POWELL, Wyo. (AP) – Training a wild horse is tough – and doing it in 100 days is extremely tough, which is why it’s called the Extreme Mustang Makeover.
Nineteen-year-old Daria Anderson of Powell is currently training a wild horse she named Loco Bueno for the challenge put on by the Mustang Heritage Foundation and Bureau of Land Management. She and her competitors each have about 100 days to gentle a wild horse for the chance to win an estimated purse of $20,000 and trophy buckle at the Ford Idaho Horse Park in Nampa, Idaho, on July 29-30.
Once there, Anderson and Loco Bueno will compete in handling and conditioning, a pattern class and a combined leading and riding class, the Powell Tribune reports (http://bit.ly/1TgXfCG).
The goal behind the competition is to show that not only can wild horses be trained, but they are also versatile and rugged.
“People underestimate mustangs, but in a hundred days I guarantee he will do everything the fancy horses can do,” Anderson said. “I have been working with horses my whole life and training and wanted something different and more of a challenge.”
Though young, she is bringing a lifetime of horse experience on top of her experience studying farrier science at Sheridan College. She now lives in Powell where she is the owner of D4 Performance Horses and Farrier Service.
All of the mustangs are selected at random for event participants and Anderson picked up her horse at the wild horse corral in Boise, Idaho, on April 8 and aptly named him Loco Bueno, after the famous Poco Bueno.
Loco was rounded up in October of last year and gelded in February at 5 years old.
“He still has some of that in him,” Anderson said. “He was level-headed, not like the others who were kicking, I thought I got a good one.”
The following day, Anderson worked with Loco for the first time.
“He seemed to want to strike a bit, but was responsive to what I wanted to do, like go around the corral,” she said.
Anderson pulled out the big guns when she brought Loco to Powell-area newcomer Tom Hagwood’s ranch. He and his wife, Arianne, are well known in the mustang community, having won major national competitions such as the Mustang Million and Mustang Magic.
Working with Tom was “was pretty wild, wild as in amazing, because in an hour I was on him bareback on Day 3,” Anderson said.
In no time at all she had a saddle on Loco, then ropes and even went so far as to stand on his back.
“It was eye-opening the way he goes about it,” she said. “You just want to get your hands on them and get them in a place of total submission. You’ve got to take away their fight and flight instinct. They have to be 100 percent toward you and know you won’t hurt them.”
On the fourth and fifth day with Loco, Anderson ponied up with Tom’s horse and by the seventh day she was riding Loco in the desert with no ropes if he ran off while checking cows.
“It’s definitely the fastest I’ve ever started a wild horse,” Anderson said. “You can do it fast, but you have to do it right. We only have 100 days and that is the extreme part; you can’t make mistakes – you don’t have time for mistakes. You have to be careful and diligent.”
A typical bred horse with all their groundwork done can be green broke in about 30-60 days, she said.
“But he was not used to humans – rounded up in October and then in holding pens, they still act wild,” she said. “He is really watchy, and if you are in a zone he is not comfortable with, he will let you know. He is very willing and pretty smart – they have to be to make it in the wild. Bred horses freak out over a rock, but these are like ‘no big deal.’”
The top 10 competitors in Nampa this summer will go on to compete in a freestyle finals event.
If Anderson makes it to the top 10, she said she would like to rope a calf and plans to practice that during branding.
“We are in it to win it,” Anderson said, adding she hopes to be close to where Tom is with his horses within 100 days.
Loco still belongs to the BLM and will be auctioned off to eligible adopters along with the rest of the horses at the competition and the funds will go to the nonprofit Mustang Heritage Foundation. Anderson and the other trainers will have the option to buy the horses they train at half price. As of Thursday, Anderson wasn’t sure if she would keep him or not.
In order to bid and adopt, an application must be approved by the BLM to prove the aspiring owner is at least 18 years old, has no record of animal abuse and has suitable facilities for caring for a horse. Adoptions are limited to four horses per person.
Showcasing the trained wild horses is also intended to help show the public that these animals are just as good as bred horses, and many are awaiting adoption in BLM corrals.
Thousands of wild horses are required to be rounded up and removed from land and placed into holding facilities so that the wild herds remain small enough that they can be managed to prevent over-grazing, habitat degradation and minimize the risks of starvation. This leaves many in holding facilities across the country, waiting for adoption.
Since 2007, over 6,200 wild horses have been adopted through the Mustang Heritage Foundation events and programs, according to the BLM.