Mustang Adoption Challenge finds homes for Oregon's wild horses
The horses have spent just over 100 days with youth and adult trainers in the program called Teens and Oregon Mustangs. The trainers took the horses home December 3, 2016.
“It starts with a very, very wild horse that never had human contact,” said Erica Fitzgerald, president and founder of Teens and Oregon Mustangs.
The kids are selected through an application process and must prove they have a mentor to help them with the training.
They work with the horses and prepare them for a series of competitions to show off how much the mustangs have learned.
“When we started this program, we thought about how to make it to where the horse would be more adoptable using kids as the tools,” Fitzgerald said. “It would be win-win. So, we’re trying to find horses adoptive, loving, forever homes while educating our youth.”
Anyone from the community is welcome to bid on the wild horses.
The competition began Thursday night with showmanship and body conditioning. This evaluates the exhibitor’s ability to train, groom and present their mustang for inspection by a judge. It also rates the mustang’s body weight.
“A huge piece that’s focused on health of the animal and how to feed properly because we think it’s important to teach kids proper nutrition in animals and how to feed properly,” Fitzgerald said as she described why body conditioning is an important part of the competition.
Then, Friday and Saturday, the competitors show what their horses can do in an arena obstacle course.
Youth show they can safely guide their horses in and out of trailers. They walk the horses over poles and see how they react to unusual objects like balloons and tinsel. In the freestyle section, after the final obstacle, many trainers showed they could put saddles on their horses.
The older and more experienced trainers actually ride their mustangs through obstacles and maneuvers Saturday.
The trainers can keep their horses by paying a $25 transfer fee, but most choose to enter their horses in the auction.
“We realize that the general public can’t go to the wild horse coral, pick up a feral animal and make it a pet and so we are trying to use our youth as a tool to spend the time and the energy of getting these horses gentle enough to adopt,” Fitzgerald said.
The results and awards from the Mustang Adoption Challenge will be announced Sunday beginning at 1:30 p.m. in the Akins Trailer Sales Arena. The live auction will follow. The public can also place online auction bids at http://www.teensandoregonmustangs.org.
Teens and Oregon Mustangs is a nonprofit. All proceeds from the auction go to the kids who worked with the horses.