From Wild to Mild: Mustang trainers to compete in Meeker

MMM contestant Leah Wood relaxes atop her mustang Geronimo. Trainers have just a few weeks left before the event kicks off, virtually this year, on Sept. 11.  —COURTESY PHOTO

MEEKER | Ten-year-old Leah Wood, in the shadow of the White River National Forest, has spent her summer riding and packing her new mustang “Geronimo” along steep cliffs and high mountains in anticipation of competing in the 2020 Meeker Mustang Makeover that will take place on Sept. 11  at the Rio Blanco County Fairgrounds in Meeker, Colorado. 

Leah and her 15-year-old sister Deana Wood of Rio Blanco County were the grand prizewinners, with assistance from their father Joe Wood in the inaugural Makeover last year. “I just want my horse Geronimo to be versatile and good to ride,” Leah said. With a family in the outfitting business, Geronimo has already been packed out to the Flattops wilderness by Leah, leading three mules and horses behind her. 

Meanwhile Samantha Rock and Dana Casey are working hard in the foothills of Denver on their two horses Sasha and Stoney, with lots of water play and roping. With $12,000 in prize and scholarship money at stake, 15 hopeful trainers will be traveling to Meeker to compete with the goal of seeing these now trained mustang head off to a forever home and a long useful life. 

The increasingly dry and fragile range in the West has seen a rapid overpopulation as wild horse herds typically double in size every four to five years. With more than 50,000 horses waiting in holding pens, events like these are critical to provide a useful and healthy life for these animals.

Due to COVID-19, this year’s event will be streamed virtually so mustang and horse lovers across the world can tune in to watch and bid on the mustangs, which trainers of all ages have had 100 days to gentle. The horses, gathered in Wyoming and Colorado, were completely unaccustomed to the human touch. The Meeker Mustang Makeover is unique in that the event encourages trainers to expose their horse to as many people, animals and stimuli as possible to help the horse adapt successfully to their new homes and future lives. A desensitized horse is less likely to cause harm to themselves and their humans.

You can watch the Live Stream action online thanks to the Rio Blanco Herald Times and Level Head Audio starting at 10 a.m. on Sept. 11, 2020, when contestants try to maneuver through an obstacle course and move a cow. The Freestyle and Finals start at 4 p.m., with awards followed by the 7 p.m. live and online auction for the horses. Longhorn Video Auctions, who ran the Mustang Auction last year at Cheyenne Frontier Days, is managing the live and online auction. Interested buyers need to sign up in advance at (Bureau of Land Management (BLM) approval required).  

Stay safe and watch and bid with livestreaming from home. In person attendance is discouraged and following COVID state guidelines for healthy and safety is requested.

The Meeker Mustang Makeover is an independent volunteer-run event, and is unaffiliated with any other Mustang training events.

PRESS RELEASE | Special to the Herald Times

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