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Extreme Mustang Makeover – Leela Week 1
 By SuperLevi   •   21st Feb 2016   •   2,081 views   •   1 comments
Extreme-Mustang-Makeover

In a makeover, trainers are typically randomly assigned a wild, unhandled BLM mustang between the ages of four and seven and allotted about 100 days to completely transform their untrained and untamed horse into a willing partner. After the competition the top ten placing trainers and horses perform a final freestyle, showing off their creativity and horsemanship skills. Immediately following the competition, the mustangs are auctioned off in a public adoption.

With over 45,000 mustangs in holding facilities across the country, the goal of the mustang makeovers is to boost adoption of all these already rounded up mustangs and showcase the trainability and versatility of mustangs. A few weeks ago, an opportunity arose for me to train my sixth mustang makeover horse. In the past, I’d had varying experiences. Regardless if the horse was easier or tougher, each mustang who entered my life taught me lessons that could not be repeated elsewhere.

Pick Up Day
The nerve-wracking part of the infamous “Pick Up Day”, is the luck of the draw and not knowing what you’ll be assigned to. In my case, I was an extra trainer if there were any spare horses, so I was not even guaranteed to pick up a horse that day. Nevertheless somehow, everything worked out that a spare mustang was available and that I would in fact get to compete again! Regardless of how many times one adopts or picks up a mustang for training, the tingling of excitement never grows dull.

This year for the mustang makeover held in Jacksonville, Florida, all the trainers were assigned mares. When I laid eyes on my girl I was nearly breathless. One of the prettiest and cutest of the bunch had landed on the extra list. She was the one mare out of the forty makeover horses, that I had decided beforehand was one of my favorites - but since I was not even guaranteed a horse, I did not let myself even go as far as to hope that me of all people would get assigned to her.

Extreme-Mustang-Makeover

Leela
Leela, is a grey six year old mare who was rounded up from Adobe Town, Wyoming as a yearling and had spent five years of her life waiting to be adopted. She stands 14 hands but very solid in her build. From the start, Leela had zero fear of people, which was nice to some degree but not a convenience in other ways. Leela is extremely kind, sweet, willing horse, but use to people only feeding her and never asking her to do much. Convincing her to not just respect me but to actually listen and want to be my friend has presented a challenge.

I’m currently interning at a dressage and jumper barn and both the head trainer and her assistant also picked up mustangs for the makeover. With only two round pens and three mustangs, Leela and another mustang makeover horse had to be together for the first few days which increased the difficulty of getting our horses to bond with us.

Week 1
Since Leela was not afraid of people, getting those first touches was not all that hard in comparison to past horses I had received. I was pleasantly surprised that she was rather comfortable with me touching her just about anywhere. By the end of her first night my already docile little mustang was picking up all four of her feet.

As a working student, my time is more limited than what I’d normally be spending with my mustangs. Between all my other chores and horses needing to be worked with I was able to get Leela leading better. I introduced the tarp which she was more curious about than anything and had no problem marching right over. Later that night after my work was done, she wore a surcingle like she’d had one on her whole life.

On her third day with me, Leela was introduced to a pedestal and managed to get all four feet up on it. She learned to send over and jump a barrel laying on the ground and started the beginning stages of learning to lay down on cue, which is more so important for our final freestyle. I like to supplement tricks and liberty into all my training anyway because I believe that it gives a horse and their rider something different and fun to focus on instead of just riding and schooling all the time.

The fourth day included mostly building the foundation on things Leela was already learning, like lunging, yielding hindquarters, moving her shoulders, backing, brushing, picking up feet, leading and so on. She wore the surcingle again, this time with a saddle pad, which was no problem either. Later that night Leela was ready to be walked out of the round pen and into the yard to her stall. Like everything else, this new adventure she took like a pro. While keeping her company in her stall, I took the opportunity to finished dematting her extremely long and tangled mane.

By day five Leela got to see her first saddle which she carried with no issue, not even a buck or crow hop. She learned to long line with the saddle to get me one step closer to being ready to ride her. By day six she continued to improve on her saddling and longlining. My goal being that she learns the word ‘whoa’ which is the most important cue a rider could give a horse. I did several half mounts in the stirrups to get her used to the shift of weight in the saddle and to let her see me above her.

When the first week came to an end, amazingly it was deemed that Leela was more than ready for me to put my first ride on her. The trainer I’m interning with stood in the round pen with us and a lead line attached as I mounted and sat on her. I normally start horses myself but as a part of learning different methods, I wanted to start Leela the way that this barn started horses. The person on the ground gets the horse to take a few steps in each direction, letting the horse see their rider from both eyes, eventually leading the horse into small circles. Once that proves to not be a problem, the horse is sent out to the rail of the round pen, the rider just being a passenger the first few rides and not doing much else.

Extreme-Mustang-Makeover

I normally average my first rides on my makeover horses sometime between the second and third week so I was elated with riding Leela on day seven. I really could not have asked for a better horse for this competition. I have high hopes for this mare and have no doubt that she will rise to the occasion as our relationship and partnership strengthens.
Winniefield Park  
Nice work, sounds like you both learned some useful skills!Lucky Leela to have landed you.
  Mar 13, 2016  •  1,866 views
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