Four Routt County teens show off trained wild horses this weekend
It took two weeks for Kristina Mitchell to touch her horse’s face. The Steamboat Springs High School senior expected a challenge in her first time participating in the Meeker Mustang Makeover, but she was a little surprised by how long it took for her yearling, Nova, to earn her trust.
“When I first got her, she was super shy and pretty fearful but she was pretty curious,” Mitchell said. “If you gave her the chance, she’d take you up on the offer to sniff. Now she’s super friendly. She loves to be scratched. You could just hold her head, and she’d be happy with that. She’s really confident and smart.”
After spending all summer bolstering her horse’s confidence and desensitizing her to every day things, motions and activities, Mitchell is ready to show off her filly at the live auction on Saturday, Aug. 27, at the Rio Blanco Fairgrounds.
Mitchell said she took it slow with Nova, especially in the early days training her.
“Walking on the lead even, just being led around, we took it in really small steps so she only got good association with it.”
Now, the young Mustang is fine with objects being waved near her face and people jumping around her.
“She is so loyal and willing to please, it’s crazy,” Mitchell said, adding it’s something that made Nova stand out compared to other horses she’s worked with in the past. “She follows me around like a puppy. If you’re trying to teach her something new, she tries so many different things to see what you’re asking. She is definitely proud of herself when she gets something right.”
Mitchell is one of four participants from the Yampa Valley and one of a few doing the mustang makeover for the first time.
Nina Bradley, a junior at Steamboat Springs High School, is also training a yearling as part of the makeover for the first time.
“I’ve always seen YouTube videos of people doing it, and it always seemed so fun,” Bradley said. “Last year a couple of my friends did it. This year, I was like, ‘it’s time.’”
Bradley is boarding the horse at a barn south of town. Having a place to keep the horse is one of the bigger challenges for some competitors. Mitchell’s horse is bunking with Morgan Yeiser’s horse in south valley. Yeiser was a trainer last year as well. Jason Heid of Clark is also training for the second straight year.
Bradley has worked with horses in the past but was prepared to be challenged with her yearling, Cheeto.
“I expected it to be really hard,” Bradley said. “I thought they were going to be absolutely crazy and trying to kill me the whole time. I got really lucky with her. She’s been easy to work with.”
On Day One, Cheeto was nervous and was running around and calling for other horses when she got to Steamboat. She soon calmed down, though, and Bradley was able to touch her on the first day, which was pleasantly surprising.
“The biggest challenge was finding time to work with her because I had to come out every day, at the beginning at least, for a good two or three hours,” Bradley said. “It’s slowed down a little bit now that she’s a normal regular horse.”
This weekend marks the end of the trainers’ time with their horses, as they present their ponies in front of a live and online auction. Trainers will compete in an obstacle course and freestyle, showing just how far these formerly wild horses have come in just 120 days.
“We’re hoping to place well and essentially have her be well-behaved at a show,” Bradley said. “I’m hoping to sell her to a good family.”
Shelby Reardon is the assistant editor at the Steamboat Pilot & Today. To reach her, call 970-871-4253, email sreardon@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @ByShelbyReardon.
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