They pulled 100 Nevada mustangs off the range and handed the lurching candidates to 100 eager and brave horse trainers, who had 100 days to work with the horses and then show up in Fort Worth, Texas this weekend to show off the results.
And show off they did. Each horse had to be ridden in a reining pattern, jump through a flaming hoop and stay (relatively) calm while the trainer fired a gun.
Mark Lyon of Arlington, Nebraska took the grand prize today at the second annual Fort Dodge Extreme Mustang Makeover Legends Finals after he demonstrated that a well-trained horse doesn’t always need a rider to win.
Christian, his three-year-old, bay mustang gelding must have read a Walt Disney script and followed every cue. He went for the happy ending in the $25,000 prize money event.
Here’s what happened: Well into Mark’s textbook perfect performance, which included a ballet of movement including deep stops and picture perfect spins, the crowd’s hearts fell when the rider leaned to Christian’s side in a tight turn and his saddle slipped, causing him to fall. Since the judges’ instructions were to focus on the mustang’s ability (not the rider’s), they rewarded Christian for his reaction to Mark’s involuntary dismount.
Judge (and famed horse trainer) John Lyons of Colorado said, “That was the best part of the whole performance. (Christian) did exactly what he was trained to do,” describing how the colt stood and waited for his rider to get back on.
Mark, who has trained numerous mustangs, said that he worked with Christian for a week before he was even able to touch him.
The Mustang Heritage Foundation, in cooperation with the Bureau of Land Management, hosted the Fort Dodge Extreme Mustang Makeover for the second year to increase adoptions of mustangs like Christian. The event provided the public with the unique opportunity to see how wild mustangs can become trained horses.
Thanks to the Mustang Heritage Foundation and Megan Hirshey for help with this post.