "Horse and Rider" after winning a national competition sponsored by Weaver Leather with over 400 other contestants.

Zepeda trains her horses with a unique method called "clicker training", which is commonly used with dogs and often discouraged by equestrians.

"I hope to promote with our story a method that encourages willingness, freedom of choice and a relation that reflects 'do unto others as you would want done unto you,' beginning with an animal born wild on the plains," explained Zepeda.

Clicker training promotes positive behaviors instead of focusing on punishment for the negative behaviors.

Zepeda and Gringo overcame many trust issues to win the magazine's contest, but now their relationship is stronger than ever.

"I believe that those tricks, even though they were tricks, they were actually great scenarios for him to build up trust in me," Zepeda said.

The pair actively performs and competes at shows with acts purely at liberty – no halter, no bridle, no bit and no other form of restraint.

"Horses tend to offer a lot of their own behaviors, and when they're reinforced for it, they tend to do it even more. Gringo sat up one day, I clicked, and he's been doing it ever since," Zepeda said.

Zepeda and Gringo are slated to travel along the coast for demonstrations and will also film episodes for "Horse Tales" and Hoofbeats TV.

"I like to think that not only is he a good example of what can be achieved with a gentler method,but maybe he's a good example too at how adoptable and how trainable these guys actually are," Zepeda said.

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