Midwest Mustang Challenge a thrill for trainer

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Suzanne Myers, research associate in Penn State’s Department of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences, loves training horses and loves a challenge.

Now she is combining both loves after being selected by the Mustang Heritage Foundation to train a wild mustang and compete in the Midwest Mustang Challenge, April 18-20 in Madison, Wis., as part of the Midwest Horse Fair.

Myers, who also works with the Department of Dairy and Animal Science horse program, owns Myers Stables, LLC, located in Port Matilda, and has been riding since she was 6.

Thrilled

She heard about the opportunity from a friend, applied and was thrilled to be accepted through a process that included sending photos of her training facility and writing an essay.

Over 60 horses and trainers have been selected to participate in this inaugural Midwest Mustang Challenge. The challenge was created by the Mustang Heritage Foundation in partnership with the Bureau of Land Management with the aim of showcasing the beauty, versatility and trainability of these horses.

Trainers have 100 days to prepare the horses for the competition.

Myers picked up her 3-year-old mustang Jan. 11 at a holding facility in Ewing, Ill.

Assignment of animal to trainer was done through a computer selection process.
Clearly the luck of the draw, Myers said she is happy that her horse is “a thinker, for sure.”

The other possibility, she pointed out, is being a “nut case.”

Training

Saying the training strategy would be different for each case, her mustang is “quiet and very shy,” and while her initial interaction did not include touching, she was eager to lay hands on him and have him become comfortable with touching.

“My goal is to keep him in a good frame of mind, and to keep me safe,” Myers said.

The mustang was quiet throughout the trip back to Pennsylvania, and was unloaded into a round pen that led into a stall. Currently, the mustang is comfortable entering the stall, and is now being kept there at night.

Myers said the mustang is in the midst of all the daily activities at the training facility, surrounded by the sights and sounds of the other animals housed and trained there and the associated activity.

“It is a great way to test our program, which we believe in, and really validate what we are doing. It’s also for a great cause.”
Suzanne Myers
Penn State’s Department of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences research associate

She said, “I fully expect to have a saddle on him in two weeks.”

She is slowly introducing him to food different from the forage he has experienced up to this point.

Jazz

When the mustang arrived, he had only a number, but a friendly competition earned him the name “Jazz.” One of the real advantages of training “Jazz,” Myers said, is that it offers an opportunity to see how effective their training process is.

“It is a great way to test our program, which we believe in, and really validate what we are doing. It’s also for a great cause.”

All the mustangs come from a feral population, which, according to Myers, means “they have a lot of things to overcome during the training process to learn to accept humans and changes in their new environment.”

They were rounded up as yearlings and have been kept in holding facilities until offered for training.

The challenge consists of three portions, with an additional one for those selected in the top 10. All trainers must compete with their mustangs in conditioning, worth 20 percent; citizenship (ground work and manners), worth 30 percent; and riding the “horse course” (trail riding), worth the remaining 50 percent.

Top 10

Three judges will select the top 10 performers who will then do a four-minute presentation, which will be judged on artistic and creative performance and overall athletic ability.

Competitors will be eligible to receive more than $12,000 in prize money and up to $500 in reimbursement for reasonable training and veterinary costs upon successfully competing.

In addition, trainers can earn 20 percent commission on the sale of their animal if it brings more than $200 at the open bidding April 20, the day following the competition.

Trainers are eligible to purchase the animal they have trained, but must go through the live bidding process.

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