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Youngsters Grab the Spotlight at Extreme Mustang Makeover

$20,000 awarded in Yearling Competition

(Bertram, Texas, October 6, 2008) – Competition for the younger set concluded with real panache at the 2008 Extreme Mustang Makeover September 19 as $20,000 was awarded in three age groups during Mission 007: Yearling Edition of the four-day Makeover event. More than 200 yearlings competed in the event with trainers from 16 states ranging in age from nine to 64.

The bulk of the purse, $10,000, was reserved for the youth division of the competition, which featured youngsters from age 9 to 18. More than 50 youth from six states competed in the event, which required that the yearling mustangs, gathered from their natural habitat in June, be gentled to lead through a trail of obstacles and loaded in a trailer. Ten finalists were then invited to a freestyle round where they were only limited by their imagination in showing what the yearling had learned.

Taking the win in the youth division and a prize of $3,000 was 11-year-old Alexis Fastle of Boerne, Tex, and her mustang Fleet. Like many trainers before her, Alexis learned that patience is the ticket when it comes to training a wild horse.

“It took me over 6 weeks before I could put a halter on him,” she recalled. “He was very wary and I would sit for hours with grain and hay until he let me pet him. Once he learned that I had no intention of hurting him, he began to look for me and we were able to move forward. The biggest challenge was teaching him to pick up his feet. This seemed to fly in the face of every instinct and I took my time stroking him and teaching him that nothing I asked of him was going to hurt and that I wasn't going to stop bugging him until he listened. Eventually he willingly gave in and let me do everything I needed in his care and our partnership.”

Alexis endeared herself to the appreciative audience during the Friday, September 19, finals as she took the bay gelding though his paces, leaping barrels and making their earlier tumultuous relationship seem a thing of the past.

“Working with Fleet was extremely rewarding,” she said. “He taught me patience and perseverance. It was wonderful to see his transformation through trust from the day he arrived until the competition in Fort Worth.”

Barely out of the youth division was 19-year-old Joel Farrington of Navasota, Tex., taking the 19-45-age division. Just like his namesake, the equine version of the Mustang GT had a heart about as big as the famed cars image.

“He was always looking for the answer when I am asked him to do something new,” Joel said of the yearling gelding gathered near Fallon, Nev. “It just seemed he wanted to please me. I will always laugh when I remember how he acted when he was frustrated, irritated, or just did not want to work. He would stick his tongue out of the left side of his mouth and grind his teeth on the right side.”

Joel and GT put on a memorable performance as GT calmly moved through his obstacle course as one of the few yearlings started under saddle and with buoys hanging from the sides.

“This competition opened my eyes to the amazing world of mustangs,” said the young college student, who took home $2,000 of the $5,000 division purse. “I never knew how smart, willing, loyal, athletic, and trainable they were. I've trained other yearlings, but GT taught me that a yearling is capable of doing a lot more then I ever gave them credit for.”

Taking the 46 and older event was veteran trainer Tim Bernsen of Devine, Tex., who trained not only his champion gelding Star, but three other yearlings and a saddle horse, a task he took on with humor and the goal of getting horses adopted. From the start, though, Star commanded center stage.

“He just had a confident air, maybe even arrogant, about him that it was almost as though he expected a mob of reporters to be rushing him for an exclusive interview. It was just the attitude he came with,” said Bernsen. “It was as if he was saying...’Just so you know... I'm not afraid of you... but I'm still not gonna let you near me until I decide whether or not you're worthy of my greatness’.”

Bernsen also won $2,000 with his first place showing. “Mustangs are real good sports and are game for anything that they're satisfied isn't going to harm them,” he said of his experience. “They'll do anything for you and anytime they may become worried, all you have to do is give them a second to investigate potential dangers and they move right on.”

All three yearlings were adopted at the Extreme Mustang Makeover, which successfully adopted 100 percent of the nearly 400 mustangs in the event.

The Mustang Heritage Foundation (MHF), in partnership with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), created the Extreme Mustang Makeover 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.

Nearly 30,000 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.

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.


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