GEORGETOWN, TEXAS – The atmosphere at the Kentucky Horse Park was buzzing during the Extreme Mustang Makeover. With approximately 100 days of bonding, gentling and natural horsemanship, mustangs and their trainers took over Lexington, Kentucky, for the chance to win $25,000 in cash and prizes. The event was held June 20-22 and brought together 38 talented adult competitors and 38 skilled youth trainers.
This may have been Courtney Wexler’s first Extreme Mustang Makeover event, but she did not waiver under pressure. She and her 4-year-old bay mustang mare, Kayah, placed consistently throughout the adult preliminary competition, earning them a spot in the Top 10 Freestyle Finals. At the end of the day, the duo claimed the Championship title.
“I’m a bit speechless,” said the Williamston, North Carolina, native. “It feels pretty dang good. This is my first actual EMM and mustang. I’ve watched how they work and how they really lock onto you, which is what kind of pushed me over into competing. I’m so glad I did.”
When Wexler went to pick-up Kayah in Lebanon, Tennessee, she knew she did not want a little bay mustang. But as fate would have it, of all the mustangs there, that is exactly what she got.
“She was the tiniest of the bays, which is the last thing I wanted,” said Wexler about Kayah, who was gathered from Fox-Lake Range, Nevada. “But after watching her, I realized how smart she was. She was scared, but she was also just very cautious. That’s also what led us to her name. On the ride home, we were on a website just looking at names and ran across Kayah which means small but wise. That couldn’t have been more fitting for her.”
Wexler did not have big goals for this event. She said her mindset was to just do what they knew how to do. She also said verbal cues and prior event exposure are what helped her and Kayah stay calm and focused during the event.
“I just tried to talk to her (Kayah) and tell her what was going on,” said Wexler. “When I started doing that, I felt a huge change in her. I also took her to a lot of places just for the experience. Her fourth ride was at a show and she won Champion in the ranch division. The next day we went swimming while on a trail ride. So, I’ve just tried to expose her to everything I could possibly think of before coming here.”
Wexler garnered a $4,000 check, a Cut Above belt buckle, a Yeti cooler, Espana Silk products and a Resistol hat certificate for her championship. She also took home a Cut Above belt buckle for receiving the Rookie award, given to the highest scoring first-time EMM competitor. Wexler also purchased Kayah back for $4,000 and plans on giving her some time off before using her for her personal and lesson horse.
Cavin Graham, of Lafayette, Georgia, and his 5-year-old Triple B Nevada mare, Sue Tup, took home the Reserve Champion title and a $4,000 check. All Top 10 trainers also received a pair of Classic Equine boots. Sue Tup sold for $3,800 and found a new home Batesville, Florida.
All adult horses were available for purchase via public competitive bid. All 38 adult horses were placed into adoptive homes for an average price of $2,002, with the highest selling mustangs going for $4,000. Complete event and auction results can be viewed at https://extrememustangmakeover.com/events/kentucky/.
Dixie Marrese, of Munfordville, Kentucky, led her 2-year-old gray mare, Piggly Wiggly straight to the winner’s circle in the youth division capturing the Championship. Although it would’ve been easy to get caught up in the big Alltech Arena, Marrese handled herself and Piggly Wiggly like veterans and humbly earned the top spot at their first Extreme Mustang Makeover.
“This is indescribable. It’s been so much fun and I can’t believe I won,” said the 11-year-old. “Piggly Wiggly has been such a great girl and I love her so much. I never thought we would be here winning today. I just wanted her to do the best she could do. This is a dream come true.”
Marrese has been working with mustangs for four years now, competing in TIP challenges, where she has worked with two mustangs for each challenge. Now, she has nine mustangs, counting Piggly Wiggly. Marrese also said she attends public school, but still finds the time to work with her mustangs and go to horse shows.
According to Marrese, training and working with Piggly Wiggly was easier some days than others, but that is all part of the process.
“She’s a really smart girl – sometimes smarter than I am,” said Marrese about her Triple B, Nevada, mare. “If she doesn’t find the right answer she keeps trying until she does. She’s just very willing and forgiving. Some days we have hard days and some days we have great days. It’s just hit or miss, but overall it’s been really fun and easy.”
Marrese plans on a long future with Piggly Wiggly. She hopes that their win will inspire others to take the leap and participate in an Extreme Mustang Makeover.
“I just really hope this can encourage other people to go and try their best and just have fun,” said Marrese. “Help give the rest of the mustangs a chance to find a home and get the name for mustangs out there.”
Marrese took home a $1,000 check, a Cut Above belt buckle and a Resistol Hat certificate.
Garrett Shanks, of Belleville, Illinois, and his mare, Dolly’s Bold Dream took home the Reserve Champion title and garnered a $ 1,000 check.
The mustangs that competed in the Extreme Mustang Makeover for adults were wild mares 3-6 years old that have been living in Bureau of Land Management (BLM) off-range corrals. Youth trainers worked with yearling mares for the competition and were randomly paired with their mustang approximately 100 days prior to the competition.
At the competition, the adult horse-and-rider duos compete in a handling and conditioning class, a pattern class and a trail class. The Top 10 adult competitors then compete in a Freestyle Finals performance, and all youth perform in a freestyle class as well.
The Extreme Mustang Makeover is produced by the Mustang Heritage Foundation in partnership with the Bureau of Land Management Wild Horse & Burro Program. Presenting sponsors of the 2019 Extreme Mustang Makeover in Lexington, Kentucky, were Western Horseman and the Weisberg Family Foundation.
Did you miss out on watching this event live? Head over to RIDETV and subscribe to watch any competitors run at ridetvgo.com. Or download the RideTVGo app.
Next up for the Extreme Mustang Makeover is the Player’s Choice event in Fort Worth, Texas, January 23-25, 2020. Applications are still open for the EMM in Fort Worth, Texas! Interested applicants can apply by July 1 at https://extrememustangmakeover.com/compete/.
About the Mustang Heritage Foundation
The primary mission of the Mustang Heritage Foundation is to create and promote programs and activities that provide information and education about wild horses and burros, elevate their image and desirability, provide opportunities to become involved in the wild horse and burro experience and secure adequate numbers of caring homes for excess horses. Working in partnership with the Bureau of Land Management the Mustang Heritage Foundation works to ensure healthy wild herds and rangelands through the placement of excess animals removed from public lands so future generations can enjoy this distinctive part of our American heritage. As a 501 (C)(3), public, charitable, nonprofit organization, the Mustang Heritage Foundation works to identify and develop sources of private financial funding to further support the mission of the Foundation. For more information visit mustangheritagefoundation.org
About the Bureau of Land Management
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) removes wild horses and burros from public lands to ensure a healthy balance of land and animals. Since 1971, the BLM has placed more than 235,000 wild horses and burros into good homes nationwide. Partnerships, like the Mustang Heritage Foundation, provide the BLM with additional opportunities to place animals into good homes. Interested applicants can attend BLM offsite adoption/sales event, visit a BLM Off-Range Corral, or participate in an Internet adoption/sales event to apply to take a wild horse or burro home! To learn more about the Wild Horse and Burro Program, please call 866-468-7826 or visit BLM.GOV/whb.
The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land, the most of any Federal agency. This land is primarily located in 12 Western states, including Alaska. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of subsurface mineral estate throughout the nation. The BLM’s mission is to manage and conserve America’s public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations under our mandate of multiple-use and sustained yield.