Teens & Mustangs: A Creative Solution to a Tense Issue

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As every horse lover knows, mustang activists and the government are at odds as herds around the nation are being collected up, some for eradication, like Salt River Arizona and Pryor Mountain, Colorado.

Kiger Mustangs, the most renowned mustangs, dwell in Oregon, where I live. Along with them, we have other Mustang herds…Same issues: too many horses, not enough range, and conflicting perspectives on their use.
This is an emotive discussion because many of us regard these lovely animals as living symbols of our nation and deserve respect and preservation.

Some believe wild horses should be kept “alone and untouched.” Problem with that?

We have heard this remark many times. We may use this to educate the public about the problems Mustangs and taxpayers face. In March 2015, the BLM reported 58,150 wild mustangs and burros, 31,435 more than the area could sustain. There are also 47,000 mustangs and burros in Burns BLM corrals that cost taxpayers $77 million to feed and care for. Many horses would starve or dehydrate if left ‘alone and unattended’ Our programme reduces the number of horses in holding corrals and perhaps encourages adoption outside of our program.” Rose Mertin, Teens & Oregon Mustangs Vice-President.

Mertin is alluding to the unique Teens & Oregon Mustangs Programme, which links teens with wild mustangs. There are 98 days to gentle and train the horse before a huge horse exhibition and sale at the end of summer.

At a recent rodeo near my house, I met the group and two mustangs, who were calm and unaffected by the loudness. It intrigued me, so I interviewed Mertin to understand more about this programme and how it helps the Mustang.

Do all Mustangs come from Oregon?
RM: We got our Mustangs from Burns, Oregon’s BLM corrals. Burns houses 17 of Oregon’s 19 herds. We work closely with the excellent BLM team to locate Oregon Mustangs adoptive homes.

Horses are chosen by who?
Erica and Josh FitzGerald, our creators, come to Burns each year to pick up our program’s Mustangs. They closely collaborate with BLM officials to choose our programme horses. Because simply coloured brown and black horses are difficult to adopt, we picked them. Mustangs are assigned with trainers via lottery.

Do the adolescents need a location to train the Mustang or do you have a ranch? Are you housed? Does it cover board?
RM: To be recognised as a trainer in our programme, candidates must complete out a BLM adoption application and a Teens & Oregon Mustang application, which requires them to say they have BLM-required facilities for a wild mustang. Teens return their mustangs to authorised institutions or families. The FitzGerald Farm barn houses several trainers. Each trainer pays for summer mustang housing (board, feed, medication, etc.). Teens & Oregon Mustangs helps cover some expenditures. The Mustang Heritage Foundation pays $200 to its departments. Our Premier Sponsor Coastal Farm and Ranch gave all trainers a $200 gift card this year. Coastal has generously provided trainers with helmets, wormers, buckets, coats, brushes, halters, lead ropes, and more to assist cover expenses. They helped make this year the finest. The trainers received vouchers, a vest, and feed from Purina Feeds and Old Mill Feed & Garden. Many thanks to our fantastic sponsors!

Must adolescents have horse experience?
RM: No training experience is required, but youth must have horse experience. We feel this is crucial for trainer and horse safety. There are several horse experience questions in our trainer application.

Can adolescents retain their Mustangs or must they auction them?
RM: We love when trainers maintain their Mustangs! Our trainers adopted mustangs annually at 30%. Only the $25 BLM title transfer cost is due by the trainer. Our live auction after the tournament offers the other Mustangs for adoption. Each horse’s selling revenues go to the trainer less the $25 title fee. We established this chance to assist our trainers overcome summer expenditures.

What are some programme successes?
RM: Some good experiences came from our programme. Personal trainer experiences come first. Each year, programme trainers write to thank us for providing them the finest summer of their lives! Trainers develop commitment, devotion, patience, and love while improving horsemanship. We also help them improve their sales, public speaking, volunteering, and make lifelong connections with other trainers. Naturally, the Mustang follows. Over 150 wild mustangs have been adopted in the previous six years, and 34 more will be this summer. By demonstrating their trainability and loveability, we have helped mustangs who were selected last in the corrals because they weren’t showy. Our Mustangs qualify for State 4-H Fair each year and win medallions fighting against domestic horses.

How does this benefit wild horses?
RM: Our value is Public Awareness—Educate the public about Mustang horses, history, management, and natural resource management. We are raising awareness of the wild mustang overpopulation and showing that they are adaptable and faithful. A surprising amount of individuals are unaware that wild horses exist in the US, much alone their struggles. This programme should assist Mustangs find adopted homes and give them a voice.