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.