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Sun, Oct. 20

'Mustang Makeover' gives girl 100 days to train yearling

Bella Lockhart gains the trust of her wild mustang and has less than 100 days to train the filly to compete in the Mustang Heritage Foundation sponsored contest through the BLM.<br>
Trib Photo/Briana Lonas

Bella Lockhart gains the trust of her wild mustang and has less than 100 days to train the filly to compete in the Mustang Heritage Foundation sponsored contest through the BLM.<br> Trib Photo/Briana Lonas

Bella Lockhart's family could keep a secret only for so long. The day before Valentine's Day, news broke in the household that the 11-year-old Acorn Montessori student won the Extreme Mustang Makeover contest, a horse training competition that involves wild horses straight from the Bureau of Land Management.

The family drove to California to choose a yearling filly. Now, Lockhart has less than 100 days to gentle the wild animal and compete in a series of exercises that will showcase the horse's new skills. Girls and horse will compete in handling and conditioning, leading trail and a freestyle class.

Lockhart said it's hard to sleep at night; sometimes she wants to sleep with her horse that she's been working with for a little more than two weeks. "Miss Arizona," now nuzzles her young trainer but still spooks at many things.

"I would sit by the feed bucket and wait until she came over to eat. Then I began touching her face a little," Lockhart explained as part of the first steps towards building trust with her horse. Lockhart can place a halter around the filly's neck but still must work out some confidence issues the young horse has when being led in the round pen.

Lockhart has been involved with 4H and has competed with her own horses, but training a wild horse is a huge job.

"It's a little scary," she admitted. She has viewed many training videos and is aware of how unpredictable wild horses can be.

"She is not ours right now, we will adopt her after the competition," Lockhart said and in a few years, the young trainer will begin the process of riding the filly.

The desire to participate in the Mustang contest began when she watched a film with her parents titled, "Wild Horse, Wild Ride," that captured the spirit of adopting wild, unbroken horses. The family researched the BLM program and filled out an application for the makeover contest.

Lockhart said she recommends the BLM adoption program. "This is an awesome facility, they are doing this for a great, great cause. The Mustang Heritage Foundation is amazing. They are doing this for the mustangs," she said.

During spring break, she hopes to make more progress. "I think of this as a game. I have 100 days to do this and I'm among friends."

The Mustang Heritage Foundation, in cooperation with the BLM, created the Extreme Mustang Makeover contest to raise awareness about the wild horse adoptions and show the beauty, versatility and trainability of these animals, according to its Web site. The BLM protects, manages, and controls wild horses and burros under the authority of the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971.

The contest takes place in Norco, Calif. on May 16-17.

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