Walter Miller’s been around horses much of his 61-year life, but he hadn’t trained one until this year.
On July 17, 2009, Miller and Georgie Smith traveled to Cross Plains, Tenn. to pick up two mustangs as part of the Extreme Mustang Makeover.
The Extreme Mustang Makeover is an event created by the Mustang Heritage Foundation (MHF) in partnership with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The mustangs are removed from federally protected land in Nevada in order to keep herds manageable and healthy.
“They’re destroying their own habitat,” said Miller. “Eating themselves out of house and home.”
Trainers have 100 days to turn a wild mustang into an adoptable horse. The Extreme Mustang Makeover competition takes place Oct. 23-24 at the Tennessee Miller Coliseum, Murfreesboro, Tenn. The competition is based on the condition of the mustang, the trainer’s ability to handle the horse on foot and a horse course, where the trainer rides the mustang through jumps and obstacles.
A winner will be selected from each of three categories, taking home as much as $5,000.
All competing mustangs are eligible for adoption on Oct. 25.
Like training a dog
Miller has never considered himself a trainer; he’s simply an animal lover.
“It’s a hobby for me. I’m interested in saving animals’ lives,” said the Columbus resident, who also serves on the board of PAWS Humane.
Smith, on the other hand, has experience training horses. The 56-year-old has several of her own on her farm in Hamilton, Ga,, all of which she’s trained for dressage competitions.
She believes that mustangs could be a good source for smaller horses in the dressage world.
“They’re not near as wild as you’d imagine,” she said, noting that there are several differences in a feral versus a domestic horse.
“His experiences out in the wild makes him appreciate what domestic horses don’t,” she said.
Miller spends at least two hours a day working with his mustang, Risky Business.
“I try to take him somewhere once a week,” Miller added. “Let him meet other things.”
Smith’s farm is a favorite destination, where Risky Business and Smith’s mustang, Extreme Measures, train together in the fields.
Miller likened the experience to that of training a dog.
“I don’t think it’s been hard,” he said, “but it’s been challenging. It’s been fun.”
“They were unbelievably easy to train,” added Smith. “A nice combination of independence and loyalty.”
The time and effort spent with the mustangs over 100 days may make the adoption the most difficult part of the competition.
“I may not part with him,” said Miller. “They’re gonna auction him, but I’ll probably wind up with him back down here.”
Katie Holland, a features reporter, can be reached at 706-571-8515.