Extreme Mustang Makeover is a competition/fundraiser/conservation
effort developed by the
Mustang Heritage Foundation to showcase the
trainability and versatility of the BLM
Mustang. Trainers must apply and be accepted
to participate in an event. If selected, they receive
an ungentled BLM Mustang from a holding facility
on a set day, then have 90 days to train that horse
for a final 2-day competition that involves skill
and riding tests on both trail and in the arena.
Cindy was accepted as a trainer for
the event in
Norco, CA, that takes place in May - she received
her horse on Friday, February 11th. Check back here
often to see how the pair is doing, and join us
in Norco on May 13th and 14th to cheer them on!
If you are interested in owning the mustang Cindy
trained, all the participating horses will be available
for auction following the event on May 15th!
& Cindy, and everyone here at YVEC want
to say a special hello to Dale
Wallace and everyone in his unit, who
have been following Wyatt's progess from their
location in Afghanistan. Thanks so much for
all you do guys!
Day 1: Friday, February 11,
2011. COMING HOME
- See the pictures in the gallery.
The week before the
new horse was to arrive, a special pen was prepared
where the mustang would live, begin his training,
and get used to his surroundings. A large outdoor
pen close to the main tack room was chosen for its
size and also its placement. The pen is quiet, but
allows the horse a close view of nearly any activity
going on, from horses being groomed and led to those
in riding or turnout. Exposing the new horse to
the normal elements of daily ranch life is a good
way to begin desensitizing him.
Round pen panels were placed across the corners
to 'round out' the pen. The reason for this is to
allow the most basic training of moving the horse
to take place without any corners for the horse
to become trapped in. Once the horse is able to
lead, he will be worked in a traditional round pen
- but with an untouched mustang there is no telling
how long it will take to get to the leading stage!
On February 11, the
YVEC Crew left early in the morning for the ~ 3
hour drive to the BLM Holding Facility in Ridgecrest,
CA. Upon arriving at the facility, they saw that
all the horses for the competition were already
gathered into the front holding pens.
Cindy received her draw, a 3 year old grey gelding
gathered on September 25th, 2010 from the Herd Management
Area in Ely, Nevada. BLM personnel herded the gelding
up onto the trailer, put on the rope training halter
and lead that he will wear until he is gentled,
and he was ready to go home.
The gelding did some walking in the trailer but
all in all took his journey in stride and arrived
in Yucca Valley in the afternoon. He was unloaded
into his new pen and allowed some time to rest and
recuperate, and explore his surroundings.
After his break, Cindy did a 'get aquainted session'
- entering his pen and moving him around a little
bit. After about 20 minutes of work, the gelding
was learning to yield his hind quarters (turn to
face his trainer instead of turning his back). In
short order, Cindy was able to pick up the lead
rope, and she made her first touch that very afternoon!
Cindy and the gelding did one more reinforcing
session that first day, and progressed to touching
the face and neck.
Day 2: Saturday, February 12,
2011. FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL
Saturday's training sessions involved review of
yielding, holding the lead rope, and touching and
rubbing. From there, Cindy progressed to leading
the gelding a few steps at a time.
The training stick was used to begin touching on
the the hindquarters and the legs and fetlocks.
Also on this day, Cindy used a rope to begin elementary
lifting of the front hooves as well as desensitizing
of the back. The as-yet unnamed gelding was responsive
but wary, and Cindy began introducing other people
into the pen. The gelding was quite willing to allow
others to touch him once he realized neck rubbing
would always be involved!
Saturday's sessions ended with the gelding leading
short distances willingly.
Day 3: Sunday, February 13,
2011. MINIMUM DAY
Sunday was mainly a day off, though one evening
session took place. This session was a review of
the previous ones, with the addition of allowing
hand rubbing of the back and hind quarters, and
allowing another person to lead. The little charmer
is making wonderful progress as well as capturing
the hearts of all YVEC boarders and staff!
Barn cat Lucy has already trained him to be 'cat
safe' by repeatedly running through his pen though
there are many more convenient routes available.
Thanks for all your help, Lucy!
Day 4: Monday, February 14,
2011. HAVING A BALL. See the pictures in the gallery
Monday started with review, and work on respect
issues. Having decided that rubbing and petting
is a good thing, the little guy thought mouthing
and nipping might be fun too, so he needed lessons
on proper behavior!
Today his rope halter was removed and switched
out for another one, one that fits him properly.
The original halter was too large; without seeing
him, it was tough to know what size to bring. His
new rope halter is green and white, and fits correctly
under his jaw instead of being loose. He is leading
well at this stage.
He also received his first
toy today - a large red bouncing ball. While
wary at first his curiosity got the better
of him, and he began nosing the ball and pushing
it around a little bit. Cindy worked on desensitizing
him by bouncing it higher and higher away
from his body but where he could see it.
He got his first good view of a horse and
rider team close to his pen today - and he
wasn't too sure about that! Having a horse
ridden past him caused a lot of snorting and
starting, but he did come close to the front
to see what it was all about.
Today's top pick for a name: Wyatt - but
no firm decision yet!
Tomorrow's Plan: leading outside the pen.
Day 5: Tuesday, February 15,
2011. SADDLE UP! See the
pictures in the gallery
The little guy still doesn't have an offical
name, but Wyatt is the front-runner so far.
For his morning session he had a leading review,
then had his first experience with the saddle!
He was introduced to both saddle and bridle
today, and after one bad reaction both tack
items were placed on him. He tried to crawl
into Cindy's pocket to escape his fate; when
that didn't work, he offered 2 or 3 hops with
his saddle on, then quit.
His afternoon session was a review of saddling
and bridling, and this time, no protests at
all! He is taking his new job and lifestyle
right in stride, and so far seems eager to
progress and learn more!
Day 6: Wednesday, February 16,
2011. BLOWN AWAY
Today was a review day only, because winds of 50mph
or more with blowing sand made everything difficult!
Still, some rubbing and leading practice was squeezed
in before the weather turned, and an official name
was chosen today: Wyatt King.
Day 7: Thursday, February 17,
2011. TAKIN' A WALK See the pictures in the gallery
Thursday's progress made up
for the bad weather day Wednesday. Today Wyatt
came out of his pen for his first tour of
the ranch! He led all around the pens and
out towards the back patures, seeing for the
first time such monsters as the Feed Truck
and The White Barrels - he took everything
right in stride. He also made a journey down
to the round pen for his first official lunging
After lunging, Wyatt walked into the riding
arena and took a look around, including stepping
over caveletti poles.
Afternoon saw Wyatt again in the round pen,
with his saddle and bridle. After his workout
he took another walkabout, this time gong
inside the barn. This was his first time going
into a covered space and walking on pavement.
The pavement did give him some pause, but
after initially hopping over the 'transition
place' of dirt to cement, everything went
Wyatt also received his first real grooming session
today, including brushes and his first experience
with tying. His first reaction to being tied was
to pull back a little, but once he realized the
rope would slide and nothing bad was happening,
he stood for his grooming like a champ.
Day 8: Friday, February 18,
2011. SMOOTHING IT OUT See the pictures in the gallery
Today Wyatt was very cooperative
with his saddling and bridling - this time
with reins attached. He was lunged both directions
in the round pen, then took another walk for
his cool-down. On his walk today he was allowed
to explore - and put his front feet into -
a two-horse slant load trailer. This was a
new experience for him, having been transported
in the more open stock trailer previously.
The two horse is smaller, darker, and more
Today during his grooming session he was
introduced to the wire curry - finally, no
more of those pesky mats in his coat! The
rest of the day was a wash-out - literally.
It became quite windy and then poured in Yucca
Valley. Who says it doesn't rain in the desert?
Wyatt was moved to a regular pen with a semi-roof
to keep the rain off; he also learned how
to eat out of the metal feeder in the pen,
instead of off the ground!
Day 9: Saturday, February 19,
Today's weather made it a basic review of touching
day. Icy cold, windy, with some rain and later some
hail! But Wyatt certainly didn't mind a rubbing
review at all.
Day 10: Sunday, February 20,
2011. CROSSING BRIDGES
Sunday's session began with a walk around the ranch,
and Wyatt let it be known that he had energy to
burn after yesterday's cold weather. A short lunge
in the round pen without tack got his mind back
on track, and he then toured the lower half of the
ranch. Wyatt entered the Dressage Court at A and
took a walk through the center, stepping over a
railroad tie to exit at C.
Next it was up the hill to the toy area - Wyatt
got his first exposure to a wooden bridge. He hesitated
only a little, then walked fearlessly over. When
led up to the bridge again there was no hesitation
at all - he'd already conquered that beast! He also
spent some time following a log that was dragged
ahead of him, building confidence for the day he
will be dragging the log himself.
Wyatt ended the day with a last lap around the
pens, then enjoyed a quiet dinner.
Day 11: Monday, February 21,
2011. TESTING LIMITS
Today was a big day for Wyatt, a day for some heavy-duty
break-throughs and a lot of learning. Though at
first it may not have appeared so!
Up until now, Wyatt has calmly accepted everything
he's been exposed to, with a bare minimum of resistance.
This may seem like a good thing, and in part it
is - he's had a chance to be exposed to a lot of
new experiences in a short amount of time. But the
down side to that is that Wyatt has been a horse
who has allowed things to be done to him - he's
never tried to make a decision to learn and accept.
Today changed all that.
Wyatt's 'teenage' attitude kicked in today - he's
had some experience, and thought himself capable
of choosing what activities he'd perform and how
he'd like to do them. It all started with the saddle
blanket, which he's been wearing for several days,
and seen from both sides of his body. Today Cindy
chose to put it on him from his right side - and
Wyatt said no.
For the first time today he resisted being tied,
really testing the limits on whether or not he'd
be able to simply leave the grooming area. He also
resisted anything - blanket or training flag - touching
him. Cindy patiently continued to apply pressure
with the blanket or flag until he choose to stand
still and allow them to touch him. The entire process
was repeated on the opposite side, until Wyat had
learned for himself that not pulling back, and not
resisting touch, was the better deal. After that
session, he was saddled and bridled with a more
relaxed attitude than he had previously displayed!
The day continued with round pen lunging, reinforcing
the ideas that wrong moves result in pressure, while
correct ones receive reward. Wyatt was then brought
into the large riding pasture to observe 2 horses
being ridden. He was led and asked to walk over
poles and negotiate a path around the jumps while
the other horses carried on with their workouts
around him. He did a great job at this!
Finally, Wyatt was led up to a mounted rider, and
he learned to accept rubbing on his cheeks, neck,
and nose from a person above him. He also learned
to walk next to a horse bearing a rider, although
he is suspicious of this entire activity! He watched
a rider dismount next to him, seeing his walking
companion turn into two separate beings right before
his eyes - quite a revelation!
All in all, his work session went very well once
he had been allowed to push his boundaries a little
and learn to make the correct desicions on his own.
Day 12: Tuesday, February 22,
2011. GIVING TO PRESSURE See the pictures in the
Wyatt was feeling much more cooperative
today after yesterday's sessions! Today was
a review of previous lessons, but today when
Wyatt was led to the tackroom to pick up an
item on the way to the roundpen, he decided
to walk right in! After conquering the covered
barn, he seemed quite confident about stepping
up into the completely enclosure wooden tackroom.
Tuesday afternoon in the roundpen included
the idea of giving to pressure on the reins
for the first time. Wyatt was asked to give
both laterally and to flex at the poll, learning
to find his own release from pressure by giving
his head and neck when asked. He did very
well for his first time responding to this
slight pressure - a great sign for his future
Day 13: Wednesday, February
23, 2011. REVIEW
As Wyatt's training progresses, he will have more
and more 'review' days. He is learning well and
quickly, but the more things he's being asked to
learn, the more often he will get extra days to
learn them. Review days will always consist of going
back to the place he is most solid and most comfortable
in his training, then building back up to the last
thing he learned. This kind of repetition helps
to build his mind as well as his body. As his knowledge
and confidence in what he knows increases, he will
be challenged to move on to the next step - always
being properly prepared before he is 'pushed'.
Day 14: Thursday, February 24,
2011. DRIVING ON
After Wyatt's round pen review today, he was introduced
to the equipment necessary for ground driving. He
got to see and feel the long ropes placed all around
his body and touching him along the back and rump.
When Wyatt beings ground driving tomorrow, he will
have long ropes attached to his bit like reins.
They will run through rings attached to his saddle,
then continue out behind him. Cindy will be lunging
him by holding the ends of the long 'reins' as he
moves forward. Today's preparation gets him ready
to pay more attention to what is happening with
the ropes, not to just the ropes themselves!
Ground driving gives a youngster his first chance
to feel a live person on the reins. He can learn
to give to pressure, and start to understand how
rein signals can let him know it's time to turn
or stop. It's an excellent way to prepare your horse
for his first ride - it's also an excellent way
to see how your horse is going to respond to your
hands! If he is safely giving to rein pressure from
the ground, it is a good indication that he will
respond to it when you're on his back.
Day 15: Friday, February 25,
Friday was C-O-L-D! Today Wyatt reviewed his previous
lessons, with emphasis again on the Ground Driving
ropes touching him and appearing on all sides of
him. He is progessing well towards his first real
Day 16: Saturday, February 26,
2011. DAY OFF
On Saturday Wyatt got a nice head rubbing, and
then was allowed to go back under his shader for
the day. This was to avoid the SNOW! Yes, it was
a mixture of rain, sleet, and snow, coupled with
high winds today. There are so many gorgoues days
in the desert, we decided not to mess with this
Day 17: Sunday, February 27,
2011. CRUISIN' See the pictures in the gallery
Today was Wyatt's first day of ground
driving, and he took to it like a pro. The time
spent getting him used to the ropes touching his
body paid off, and he didn't spook or get goosey
when they went around behind him! He walked, trotted
and cantered, and responded perfectly to pressure
on the bit: He gave his head and stopped or slowed
when asked. He also got the concept of turning around
very easily. He's a smart guy!
Wyatt was also switched over to a
standard nylon halter for his 'everyday wear' today.
|Watch a short video of Wyatt's
first ground drive session:
||Watch a short video of Wyatt's
first ground drive session:
Day 18: Monday, February 28,
Monday was a review of Sunday's ground
driving lesson, and it went just as well as on Sunday.
Wyatt is very accepting of the bit and verbal commands,
and he's not having any trouble understanding what
is expected of him. As a reward, he was turned loose
for the first time in the full-sized riding arena!
Wyatt got to run and buck and play like a big horse,
and when his time was up, he stood calmly for Cindy
to walk up and lead him back to his pen!
Day 19: Tuesday, March 1, 2011.
FIRST RIDE See the pictures in the gallery
Yes - today was the day! A
review of ground driving showed Wyatt had
a good enough understanding of how to give,
stop, and turn, so Cindy began patting him
all over while saddled in the round pen. Then
she laid on the saddle a couple times, allowing
him to get used to the feel of her weight
on his back. When he accepted all this without
moving, Cindy mounted for the first time.
Wyatt's first instinct was to
jump forward and offer a little buck, which
he did. But as soon as he 'hit' that bit pressure,
he stopped, just as he had been practicing
with the ground driving! He was definitely
feeling frightened, and attempted a couple
more sideways jumps or bucking steps, but
from Cindy's perspective on top she never
felt as though he was actually trying to be
rid of her - he was just confused.
After about a half an hour,
he was walking quietly in the roundpen on
a loose rein with Cindy aboard. A successful
day for Wyatt and Cindy, a good day for the
entire ranch as ranch friend Helen brought
in a chocolate cake to celebrate Wyatt's first
day of riding! If only Cindy was having more
success in finding some kind of treat Wyatt
would enjoy (he still turns his nose up at
carrots), he'd have had his own treat today!
Here is a series of short videos
taken over a half hour period of Wyatt's first ride:
getting on, and a first surprised bucking reaction
smart horse! He's smoothing it out
it's been said that a mustang, growing up in
the wild, learns NOT to waste energy. A nervous
horse that starts and runs all the time is a
tired, vulnerable horse to predators. You can
really see this theory in action here, as Wyatt
tries to understand what's happening while not
now we've got it! Wyatt is into the groove now!
Day 20: Wednesday, March 2,
Wednesdays are often quiet days at
YVEC, and today was no exception. Wyatt got to review
his driving lessons, and then spent the rest of
his lesson working on the mounting/dismounting process.
Since getting on and off were the 'scariest' parts
of yesterday for him, Cindy took the time to desensitize
him more fully today.
She worked on hopping up and down
next to him, letting him feel weight in the stirrups,
and mouting and dismounting several times until
he could handle the process quietly. He did not
get any riding time today; with no one else on the
property during his workout times, Cindy wisely
chose to wait until a safer time.
In late afternoon Suzette did come
in for her riding lesson,and while she rode Wyatt
received a tying lesson. He was tied in the round
pen and left alone for the first time. Cindy kept
her eye on him from the arena above, and found that
not only did he not mind being tied - he got bored
with it and laid down to roll and scratch his itchy
Afterwards Cindy took Wyatt to her
2-horse slant load trailer, which had the divider
removed. Wyatt hopped straight into it without hesitation,
despite having had only one trailer lesson, on 02/18!
He found there was hay in the feeder in front of
the trialer, and he dug in eagerly, not even phased
by the noise of the clasp on the lead rope clinking
on the feeder. He then backed neatly and expertly
out when asked, as though he's been doing it all
Day 21: Thursday, March 3, 2011.
GETTING TO WORK
After a 5 - 10 minute lunging and
ground driving review, Wyatt got right down to work
on his second day of riding. Cindy was able to mount
with very little fuss today, and no sign of bucking
or 'scooting' this time. They trotted in both directions
in the round pen, and even tried out a couple of
unplanned rollbacks! Wyatt even backed up two steps
today when asked from the saddle.
With the warmer weather and that workout,
Wyatt was hot and sweaty so he was introduced to
the horse 'shower' today! He fussed a little when
the water first ran over him, but soon settled down
and enjoyed his little bath.
Day 22: Friday, March 4, 2011.
THIRD TIME'S THE CHARM
For his third ride today, Wyatt was
a perfect gentleman. Today he reviewed walking and
trotting both ways of the round pen, and stopping
and backing. Today Cindy stepped it up to three
to four steps of back, progressing up from two,
and he did very well. He even rode past spectators
today without a single spook!
Day 23: Saturday, March 5, 2011.
LOPIN' ALONG See the pictures in the gallery
||Today was of a course a review of previous
days, but today saw the addition of loping to
Wyatt's program. Wyatt was asked to walk, trot,
and canter both directions of the round pen
today, and he did a great job. He seems to be
settling in and enjoying his work, and he did
enjoy his second bath as well!
Day 24: Sunday, March 6, 2011.
A nice, warm and sunny Sunday, Wyatt
gets a day off to relax.
Day 25: Monday, March 7, 2011.
Another of our famous desert high-wind
days, but at least it was warm this time. Wyatt
and Cindy took a quick 20 minute review ride at
the walk and trot - no canter today.
Day 26: Tuesday, March 8, 2011.
OUT IN FRONT
Today Wyatt got a 'big horse' forty-five
minute workout. He went through his paces at walk,
trot, and canter in both directions. Today he also
worked on circles, stops, and turns, with backing
up to five steps included.
For the first time today Wyatt had
a good grasp of 'forward: He stayed in front of
the aids today, with no kicking needed to get him
going. Cindy was able to simply close her calf on
his sides, and he took the hint each time! He's
really getting the hang of it all!
Wyatt also went naked for the first
time today - no more halter left on all night!
Day 27: Wednesday, March 9,
2011. FREEDOM! See the pictures in the gallery
After his roundpen ride today (review
of both directions, all three gaits), Wyatt got
some freedom! He and Cindy went up to the 125' x
300' arena for today's workout. For his first time
being ridden in a much larger space, Wyatt worked
at the walk and trot in both direction and performed
The pair then ventured out
for a 'ranch ride'. Cindy and Wyatt went down
through the dressage court, then up the slight
incline to the 'toy box'. The toy box is an
area behind the arena that contains step-over
poles as well as downed Joshua Trees, back-through
obstacles, and a wooden bridge, among other
things. Wyatt made his way around and over
everything he was put to without hesitation.
From the toy box Wyatt took
the walk between the arena and the larger
reining/jumping arena, and out around the
pens. He also walked through the barn with
Cindy aboard, was challenged with cars pulling
past him and even a moving horse trailer going
by. It was so much fun the first time - he
did the ranch ride a second time so Amamnda
could take some pictures (coming soon!)
New apparel today: Splint boots
on the front legs.
Day 28: Thursday, March 10,
2011. THE PROBLEM OF THE VEST...
Wyatt had another great day out today,
working in the arena at all gaits and in both directions.
The big excitement came when Cindy decided to bring
her vest in after the ride.
It was a very warm day today, so Cindy
left her vest hanging from a standard in the arena.
When it was time to go in, she rode Wyatt over and
picked it up. Wyatt found this type of movement
to be unacceptable for a vest. Because he expressed
his displeasure by trying to leave the vest behind,
he had to settle for several more "Take the
jacket off. Hang it up. Put the jacket on"
new karate-kid style lessons.
He had finally accepted the vest as
part of Cindy's life when the truly unthinkable
happened. Cindy dismounted to walk Wyatt in, and
the hateful vest somehow attached itself to his
saddle for him to carry in. This was a real struggle
for the poor boy - no matter how he resisted, that
vest wouldn't budge. He got so upset with it he
actually lost his feet - he fell down, recovered,
got up - and STILL that vest was attached to his
saddle. He accepted its presence after that, going
back to his pen feeling a bit foolish!
Day 29: Friday, March 11, 2011.
Today was a review day for work, which
went very well. It was an exciting day for beauty,
Today Wyat willingly picked up all
four feet when asked, for the first time! He also
enjoyed a 'trim', his mane was trimmed and evened
out with the scissors and he behaved very nicely.
Pretty soon...the clippers.
Day 30: Saturday, March 12,
2011. PLAYING CHAIR See the pictures
in the gallery
Wyatt's challange today was...to stand
still! He had another workout in the arena, and
then he was invited to play 'chair' while Cindy
gave riding lessons. He was asked to stand still
or walk where directed while the other horses swirled
all around him, and he handled this task very well.
Towards the end of the lesson Cindy showed him the
crossrail jump, and took him over several times.
He was a very willing jumper!
As a reward for his good behavior
today, Wyatt had a play date. Shelby the mustang
was at the ranch for his lesson with Amanda, and
both boys were turned out together in the arena
afterwards. Wyatt thought he was too tough for Shelby
(who is easily 3 times his size), and he tried to
initmidate him. Shelby did the horse equivalent
of a smirk and just cocked his legs at him, which
set Wyatt back in his place as herd youngster!
Today's apparel: splint boots on all
This is the end of Wyatt's first
thirty days of training.
Wyatt has ninety days to go from
wild to wonderful - follow his progress through
days 31 - 60, then 61 - 90 on the next pages!