2020 Meeker Mustang Makeover enjoys record success in tough year

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Started by a group of Meeker citizens just one year ago, this year’s Meeker Mustang Makeover more than doubled in size from last year, adding more horses overall, and a youth division with five yearling wild horses. Each youth participant who satisfied the obstacles received an $800 scholarship check. 

Deana Wood trained her wild mustang Sandy to “load up” on and off of the family’s flatbed as part of her freestyle performance for the Meeker Mustang Makeover competition. This year’s live and online auction brought in three times the number of buyers and double the sales prices as the 2019 event. Kim Ekstrom Photo

Helping the event reach viewers and bidders around the country — also new — was a 21st century livestream provided by the Herald Times and Level Head Audio with assistance from Cimarron Telecommunications, and a virtual and live auction allowing people from all over the world to “visit Meeker” and see the results of a 100-day competition to train a mustang, thanks to partner Longhorn Video Auctions owned by partners Kail Mantle and Denise Dodge of Piedmont, South Dakota. 

Trainers of all ages, sexes, sizes and backgrounds came from all over Colorado. Six from Rio Blanco, five from Routt and the rest from Carbondale, Denver and Pitkin County. This year’s Makeover was a commemoration of Sept. 11 due to the date of the event, and the afternoon began with a moving tribute to first responders and our armed forces led by the area VFW, with an antique 1936 Dodge original fire truck (original to the Meeker Fire Dept.).

The contestants lined up for the awards portion of the competition. In the foreground is Mustang Sally, ridden by trainer Austin Smith and trained by Wendy Lind of Hayden. Kim Ekstrom Photo

This year, the audience was encouraged to attend at home by livestream which was available on the Rio Blanco Herald Times website, the MeekerMustangMakeover.org website and the auction site (LongHornVideoAuctions.com). Well respected  and knowledgeable judges, Steve Mantle, Bridget Strang, Mindy Bower, all with roots with Northwest Colorado, brought fairness and legitimacy to the event.

The event drew a remarkable 20,000 views on the auction site and attracted 67 buyers (compared to 27 bidders last year). The winners this year for first place, for $3,000, was professional mustang trainer Sam Rock, from Brighton, Colorado, and her horse Sasha; second prize went to Sam’s student, Dana Casey, also from Brighton, and her horse Stoney. Third place went to Cosette McLaughlin of Steamboat with her horse Finnegan. Other horses in the money were Wade Allred/Frosty Bob, Deana Wood/Sandy and Colt Allred/Sandy.

Rangely resident Wade Allred and Frosty Bob. Kim Ekstrom Photo

Three trainers bought their own horses, with the rest going to Steamboat, Clark, Craig, Rangely, Meeker, and other states: Nebraska, Wyoming, and Utah. The highest price horse last year sold for $3,700 to Meeker’s Joe Wood and family. This year the highest price horse was Finnegan, trained by Cosette McLaughlin of Steamboat to a young rider and her family for $4,500. 

Last year with just the live auction, the horses sold for an average of $1,442 (2- and 3-year-old horses), this year with the benefit of a live and virtual auction the average sale price for the 3-year-olds was $3,500, the yearling’s average price was $510. 

Leah Wood and Geronimo
Colt Alllred shot balloons as part of his freestyle performance with mustang Sandy.
Meeker resident Cindy Rohde purchased her mustang Pardner during the live auction.

Trainers received 50% of the sale price, with the remainder going to scholarships and prizes for next year’s event. This year with COVID, entry was free, and trainers who didn’t buy back their horse were happy to see their newly trained mustangs go to good homes. 

Wendy Lind, trainer of Mustang Sally, said, “Although I have a lot of horse experience, I really appreciate that I was able to be a part of this as a non-professional trainer. Being an architect and mom and wife, it often was late at night or early in the a.m. when I was able to work with Sally. Although I wasn’t always able to put as much time in on her as I would have liked, I really appreciate the fact that the competition is open to people that don’t make their living training horses or ranching, and aren’t able to spend all day in the saddle. And my horse went to a great new home.”

The Meeker Mustang Makeover is a volunteer community project under the umbrella of the Rio Blanco Historical Society and is strongly supported and ably assisted by the White River Bureau of Land Management office. White River Electric Association, Tri-State, and Basin Electric were Gold Sponsors this year.

Winner Samantha Rock and horses Sasha with MMM board members Melissa Kindall and Deirdre Macnab.
The Allred family, all of whom competed this year.
Rohde with judges Steve Mantle (left) and Mike Gotchey (right.)
The Wood family. Sisters Deana and Leah Wood competed in the adult competition.
Dana Casey and mustang Stoney took second place.

Special to the Herald Times

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