What do you think of when you think of the American Mustang? Perhaps freedom and the wide open spaces of the West, complete with cowboys and their Western saddles, jingling spurs, and lariats. But this past weekend at the Virginia Horse Center, the Extreme Mustang Makeover offered a different vision for the mustang.
While Saturday’s Top 10 finals was dominated by cowboys on top of the mustang mares they had 100 days to tame and train, the winner went a different direction: Dressage.
With her gray mare, Corrigan, in a more collected frame then most of her competitors, Sarah Grady rode to the win. She placed second in the preliminaries, which each rider follows a prescribed pattern to demonstrate the horse’s training. But she won the Freestyle portion, in which she trotted in with two cheery balloons following dutifully behind. Her freestyle also included two jumps and a streamer-laden hoop, each of which she went over twice without any issues. She also won Adult Trail and Maneuvers earlier in the competition. After her win, Corrigan was auctioned off, bringing fierce bidding that would close at $8,500. Corrigan is a Divide Basin, Wyoming, mustang.
Corrigan may have won the competition, but it was a horse named Freedom that won the audience’s hearts and took home the Audience Favorite award. Asked to vote via text, Freedom’s flag-waving routine came out on top. That was not to be confused with several other routines that also waved flags as the music swelled. Other popular routine highlights included a big black steer that blinked in confusion the first time he was shoved in the arena. But he would be back several times before the competition was over. There was also plenty of standing in the saddle, shooting of balloons (both with air guns and arrows), and jumping. The routines were meant to showcase their horse’s talents, and many made good use of this time. There were some blunders, such as the routine that showcased a horse’s ability to be driven in harness. However, the switch to being ridden did not go well and too much time was eaten up trying to get the horse unhooked from its cart.
All of the horses (all 5- to 6-year-old mares) were auctioned off at the end of the event. Some were bought by their trainers, others to bidders in the crowd already approved for adoption through the BLM. Prices ranged from $200 to $8,500.
A highlight for many spectators had to be before the competition began when Stacey Westfall rode in the arena to talk to the crowd. She also held a demonstration earlier in the day. Westfall is well known for her bridleless freestyle reining routine that even landed her a spot on The Ellen DeGeneres Show.