In the C barn during this year’s Equine Affaire, stood a blue roan; just a short while ago, the blue roan had been running wild with other mustangs in a herd out west. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Wild Horse and Burro Adoption Program rounded him up and in April, 13 year old Ashley Retcho of Just a Sport of Color Farm from Pine Bush, NY adopted him from BLM as part of the Extreme Mustang Makeover (EMM) Challenge from a temporary BLM adoption location, Crimson Acres in Orange, MA.
“We brought him from the wild — had 100 days to train him. Some people taught theirs to sit. We’re working on sitting. He knows how to lay down. He knows how to ride. We’re working on English and Dressage and he already has western and barrel racing,” Retcho said. She confers with other young owners that she has met through EMM about training.
Adult trainers under EMM pick up mustangs from BLM to bring their mustangs trained under the 90-100 timeline to compete in an EMM event, showcasing the trainability of mustangs. Then the gentled mustangs are adopted out after the event to BLM approved adopters.
The youth working with EMM mustangs typically keep their horses. If they don’t, they have to find them another home that meets BLM approval.
The blue roan turned two in January. Retcho named him Nebraska Cowboy, denoting the state he had lived in. It is the white hairs that fleck his dark coat that denote he is a blue roan.
There has to be an adult involved for the adoption, said her mother, Carol DePetro. DePetro had searched online for mustangs and found the information about EMM and BLM. Her daughter had plenty of experience, as they own eight horses at their farm and she has worked with foals. “I left her alone, told her if you want to do it, you are going to do it. BLM had put a halter on him and that’s it. They leave it up to you. They are definitely more calm than regular horses,” noted DePetro.
“They don’t charge if you do a mustang makeover. You write a paragraph why you should be chosen and are selected. We went and picked him up,” said Retcho.
You don’t choose your horse. “They assign you a horse and they load him into your trailer,” said Retcho. The application fee is $25.
All Nebraska Cowboy needed was his hair brushed. Retcho has diligently worked on getting him to come up to her, getting him to depend on her. Directly out of the wild, no one had touched him, other than the round-up and BLM required veterinarian checks, but his taming and their relationship went quickly, as he was eager for friendship and someone to trust.
The importance of trust was highlighted at the same time in a clinic over in the coliseum, given by world-renowned trainer Ken McNabb, of Wyoming, star of RFD-TV show, Discovering the Horseman Within. “Horses read our intent. Think ‘go faster’, horse goes faster. Have stiffness? People forget to breathe. Relax and enjoy the ride, become one, melt into your saddle. It’s a conscious decision to trust your horse, trust yourself, relax that mind,” said McNabb.
Retcho, with youth behind her, entered her relationship with her wild horse with a confident, relaxed mind. Nebraska Cowboy was more than willing to reach out and match her level of trust. “I think it’s because they’ve never been touched. They’re definitely more hardy. (Besides hay) He gets fed grain because everybody else gets fed, five pieces of grain. He has really great hooves,” said her mother, referring to his hooves that are thick as iron.
While each wild horse is different, a typical wild horse stands at 13 to 15 hands and weights 700 to 1000 pounds. Wild burros average 11 hands and weigh about 500 pounds.
“I think he gets bored. I think he likes to be riding more,” said Retcho of Nebraska Cowboy’s being on display in C Barn, as she enters his stall to pet him.