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The Ladies Take Western States Mustang Challenge

22-year-old Oregonian rides Mustang Dolly to the Win

(Bertram, Texas, June 17, 2008) – Facing a crowd of more than 5,000 spectators as the first to go on a mustang with only 90 days training, one might think Corinne Elser of Burns, Oregon, would have been a tad on the nervous side. One might think it, but Elser sure didn’t show it as she took Dolly, a 2005 bay mare gathered from the Coppersmith herd management area, to the win in the Western States Mustang Challenge June 7 in Sacramento, Calif.

“This is totally awesome,” Elser shouted as she pumped her fist in the air at the conclusion of her run. “I’ve had an incredible time and this horse has been amazing,” she told well-known clinician Chris Cox in an arena interview.

A total of 10 American Mustangs from a field of 29 advanced to the finals of the Western States Mustang Challenge held during the Western States Horse Expo June 6-8. The Western States Mustang Challenge, which received national media attention from Fox News during the event, is the progeny of the highly successful Extreme Mustang Makeover held in September 2007. Challenge trainers had 90 days to gentle their Mustangs and the trained mustangs were judged on conditioning, groundwork, and a "horse course" that required maneuvers and included obstacles found in trail and recreational riding situations.

The Mustang Heritage Foundation (MHF), in partnership with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), created the Extreme Mustang Makeover and Mustang Challenge events to highlight the recognized value of American Mustangs through a national training competition. The event gives the public a unique opportunity to see the results of wild horses becoming trained mounts and then participate in a competitive bidding process to adopt one of these treasured animals. The purpose of the competition is to showcase the beauty, versatility, and trainability of these rugged horses that roam freely on public lands throughout the West, where they are protected by the BLM under federal law.

Go round judges included AQHA judge Suzy Jeane of Valley View, Texas, NCHA Hall of Famer and 2007 Extreme Mustang Makeover Champion Guy Woods of Pilot Point, Texas, and clinician and trainer Al Dunning of Scottsdale, Ariz. Matt Randall, DVM, of Peninsula Equine Medical Center in Menlo, Calif., evaluated the body condition of each animal. Following go-round competition, Dunning took the mike while “America’s Most Trusted Horseman,” John Lyons of Parachute, Colo., joined the judging team for the Finals event.

Elser and Dolly brought their “A” game to the Challenge championship, maneuvering through a series of obstacles as well as required exercises including stops, spins and circles. But as Elser nodded for a steer, the crowd leaned forward in anticipation of seeing what the bay mare could do with a hard-charging animal after only 90 days and Dolly did not disappoint. Taking the steer up the fence and across the back of the arena, Elser urged Dolly to turn into the animal, with the mare throwing her hindquarters into the ground while pushing her shoulder into the steer. “Man, you barely see horses with a year or two of training do something like that, let alone 90 days,” Dunning told the crowd.

Elser and Dolly marked a score of 269.5 out of a possible 300 to take the win. Judges score each maneuver, as well as score on technical difficulty, artistry and creativity, and then are able to add bonus points.

The crowd continued to be entertained by the remaining nine horses, hoping to exceed the bar set by Elser and Dolly. Trainers showed the mustangs’ many strengths – calm demeanors despite a cracking whip, riding bridleless and bareback, executing complex maneuvers and herding cattle. Taking second was Johnson Valley, Calif., trainer Joe Misner and the three-year-old bay gelding Laredo with a score of 249.5. In third place with a score of 231 was Tehachapi, Calif., horseman Matt Sheridan riding the three-year-old black mare, Luna. The appreciative crowds at the conclusion of the competition, however, offered the most enthusiastic applause, when four of the 10 trainers stood in the saddle as all 10 were presented for the last time.

Adoptions of all mustangs in the competition took place immediately following the finals, giving Elser only a few minutes to do the math as she went from accepting her $3,000 winner’s check from BLM California State Director Mike Pool and MHF President Paula Carr and then headed to the sale ring. As bidding climbed for the bay mare, Elser finally looked to the auctioneer and nodded her head, ultimately taking home her winning mount for $5,500. Laredo brought a $3,400 adoption price, while the striking black Luna brought $4,400.

The high-adopting horse, however, was fourth-place finisher Handy Hank, a three-year-old sorrel gelding adopted by trainer Madelyn Wagner of Valley Center, Calif., for $10,000. “I have always been a die-hard Quarter Horse fan,” Wagner told Cox in the arena, “but after this experience, I will never, ever breed another horse. I will only adopt Mustangs.”

The surprise of the evening, however, came when bidding for the mustang Outback Jack rose to $32,000 with the winning bid coming from Rick Anderson, of Perris, Calif., husband to Outback Jack’s trainer, Sandi. After a review, however, it was determined that the bid for the three-year-old sorrel gelding was actually $3,200, but the Anderson’s were determined to make their commitment stand, adopting the horse for that price and then contributing $25,000 to a trainer’s assistance fund to be developed by the Mustang Heritage Foundation.

“I was stunned,” said MHF Executive Director Patti Colbert. “This event, by far, topped all of the events we have produced, including the Extreme Mustang Makeover. The horsemanship we saw in California really brought a new level to this competition and then to have a gift made to the Foundation of this degree just brought to light the intensity of dedication we are seeing from these trainers who want to make Mustangs an in-demand breed and provide them with homes.”

Adopting prices averaged slightly more than $2,400 on 29 head with total funds of nearly $70,000 raised to support the Foundation and its programs.

About the Mustang Heritage Foundation

The mission of the Mustang Heritage Foundation and the goal of the Extreme Mustang Makeover are to increase the adoption of mustangs across the country. The Mustang Heritage Foundation created the Extreme Mustang Makeover event to showcase the recognized value of mustangs through a national training competition.

About the Bureau of Land Management

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is responsible for managing 258 million acres of public lands, located mostly in the West. Wild horses and burros roaming public rangelands are managed in a manner consistent with BLM's overall multiple-use mission, as set forth in the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976. For more information, visit wildhorseandburro.blm.gov or call 866-4MUSTANGS. Nearly 26,000 Mustangs roam federal lands across the country. In order to manage the herds and maintain both land and herd health, the BLM oversees the adoption of wild horses and burros through public adoptions held throughout the United States. Since 1973, more than 219,000 wild horses and burros have been adopted.


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