Mustang Days celebrates wild horse adoption
As the BLM gathers more wild horses from Wyoming ranges, space in holding facilities has become limited Constantly searching for people to adopt the animals, BLM developed Wyoming Mustang Days to promote the horses.
Now in its fourth year, Wyoming Mustang Days (WMD) also gives local adopters the opportunity to showcase their horses in a public venue.
The event, originally conceived by Scott Fluer, BLM wild horse and burro specialist for the Lander Field Office, and Steve Mantle of Mantle Wild Horses has grown tremendously over the years with just over 50 participants in the 2012 event.
“All the credit for the show really goes to the participants,” says Mantle. “If I had time to personally go and thank every person that participated in the show, I would. They’re the reason that this happens. We may have had the idea, but it has stayed around because of the participation of all of the adopters.”
“We wanted a place for the public that have adopted these horses to show them off,” continues Mantle. “Many owners pack around pictures of their horses in a picture book like grandparents do of their grandchildren. WMD gives them a place to show these ‘picture books’ off and gives the public something to look forward to each year.”
Pursuing a dream
“Mustang Days was an idea that we kicked around after the Mustang Heritage Foundation moved on from State Fair,” Mantle says. “Public adoptions dwindled to the point that hardly any horses got adopted, and it was only the trained horses that went. Mustang Days was a way to kick start the adoption process back up.”
“Scott and I were both thinking the same thing,” Mantle continues, “but neither one of us had done a horse show. We were the catalyst, just two guys who said, ‘Let’s do something.’ It took the time and help of so many more people to make this event a reality.”
The idea quickly turned into an annual event with halter, trail and riding classes for adopters to participate in.
The Green Horse Challenge allows adopters and their recently adopted mustangs to show off what they have learned.
Team sorting and the freestyle classes, which allow the adopter and horse to showcase their talent and personalities however they choose, were added in 2012.
The winner of the adult freestyle in 2012, Kathi Wilson, performing with her mustang Snickers, completed their routine without even a halter to cue the horse.
Youth division winner, Justin Martin of Pavillion, won the high point saddle with his mare, Irene. This was the first year that Martin competed in the event.
“What we found with WMD is that we draw large crowds that really enjoy it, and the show has really grown over the years,” says Fluer. “It is a way to really show everyone what the public is doing with their Mustangs. The ultimate goal is adopting horses out to the public.”
These showcases by adopters have also increased adoptions by the public, achieving the goal originally laid out by Fluer and Mantle.
“I was first interested in Mustangs after watching Mustang Days at state fair,” says Doug Zelesky, equine reproduction professor at UW. “It was impressive to see all of the kids on the mustangs and everything those horses could do.”
Zelesky adopted his gelding Charlie shortly after State Fair.
In addition to the yearlings available for adoption, trainers from Mantle Wild Horses and the Wyoming Honor Farm start Mustangs under saddle for this showcase.
Each year, 10 saddle-started Mustangs are showcased. These Mustangs are given 10 minutes in the arena to demonstrate their training and then are offered for adoption to the public by competitive bid after all the horses have been seen.
Fluer encourages the public to come to this event to see the ability of the mustangs and potentially adopt one.
Waiting for the event
This showcase, created for the adopters, is a highly anticipated event year after year. Interaction with other adopters and the chance to show their horses off keeps bringing contestants back.
“It’s a chance to show the public that these are excellent horses with lots of versatility and heart and help get rid of the old stereotype of the untrainable Mustang,” says Lona Patton, long-time adopter from Casper. “I like how it promotes not only adoptions, but that the horses are just as good as any domestic breed out there, and to some of us, even better. WMD has opened the doors and allowed us to show the public the great minds, bodies and souls of the American Mustang.”
“We love WMD because it gave us the opportunity to adopt a saddle-started horse. We love the way it showcases Mustangs and how wonderful they truly are,” says Iliana Adler, who rides Mustangs with her family. “Seeing all the horses participating in so many different classes gives us the opportunity to compare the progress of our Mustangs and to set up goals and expectations because once a Mustang has given you his heart, only the sky is the limit.”
The fourth annual event is made possible by the Wyoming Bureau of Land Management, Wyoming Ag in the Classroom, Encana, Friends of a Legacy, Popo Agie Conservation District, Saratoga-Encampment-Rawlins (S-E-R) Conservation Districts and the Wyoming State Fair.
Kelsey Tramp is assistant editor at the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.