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Winner head over heels in 2008 Extreme Mustang Makeover

September 20, 2008, Fort Worth, Texas – Mark Lyon of Arlington, Neb., took the grand prize at the second annual Fort Dodge Extreme Mustang Makeover Legends Finals, September 20 in Fort Worth, Texas, in the event’s most difficult level of competition, after falling from his horse mid-performance. He demonstrated that a well-trained horse doesn’t always need a rider to win, capturing the $12,500 top prize and the hearts of thousands watching his performance on Christian, a three-year-old, bay, mustang gelding.

Well into Lyon’s textbook perfect performance, which included a ballet of movement including deep stops and picture perfect spins, the crowd’s hearts fell when he leaned to Christian’s side in a tight turn and his saddle slipped causing him to fall. Since the entire focus of the judges were on the mustang’s ability, judges awarded Christian for his reaction to this unforeseen happening. Judge and famed horse trainer, John Lyons, said, “That was the best part of the whole performance. He did exactly what he was trained to do,” describing how Christian stood and waited for his rider to get back on. Lyons went on to take the horse through his paces firing a shooting pistol at balloons and riding through a ring of fire.

A passionate and proud Lyon said, “It’s about a horse doing his job. Trainers can get a horse to do something but when you’re off he has freewill.” Lyon, who has trained numerous mustangs, worked with Christian for a week before he was able to touch him but he says that mustangs have a ‘natural agility” that makes them stand out from domesticated horses and learn faster.

The Legend division represented the pinnacle of difficulty for the 2008 Extreme Mustang Makeover. Trainers determined in which category their mustangs would compete based on the progress they believe the former wild horses had made in their 100 days of training. A total of 55 mustangs competed in the Legends division, while 45 competed in the intermediate Idols division and while 14 took on the elementary level Stars division.

Taking the Idols win earlier in the day was Careen Thompson of College Station, Texas, and her three-year-old gelding Taz, gathered from Wheeler Pass and earning $5,000 in prize money. Judges Suzy Jean of Valley View, Tex., Guy Woods and Pilot Point, Tex and Lyons selected the duo to win the second most difficult division at the event, which aims to generate awareness about the value of America’s mustangs and increase adoption of these incredible horses.

“Once they trust you, they’ll do anything you want,” said Thompson of her experience training wild mustangs. “They just have so much heart.”

Thompson, who has trained horses for 15 years, says this moving experience with Taz has taught her patience, and she looks forward to doing it again at next year’s Extreme Mustang Makeover. This was her first time to show a mustang, and she admits to being a little intimidated walking into this weekend’s competition but Taz showed no nerves as he captivated the crowd at the Fort Worth, Texas, Will Rogers Memorial Center.

The first winner of the 2008 Extreme Mustang Makeover was crowned September 19 when Jennifer Jess won the “Stars” division on Bullwinkle, a three-year-old bay gelding gathered from the Deer Lodge Canyon of Nevada. Jess won the $3,000 top prize of the $6,000 purse for the “Stars” division. A total of $70,000 is being awarded during the three-day run of the show that will end with an adoption of all competition horses Sunday, September 21.

While Jess of Kaufman, Texas, has been professionally training domesticated horses since she was 14 years old, her participation in this year’s Extreme Mustang Makeover is the first time she has ever endeavored to train a wild horse. With 100 days to train the animal, Jess worked in 60 days of training Bullwinkle and says that the experience has “sharpened her skills” for training domesticated horses. She describes the event in a word, as “awesome.”

The Mustang Heritage Foundation in cooperation with the BLM 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 and then participate in a competitive bidding process to adopt one of these treasured animals. This year’s event featured more than 300 mustangs that were trained by trainers from across 38 states for the last 100 days.

About the Mustang Heritage Foundation

The mission of the Mustang Heritage Foundation and the goal of the Extreme Mustang Makeover is 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 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. Since 1973, the BLM has placed more than 219,000 horses and burros into private care through adoption. For more information visit wildhorseandburro.blm.gov or call 866-4MUSTANGS.


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