My Wild Horse Story: Elissa and Chico

This My Wild Horse Story story was submitted by Elissa Dodson. To submit your own story, please email with the subject line My Wild Horse Story. Make some new stories in 2023 by giving a good home to your next wild horse or burro. Get started by visiting our website and finding an adoption opportunity near you

My name is Elissa Dodson and I have had the joy of working with our mustang Chico for almost 18 years. Chico was originally adopted by my husband and his parents shortly before we met. While attending an auction in Carthage, MO they met this scrawny gray yearling from Wyoming who was such a food hound that, while the other horses crowded in a far corner, he spent the entire day with his head stuck through the bars begging for hand outs and scratches. Some things never change. That little boy came home with them, was christened Chico, and is still on the constant lookout for food and attention. 

I grew up as your average horse crazy girl, reading Marguerite Henry books and learning to ride on our backyard horses. While attending Missouri State University, and increasing my horse obsession by getting an Equine Studies minor and competing on the equestrian team, I met my future husband and was soon driving out to his family farm to go riding. The first clue my parents had that things were getting serious was when they began to hear an awful lot about one cute little mustang named Chico... who happened to be owned by this guy named Clay. At this point Chico was halter trained and ready to officially begin his saddle training. I had just completed a course on horse training and was eager to continue growing my skills in that area, so Clay and his parents very kindly let me take over Chico's education. I'm pretty sure that horse has taught me more than I could ever teach him, and very patiently dealt with me learning the ropes alongside him. 

It wasn't long before we were riding around the farm, and then trail riding with the other horses. Chico was right there when Clay proposed to me while out on a ride together, and since then has helped teach all six of our children to ride. He has grown from being a scrawny little yearling to a beautiful big gelding that has been referred to as a “Spanish warmblood” at a local horse show. He earned me my first blue ribbon, has carried me on miles and miles of trails, including horse camping trips into the nearby Ozark wilderness areas, and has helped me teach many hours of riding lessons to kids of all ages. He loves to jump, has quickly picked up basic dressage maneuvers, patiently carries packs and is a great lead horse for when I pack other horses behind him. He has a distinct dislike for curious black and white dairy cows who like to follow too close behind him, wants to splash and play in every puddle he comes across, and generally has a personality that is so big it pours out of him in every situation. No ride would feel complete without his complaining groaning as he carries me down the trail. 

Chico was influential in developing my love of mustangs. Since working with him we have adopted five other mustangs and one burro. Out of all the horses I have worked with over the years, I love that our mustangs have all been the most curious, intelligent and quick to learn. They are hardy, willing to please, share our love for exploring new places and each have their own unique and hilarious personalities.  

A horse standing in a field.


Rider on a horse


Woman stands with three horses.


Woman rides horse in snow.


Family poses for picture with horse and dog in a field.


Woman rides horse in a field.