From wild to mild, the taming of wild mustangs

The Extreme Mustang Makeover is a competition for those who love horses and crave the challenge of training the really wild ones that roam freely in government owned land in California, Wyoming and Nevada. Those who enter are given a mustang owned by the US government and their task is to train it within three months, so someone would be interested in owning it.

Right here in the Heartland, two Seymour natives signed up for the challenge.

"I couldn't touch him for the first week, but once I came up to an obstacle or anything, she's pretty willing," said Abby Brown. "You just have to show her first and then she'll go over it. And if you give her a day or so to think over it, she'll be perfect with it the next day."

"He was wild as a deer when they unloaded him," said Cody Keller. "He came flying out of the trailer and he was pretty wild; I knew I had my hands full. I just worked slowly with him, building his confidence slowly, and then as time went on, I was able to do more and more."

Abby Brown is a cheerleader. She also plays sports like softball. But her true passion, that she found just four years ago, is taking care of horses. Her trainer, Cody Keller, owns Keller Horsemanship, and has built his life around training horses. But, he said taming mustangs is a lot of work and sometimes painful.

"I got several scars on my back from being bit by him. They can be pretty severe; sometimes I need stitches, and sometimes it takes the skin off."

Both said they have strategies to get their bays to behave.

"Grooming everyday makes them think like 'hey, that feels good..I'm going to trust you," said Brown.

"I always said I got to get the trust first before I can move on," said Keller. "Once I kind of got his trust going on, then I could kind of go further with training."

Their strategies will come in handy during the competition, where they will go up against dozens of others from around the country, brave enough to train wild mustangs. All will fight for thousands of dollars in prize money. The competition involves showcasing the physical condition of the mustangs, as well as doing in-hand obstacles.

Brown told us what she thinks will be her winning routine.

"I have jumps, stairs, I'll fire a gun and then, I have a small trailer that will be pulled by a 4-wheeler with me and her on it. I'm doing all Elvis songs. She has a cape and an Elvis wig."

They've taken these mustangs from the wild and tamed them in 90 days, and now, even the kids can play with them.

"This one is really kid friendly. The trainer's kids here play with her all the time and she's just fine with them," said Niki Jones, the mother of Abby Brown.

The competition takes place Oct. 21-23. It's sponsored by the Mustang Heritage Foundation and the Bureau of Land Management. It provides a creative way for the bureau to reduce the estimated 30,000 mustangs that roam freely on government land to a controllable number. After the competition, the newly trained mustangs are auctioned off into the hands of new owners.

For more information, head to the Extreme Mustang Makeover website.

Update: Sunday, October 23, 2011

Abby Brown took 1st place in the yearling youth Extreme Mustang Makeover.