Extreme Mustang Makeover-VA

The long awaited Extreme Mustang Makeover finally occurred this weekend, and it was such a great experience. Everyone was really friendly and the trainers were very complimentary of one another and helpful. It was A’s first year participating, and to be honest, we had a lot of questions. Some of the answers we got were…misleading… For example, (spoiler alert) once she made the top ten, we started asking around how the final two events, compulsory movements and freestyle were run. We were given the impression (by show management, not the other trainers) that you did your compulsory movements test (kind of like a reining pattern) then there was a four minute break for your props to be set up in the ring and then you’d go back in and do your freestyle. Since A planned on riding in compulsory and driving in the beginning of her freestyle, this stressed us out. A lot. It meant that we had FOUR minutes to set up the ring and switch Piper from saddled to harnessed. A’s husband grabbed the father of one of her lesson students to help him set up the barrels for the freestyle while I was in charge of heading Piper while A harnessed and hitched her. Well, A was second in the draw to go, so imagine our surprise when we’re going over her pattern for compulsory while the first draw is in the ring, then they call her to get on deck before the draw one guy was finished with his compulsory movements. This arrangement of doing all the compulsory tests THEN all the freestyles made infinitely more sense…it just would’ve been nice to know that before we got all stressed out about our four minute tack change/setup time and wasted time planning that could’ve been more well spent on memorizing the pattern…

But I digress! The competition went well. A and Piper did well in the handling and conditioning class on Thursday when I wasn’t there. Basically you turned the mustang loose in the round pen, exited, waited, entered the round pen and caught the mustang. You then lead it out, brushed it, trotted it forward to the next marker, left it to ground tie while you picked up all four feet (ground tying in a coliseum full of noisy people is not easy for the record…this comes into play again in the freestyle), then you loaded it onto a trailer. I think she placed like 7th or 8th in this because Piper thought the cone looked like it would be fun to play with when A was picking up her hind feet and stepped off from being ground tied to snoodle it.

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Mustang Maneuvers was interesting. Basically it was a simple pattern that you rode the mustang through to demonstrate it’s gaits. Piper did well in the class, but was either 7th or 8th again. The horse that won the class got the wrong lead on her right lead canter. Apparently the rules for the class didn’t specify which lead the horse had to be on going that direction. I was not amused. This was a theme with my opinion of the judging for the weekend if you’re wondering…

Trail was where we knew Piper’s strengths lay. While A hadn’t pushed Piper to go in frame much over the duration of her training, she had shown her every obstacle that she could find or build. For instance: click here. Trail went fabulously and Piper’s biggest “mistake” was tripping over a ground pole. The judges gave her 2.5 and 2 out of 5 points for tripping. She was easily one of the most willing, if not the most willing in the trail course. We had to wait until Friday to hear the judges results for trail because otherwise we would’ve been able to do the math and figure out the Top Ten finalists before the big reveal the next day.

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I bet the other mustangs hadn’t seen fire. 🙂 

On Saturday it was revealed that Piper had won 4th place in the trail class and that they were in the Top Ten, which meant that they had to prepare for the compulsory pattern and the freestyle. Cue the stress. So the announcement about who made Top Ten was at noon. They did some awards, then they required the Top Ten finalists to come to a mandatory meeting in the show office, which took forever (especially considering that it was lunch time and we were kind of starving). So A’s husband and I stood in the air conditioning outside the show office until the meeting was finally over, then we went back to the barn to eat pizza. As we’re trying to eat, potential buyers (or adopters if you want to be BLM politically correct) came by to ask questions about Piper and, while we appreciated the interest, it ate up a lot of time. We wanted to get Piper out and run through the compulsory pattern/practice for the freestyle, but the next thing we know it is almost three p.m. and apparently there is a mandatory meet and greet that we have to take Piper to first. That killed almost another whole hour or so of prep time.

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Showing her off to potential adopters at a meet and greet. 

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Backflips!

We ended up getting back from that and immediately began prepping the cart and pulling out the barrels/jump to practice with the driving bridle that has blinders on it since we knew there wouldn’t be enough time to switch bridles during the freestyle. Piper had never been ridden with the blinders, much less took over a jump while wearing them. Of course, being Piper, she was great. We got her back to the barn, hosed off, spoke to yet more potential buyers/adopters, tacked her up and went to the competition. (Refer back to the first paragraph about the confusion about how this part of the competition is run…) A and Piper did really well in the compulsory test minus when A started to pivot her the same way the second time then corrected it. Piper did miss her lead in the simple change, but she picked it up fine the second time A asked. I think considering how stressful and confusing this part of the competition was, she did great.

The freestyle was next and we switched Piper into her harness and hitched her in plenty of time. The men set up the barrels while we waited. The game plan was that A was going to drive Piper in until a certain point in the music, then unhook her, swing on bareback and jump the barrels. The plan was great, the 3.5 minute time allowance not so much. The crowd went WILD when she drove Piper in with the train cut outs on the side of the cart and the room was teeming with energy. So naturally Piper wanted to keep going instead of ground tying while A unhooked her. Unfortunately with the time restraints, A was unable to get on in time to take her over any of the jumps. She basically ended up swinging on in time to lope out of the arena.

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My videos from the event: click here.

Overall, A and Piper placed 8th for the competition and won $1000. At the adoption event/auction, A ended up bidding on and winning Piper for $2100, which she only had to pay half of since she was the trainer. So Piper got to come home with A and will continue to be in our lives. She’s really a great little horse, and I can’t fathom how much she’ll improve going forward after this event.