Mustang Makeover: Family Edition

The Mustang Makeover welcomes horsemen to try their hand at gentling and training a wild mustang. Meet a mother and son team working towards the March Makeover in Oregon!

Mustang Makeover competitions play an essential role in taking mustangs from the holding pens and bringing them to the public. Trainers take horses straight from the wild and are given a few months to gentle and prepare their mustangs for competition. Trainers compete over the course of a few days in events ranging from obstacle courses to freestyles on their previously wild horses. At the end of the competition, horses are auctioned off to eligible adopters.

While the placement of the horses used in the competition is incredibly valuable, the most important aspect of these Mustang Makeover competitions is providing a platform to demonstrate just how trainable, athletic, and intelligent these horses are.

Jessica Bishop is not new to the mustang world. She has previously competed in two Mustang Makeovers and is an active participant in the BLM Trainer Incentive Program, helping to gentle horses in holding so that they can be adopted out to loving homes. It would be safe to say that she has a passion for mustangs.

She will be competing in yet another Mustang Makeover at the 2017 Northwest Horse Fair and Expo in Albany, Oregon, but this year is a little different, because she’s not the only Bishop competing. Her son, Joe, will also be competing in the teens in-hand yearling division. This particular makeover is sponsored by Teens & Oregon Mustangs, a group that focuses teaching teenagers important life skills through the training of wild horses. I thought it would be fun to catch this dynamic duo early in the gentling process and follow them along as the prepare for and compete in the Mustang Makeover at the end of March.

20170112_162605Jessica and the 3 year old Hershey. Photo by Biz Stamm

I went out one cold January afternoon to meet Jessica, her son, Joe, and the two mustangs they’re training for the challenge. Jessica’s mustang is a 3 year old pinto from the South Steens Herd Management Area (HMA) that she has named Hershey. He was incredibly difficult to handle in the holding area — so difficult that she was actually offered a redraw. Never one to turn down a challenge, Jessica decided to give him a shot.

The day I came out, he was wearing a halter, learning to lead, getting lots of pets, and starting see that people weren’t so bad after all. Because of his challenging nature, Jessica isn’t sure she’ll get him going under saddle by the time of the Makeover, but is just happy to give him the best start to domestic life she possibly can in the time she has him. Allowing Hershey to progress at his own pace is a true sign of Jessica’s experience and love of horses.

Joe’s horse, also from the South Steens HMA, is a buckskin yearling colt that he has named Apollo. While Apollo was clearly new to being handled, it was obvious that he and Joe had already started to form a strong partnership. “I can catch him in his stall!” Joe told me. Anyone that has ever worked with a wild mustang before can appreciate what a huge milestone that is.

It was really neat to see Joe’s enthusiasm for the Mustang Makeover challenge, and I expect his positive attitude will serve him well as he learns the ins and outs of training. When asked about his strategy for training Apollo, Joe told me he’d spend lots of time working on desensitizing as well as taking Apollo to some showmanship lessons to ensure a good in-hand foundation.


The adorable South Steens weanling, Apollo. Photo by Jessica Bishop.

It looks as though Jessica and Joe are off to a great start as they  prepare their mustangs for the March Makeover event. Jessica is a known talent in the area when it comes to training horses (and mules!), and it appears that Joe is following closely in her footsteps.

joe apollo 2

Nothing is cuter than a boy and his horse. Photo by Jessica Bishop

Competing in a Mustang Makeover is something that is on my bucket list. Jessica and Joe are proving to be quite inspirational, and I think I may find myself one step closer to actually signing up for one after documenting the process. If you’d like to follow Jessica and Joe on their mustang makeover journey you can follow them on their Facebook page. Until next time…

Go Jessica and Joe! And go riding.

Biz Stamm is a horse trainer/mad scientist who enjoys spending her free time running like a gentle breeze in the Oregon foothills.  Specializing in starting young horses under saddle at Stamm Sport Horse LLC, she brings the analytical approach she has acquired while working in laboratory to her training. She currently owns two horses: the Kalvin Cycle (Kalvin). a 10-year-old half-Arabian gelding, and DB’s Alpha Helix (Helix), a 5-year-old Kiger mustang gelding.  While she is currently pursuing competitive goals, her main goal is to enjoy her horses, and for her horses to enjoy her.

biz Helix

Photo courtesy of Biz Stamm

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