The summer of my senior year in high school, I decided I needed to do something memorable that would make a difference. The American Mustang provided exactly this opportunity.
I learned about the Extreme Mustang Makeover Youth Edition, a competition in which a select number of youth trainers receive a Mustang yearling and have 100 days to train it in various levels of ground handling.
Once the 100 days is over, the trainers meet in Nebraska for a competition to see who has done the best job training the horses.
It is the Mustang Heritage Foundation's way of getting the public to see first hand how trainable the Mustangs truly are, and to get the Mustangs that are living in holding facilities into homes that can care for them.
The Youth Employment Program is a new program that, with the help of a federal grant, gives young people the opportunity to research the Mustang’s history, plight, and abilities and then share what we've learned through presentations, press releases, research papers, and demonstrations.
I filled out an application which included a description of the facility where I would keep the mustang and a personal biography and sent it off. About a month later I was accepted to the program and became a trainer for the Extreme Mustang Makeover Yearling Edition—Nebraska 2010.
At the beginning of June, I drove two days to Elm Creek, Nebraska, to pick up the Mustang. He turned out to be a beautiful bay with no markings. I named him Renaissance, and from the beginning he displayed a curious personality and a willingness to learn. Three days later, I led him out of the trailer into his stall at his new home in Colorado.
Within the first week, I gained his trust. We walked all around the property and interacted with obstacles including bridges, barrels, poles, tires and tarps. I pet him all over and taught him movements including turns on the forehand and haunches.
Renaissance never refused to do anything; he always gave his best effort. His willingness and curiosity made it fun to play with him. He continues to amaze me every day. He has developed into a horse with good manners, and he always goes the extra mile to please.
At the moment, he does lots of ground exercises on the line and he’s starting to work at liberty. I can pony him from my older Mustang all around the arena and in the mountains around the farm.
The Mustang Heritage Foundation has another program that helped me gain knowledge and share it with other kids. I’m a Mustang Representative in its Youth Employment Program and I share my training experiences with the horsey public to try to help increase the number of Mustang adoptions.
For more information about the Extreme Mustang Makeover Youth Edition, visit www.extrememustangmakeover.com. You can also check out my blog at slinsley.wordpress.com.