Teen gains mustang’s trust

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Tuesday, January 25, 2011
— A horse is just a horse, of course, unless it’s an untamed-as-the-wind mustang.

Facing a wild horse head-on takes courage, savvy and a love for horses. Tracy Schmidt, an Edgerton High School senior, has them all.

Edgerton’s culture is far, far from the old bronco-riding West, but Schmidt used her skills to place sixth among 18 who recently competed in the 2010 Extreme Mustang Makeover in Murfreesboro, Tenn.

Schmidt has been riding and showing horses for five years and training horses for two years.

Last July, a 1-year-old mustang—one of three mustangs—was shipped from Colorado, randomly assigned to Schmidt and delivered to TMG Stables in Janesville. Schmidt had 90 days to condition, train and show her horse.

In the three-month window, Schmidt had to teach the wild horse to lie down, bow, jump barrels and logs, stop, start, pivot and follow a trail course. The horse had to be groomed and made to look like a prom king.

The only thing Schmidt did not do was ride the horse. A 1-year-old mustang is too small to bear the weight of a rider.

Schmidt met her yearling mustang at 2 a.m. after it endured a 16-hour ride from Colorado.

“They had not been touched,” Schmidt said. “After a 16-hour trailer ride, we just let them hang out.’’

Schmidt named her mustang Frodo and introduced herself.

“You had to let them see you and go slowly so they don’t feel threatened,” Schmidt said. “(Frodo) was just a baby 1 year old. It was easy to gain his trust.’’

Schmidt said humans are a curiosity to mustangs.

“They are more respectful of people,” Schmidt said. “They don’t see them (on the range).’’

After the getting-to-know-you stage, it was time to start training—slowly.

“You train a half hour to an hour,” Schmidt said. “You do little, short sessions, but more than once a day.’’

Above all, training a wild horse requires patience.

“It’s trial and error,” Schmidt said. “If something doesn’t work, you try something else.’’

Jessica Davis, a trainer and Mustang Challenge veteran, helped Schmidt train Frodo.

“When you work with a wild horse, you have to know their body language, and they learn yours and how you approach them,” Davis said. “You have to use your body to lead them with a rope, or they will drag you around.’’

Davis said Schmidt has the right attitude to turn a wild mustang into a willing, trained horse.

“You have to have some confidence, will and desire,” said Davis, who has been a professional horse trainer for eight years “You don’t have to be a pro trainer. You have to have the will to learn.’’

After the competition, Frodo was auctioned off to a pre-approved adopter and now lives outside of Knoxville, Tenn.

Schmidt enjoyed her time with her mustang, and she wants to return to the competition with an adult mustang. She knows she loves horses.

“I’m not sure how, but I want to do something with horses,” Schmidt said. “I want to have them in my life.’’

Last updated: 3:59 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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