Mustangs star of the show at Virginia Horse Festival

Madison Shambaugh and her mustang Terk.  Photo via Shambaugh’s Facebook page.

What happens when you take a wild mustang, a young woman with a dream of training horses, a gorgeous dress and remove the bridle? MAGIC.

The Extreme Mustang Makeover competition March 28 ended on a windy, cold note at the The Meadow Event Park in Doswell, Virginia. But one freestyle routine in particular shone through the icy winds to steal the crowd’s heart.

Six-year-old mustang Terk and his trainer, Madison Shambaugh, of Indiana were awarded Overall Reserve Champion, Fan Favorite, Rookie award and Young Guns (18-21 yr old) award after this bridleless freestyle routine. “We didn’t have enough points in our score system to give you what you deserve for your freestyle tonight.” Shambaugh wrote she was told by Judge Mike Jennings. Terk received 60/60 points for his freestyle on behalf of both judges. (The second judge was Mike Baker of Salem, Va.) The crowd certainly loved it and were cheering wildly and pounding their feet on the bleachers after the performance. As many were wrapped in blankets that night, her sleeveless dress deserved it’s own applause.

Keep in mind just a little more than 100 days ago these mustangs had never been touched. Shambaugh then purchased Terk in the public auction of the mustangs after the competition.

Shambaugh is a full-time student at Purdue University.  She wrote for of Terk: “Terk was an incredibly fast learner from the start. He was smart, sensitive, and athletic. By 30 days he was already riding without a bridle.”

Shambaugh also wrote how nervous she was about her freestyle routine, particuarly a flying lead change without a bridle that he had only started to get in training. “By the end I was in tears. It was a very emotional experience for me to have this formerly wild horse go from a state of complete fear and mistrust to the realization that he would do anything for me. He gave me his heart that night– his whole heart. It was an absolutely amazing feeling as his trainer and teammate.”

See her full story here.

Shambaugh wrote on Facebook after her performance:
“I may have helped to bring out the best in Terk, but he also brought out the best in me. I came to learn that this whole event was not about winning a ribbon, a buckle, or a check. I know this sounds cliche but it is so true…We did not ride tonight to be labeled champions. We rode for the mustangs waiting to be adopted and deemed untrainable. We rode for horses everywhere who are misunderstood. We rode to show people the relationship they can have with these animals. And we rode for everyone who has lost hope in their dreams.”

 Other photos from the competition:

Kacie Eicholtz and Montague “Monty” placed fourth overall.
Eicholtz bought Monty after the competition. Photo via EMM Facebook page.


Nate Eicher and Doc Holliday were the 2015 Virginia Extreme Mustang Makeover Champions.
Photo via EMM Facebook page.
Nate Eicher and Doc Holliday.
Photo via Eicher’s Facebook page.

Road to the Horse doubling the challenge

Jim Anderson

 Road to the Horse has become one of the premier horse training competitions in the country. Selected trainers (usually 3 or 4) choose a horse out of the 6666 AQHA Remuda — a herd of 21 untouched 3-year-olds. The goal is to teach horsemen and women that natural horsemanship is a kinder training method. The trainers are judged not just in the final outcome, but how they got there. Chris Cox has captured three Road to the Horse titles. Guy McLean has captured two, and last year the wild card trainer beat his famous competitors to take the title.

Although I’m a huge fan of natural horsemanship methods — I’ve seen it work miracles on countless horses as well as put a wonderful foundation on young horses that lasts them a lifetime — the speed of the training is at once impressive and counter-intuitive into going slowly with training. Unlike the Robert Redford film “The Horse Whisperer” from which these type of natural horsemanship trainers got a boost in their fame, they don’t have unlimited time to allow the horse to control the pace of his own training. These horses reach an incredible level of training in just a weekend.

The 2014 AQHA Remuda from the renowned 6666 ranch.

 This year’s competition will return to the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky, on March 26 to March 29, 2015 with the running of the Remuda on Friday morning around 10 a.m. And this year they are adding a new twist. Each competitor will select two horses to train instead of just one. The winner will be calculated on an accumulative score from both colts. The reason for the double duty? They want to show the trainers’ ability to adapt their training to different personalities.

Jonathan Field

Three-time winner Chris Cox will return to the lineup in 2015. And 2014 Champion and Wild Card Champion Jim Anderson will also return. Those two will face the 2015 Wild Card winner, who will be announced at the start of the event.

In addition to the trainers’ competition, a group of fans will be randomly drawn from the list of Road to Horse 2015 ticket purchasers. Those fans will then each select a colt from the Remuda. The fan who selected the highest-scoring horse at the event will receive a check for $10,000. Start checking out those horses now and make your picks! (Meet the 2015 Remuda here.)

Antoine Cloux (Switzerland)

Lexington, Kentucky, is an easy trip from Roanoke, Virginia, with a drive time of just under 6 hours. And if you’ve never been to Lexington, Kentucky, it’s worth the trip just to visit the town centered around great horses and horse farms. Road to the Horse 2015 tickets Ticket prices range from $83.00 to $203 per seat and are good for all 3 days. They are available online at

All photos are courtesy of Road to the Horse.

Road to the Horse 2014