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Extreme Mustang Makeover in Loveland, CO

So excited to get to Loveland, CO to shoot the Mustang Heritage Foundations’s Extreme Mustang Makeover in Loveland, CO at the end of May. Several friends were competing so it was personal as well. My mustang friend Amanda Wilson’s work as ambassador for the Cañon City facility has helped many horses get adopted, in big part because of her tireless work photographing the horses in holding pens and disseminating information about individual animal’s size and personality.

Loveland Extreme Mustang Makeover - Photography by Kerry O'Brien

Amanda and Dragon showing off their stuff.

In the Extreme Mustang Makeover, each participant gets an untamed, raw mustang by luck of the draw, and then has 100 days to tame and train it.

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In this EMM all the horses were mares, since they’re tougher to adopt. Approximately twenty adults participated, and there is also a youth division for kids 12-18 who train young horses under two. In addition there were untouched BLM mustangs and burros available for adoption.

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There are required objectives, such as ground manners, leading, grooming, picking up all four feet and loading in and out of a trailer.

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For some horses things went well until they heard something new and frightening: applause!

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In the trail class horse and rider negotiate obstacles they might encounter in daily life such as removing and replacing the bridle, stepping up and over obstacles, backing into a chute, opening and closing gates and dragging an item.

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The sportsmanship was of the highest order, exceeded only by the showmanship of the youth group since the last part is a freestyle competition where certain objectives must be met, but the theme is wide open. The kids killed it.

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They were beyond adorable, whether or not their horses were perfect, their joy was contagious.

It was a great few days, full of ups and downs. Since there were also a big rodeo, BBQ cook-off and concerts going on at the same time, the horses that did best were exposed to a lot of stimulation by the trainers who were able to take them on trail rides and to competitions. There was also a fabulous Missouri mule that walks a treadmill, that drives a cam, that churns ice cream!!!

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The final night ten adult finalists competed with some theme based freestyle offerings. There definitely were some crowd favorites, including some repeat competitors.

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Fill in the audio and imagine the Pharrell Williams song Happy playing here! (Plus respect a man who would come out in yellow tights!)

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After the freestyle events all horses are up for auction. Most of the trainers try to show their horses off to their best advantage. But it’s heartbreaking for others who get extremely bonded to their horses and are determined to go home with them. Sometimes they do, sometimes the bidding goes beyond their budget. That’s the deal.

I had to be careful. I was taking photos but must have made some kind of secret bidding move and almost bought a horse!

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I could be wrong, but I think the highest bid horse went for about $7,000. Most were much less. One woman got the trained mustang of her dreams for 500 bucks! She wanted a small horse so she didn’t have much competition and was thrilled to get just what she wanted.

An Extreme Mustang Makeover is a great place to get a proven, well started horse for very little money. Plus the trainers are extremely generous with their help and support to the new adoptive owners.

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Like all mustangs, BLM retains title for one year. One has to meet certain requirements and prove up before the title can be transferred after the year is up and the horse is officially yours.

If you haven’t seen the film Wild Horse, Wild Ride, it does a terrific job of profiling the challenges faced by a half-dozen or so of the hundred participants in the big Ft. Worth EMM a few years back. You’ll be rooting for each one of them.

I saw this film about a year before I set out from LA. It moved me to tears, re-awakening my deep connection with horses. At the time I had no idea the path my life would take by deviating 15 minutes on my way to Jackson to visit the wild horses in Green River, WY.

Rotten Tomatoes actually gave this film a 4-1/2 star rating! It’s available on Netflix and you can see the trailer here: Wild Horse Wild Ride. If it doesn’t move you, have your pulse checked.

By the way, my friend Amanda was able to keep Dragon, the horse of her heart!

1 Comment

  1. Cindra
    July 21, 2015

    This is amazing! What an incredible event. Your pictures and your story are wonderful…and inspiring. I’m so happy that you’re doing this, Kerry.

    Reply

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