Imagine a horse that had spent it’s whole life running wild with no human contact. Then imagine taking that horse and having only 100 days to train it to, not only load into a trailer and lead, but to be able to complete trail courses, showmanship patterns and Freestyles. Now, I am going to tell you about my 12 yr old little sister, Meefy, also known as Marissa, and how she trained one of these untouched wild Mustangs! Back in March Marissa was accepted to participate in the Mustang Yearling Washington Youth 100 Day Training Challenge. The Challenge gave the participants 100 days to train an untouched wild BLM Mustang and then go to a final event and compete for cash prizes! In recent years, Marissa and I have always talked about doing a Mustang Makeover but I never imagined that my little sister would do it before me, much less this year! But there we were, on April 27th, picking up Marissa’s untouched wild Mustang in Longview, WA. Marissa received #4871, an all white, 2yr old Mustang from the Warm Springs HMA herd in Burns, Oregon. After completing paper work, the skilled BLM guys ran the horse through a chute and after getting the halter on for us, opened the chute and drove her into the horse trailer. It was super hard for me to figure out what Marissa was thinking on the drive home but you could tell she was excited!Four hours later, we arrived back on the farm and backed the trailer up to the round pen and unloaded her.
Going into it we had no idea how long it was going to take for the mustang to let Marissa touch her but to our surprise the very next day Marissa was able to rub all the way down her left side and touch her face! She also was able to get the tag off and the mustang became known as Stardust! Over the next 3 months, Marissa spent countless hours working with Stardust, teaching her how to lead, load into a trailer, pick up her feet and everything else that horses have to do. Marissa also took Stardust on outings to 4-H practices and she ponied her on a trail ride. They attended a 4-H horse show after only 9 weeks of training and received first in the Showmanship class and second in the In-hand Trail class. Stardust was super calm for the entire competition even with the excitement of new horses and people, as well as, all of the RVs, tents and horse trailers. She took everything in stride and you would never have guessed she had once been running wild. The last month leading up to the competition, Marissa taught Stardust tricks such as the Spanish Walk, Spin and how to bow. Marissa and I had never taught our horses tricks before so it was a really fun challenge for her.
On Wednesday, August 7th, we headed out on the long drive to the Washington State Horse Park where the final competition was being held. Stardust took the 5 hour ride like a champ. Arriving at the horse park, the temperature was in the 90’s which is very hot for a couple of girls who live were the temperature average is in the 50’s. My mom and dad quickly abandoned us for the air conditioned motor home and I would have joined them if I hadn’t already deemed myself Marissa’s coach for the competition many weeks before (much to Marissa’s dismay). So I was out there with her in the scorching heat, supervising and getting Stardust settled. “Supervising” lasted for about 5 seconds, and before I knew it I was hauling water buckets, unloading tack trunks, retrieving hay and dumping out bags of shavings. I was now Marissa and Stardust’s Stablehand/Coach. After finishing up, Marissa and I escaped to the coolness of the motorhome. Later that evening, when the temperature had dropped some, we took a family walk, including Stardust, the family mutt, Buck, and my new red healer puppy, Jack Jack( fittingly named after the baby on the movie “The Incredibles).” We explored all three of the massive arenas and then went on a little walk on one of the many trails the horse park has to offer before heading back for the night. The next morning, we woke up early and explored the woods around the park. There was some fun trail obstacles and cross country jumps that Marissa led Stardust over. Stardust did everything Marissa asked without hesitating at all, even going over a teeter-totter, a bridge and a balance beam. Later that day was the Body Conditioning part of the competition where the horses are scored on overall appearance such as weight, hoof care, coat condition, etc. Stardust took 3rd out of seven horses!
The next day was an early start at 8 am. Marissa is not a morning person so I had to literally drag her out of the camper at 6:30 to get her to come take care of Stardust. When we arrived at the stall we realized that Stardust had laid down and even under her sheet had gotten a huge stain on her side. So Marissa stood half awake in the wash rack holding the Mustang while I scrubbed the stain. I was definitely the stablehand. Later that day was their Handling class where Marissa had to load Stardust into a trailer, brush Stardust off, pick up her feet and take her halter off, leave the round pen for 30 seconds and then catch her again. They did amazing and took second!
The next class was the Pattern class, a simple, typical Showmanship style class. Marissa and Stardust would have easily nailed it… but, just as they went to the first cone the rain began to downpour on us!! Stardust did not like the rain at all and would not stand still and didn’t stick her forehand turn or haunch turn. Marissa did a great job staying calm and controlling Stardust, and even though I am sure she was disappointed, she came out of the class with a smile. Later that day when the results were posted, Marissa and Stardust still managed to get third place in that class!
The next class was the Trail course. Stardust and Marissa did amazing. They conquered side-passing on the off side, backing through poles, going through a gate and weaving poles perfectly but there was a box made out of poles where Marissa had to perform a 360-degree haunch turn. Stardust stuck it perfectly but Marissa was so focused on making Stardust stick her turn that she went around twice instead of just once! That sadly marked her down to 5th place in that class but she still managed to get into the top 5 overall and perform a freestyle the next day.
The next day was the hardest. Marissa was extremely nervous and we were not sure if her nerves were going to allow her to perform in the Freestyle class. But after we got her out to watch the burros perform, she was laughing and feeling much better. The freestyle started at noon and Marissa was going second. She looked so nervous but she got up the courage and she went out and totally rocked it! Here is a link to a video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h65sBMzEH6Y. After their performance, Stardust and Marissa had a crowd of little girls around them, all wanting to meet the Mustang with a tutu on. They had definitely won “fan-favorite” in the 8yr old and under crowd!
After watching the rest of the Freestyles, we waited with anticipation to hear the final results. Marissa received 3rd place on the Freestyle performance and 3rd over-all in the Youth Division! Marissa and Stardust did such an amazing job. Marissa is so blessed to have Stardust in her life. She is a special horse who showed both of us just how trainable Mustangs really are and taught Marissa many valuable lessons in patience and training horses. Marissa and I are definitely hooked on Mustangs and are planning on competing next year! To learn more about this amazing competition check out their website http://mywy.org and like their facebook page https://www.facebook.com/groups/emmw
Also Check Out Marissa’s Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/MarissaZanesMightyMustang
And Youtube Channel https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLUgibYg5wZSE4_7dpAGf1SWFukpLR2fpo