Local horse trainer Windy Bond is hoping the annual Extreme Mustang Makeover Challenge will bring awareness to the nation’s wild horse population.
By participating in the 90-day horse training challenge, created by the Mustang Heritage Foundation in cooperation with the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management, Bond expects to deliver a tame, adoptable horse.
Horses have a special place in Bond’s heart. For 21 years she has been a full-time horse trainer working with every breed. Although she knew it would not be easy, she didn’t waste any time mailing in her application to be considered for the Extreme Mustang Makeover.
“When I heard I was chosen as one of 100 horse trainers to train the horses from somewhere out West I was thrilled,” Bond said.
After anticipating meeting the wild mustang she would train, the time finally arrived. Last week Bond drove her truck and trailer to Piney Woods, Miss. She transported a 3-year-old gelding she named Ruger, after American-made Ruger Firearms, back to her Bradley County farm.
“I choose the name Ruger because I thought it was cool and because there is strength in the name,” Bond said. “The mustang is considered to be a cowboy’s horse. Since Ruger has a cowboy action line of firearms I thought it was a good fit.”
The first thing Bond noticed when she saw Ruger was how cute he was. She was surprised at the good condition of the horse’s hoofs after his roaming in wild Oregon terrain where he was originally located.
With a little persuasive push, he went through the loading shoot into the horse trailer. On the trip home he stood in the center of the trailer, not moving at all.
“He was trembling so we stopped every two hours,” Bond said. “There wasn’t any kicking, no falling either loading or unloading. When we arrived we backed up to the gate. He came out without any hesitation.”
According to Bond the trip was rather uneventful. Events that have transpired since reaching Bradley County have been much more significant.
“He’s different than the domesticated horses,” said Bond. “Everything is amplified. He has had to survive off his instincts for so long, I knew he would remain calm with another horse close by, because there is safety in numbers.”
Since trust is a two-way street, anchored by respect, Bond is approaching the training through trust-building exercises. By spending time with Ruger she was able to eventually touch him lightly while he was eating hay. With Bond’s years of experience she was able to sense the horse’s resistance to human contact but was pleased at his curiosity. A few days later — as the trust grew — she hand-fed him hay and feed for the first time in his life.
“I am lucky. He’s laid back, doesn’t have a mean bone in his body and doesn’t mind the dogs laying by him.”
Bond’s neighbor, who has been watching the interaction with the horse from out West, told her he thought watching a wild horse would be more fun. Bond replied by saying she can either ruin him or make him a good horse. Her goal is to develop him to be spook-proof and gentle for any rider.
“I haven’t pushed him into anything and I don’t want to. I want someone to end up with a good horse,” she said.
One of Bond’s domesticated horses has been strategically placed in a nearby arena to help calm the mustang, who is a herd-type animal.
With a little moral support from her 7-year-old daughter, Saylor, who thinks “it’s cool to have him on the farm” and assistance from her fiancé Wayne, Bond had her first working session with Ruger lasting 30 minutes.
“I sat with my back to him and head between my knees. After about five minutes he was within 10 feet of me and, according to three people, he snorted as he checked me out and then turned away.”
When Ruger turned away the lesson was over, but Bond was pleased with the progress. The brief session accomplished more than she expected with a horse who has had free range to do whatever he pleased his entire life.
“I have been able to be a part of the Mustang Challenge with help of sponsors, mainly Tucker Milling who has provided feed for the horse,” Bone said.
Bond has set out to prove she can handle an equine challenge as big as the annual Extreme Mustang Makeover Challenge. The event was created to recognize the value of mustangs through a national training competition taking center stage in Murfreesboro Oct. 22-24 at the Tennessee Miller Coliseum. Dashing cowgirls and cowboys will showcase the results of their horse training ability to shape wild horses into a gentle giants.
The mission of both the Mustang Heritage Foundation and the Extreme Mustang Makeover is to increase the adoption of mustangs across the country.
Potential adopters (those 18 years or older with no prior conviction for inhumane treatment of animals) can apply for the opportunity to be included in the competitive bidding process at the event.
For more information, contact the Mustang Heritage Foundation at 512-869-3225 or online at www.mustangheritagefoundation.org.
Tickets for the Extreme Mustang Makeover Challenge and a list of lodging availability in Murfreesboro are available in advance online.