The Bishop Family Mustang Band

What’s better than training adopted mustangs? Training them with your whole family.

If there was ever an argument to be made that there might be a genetic component to horse addiction, the Bishop family would be used as exhibit A. Last year I told you about Jessica Bishop and her son, Joe, as they competed in the Teens and Oregon Mustang Makeover Challenge, a competition where participants are given 100 days to train a mustang for either in-hand, or under saddle classes. This year they’re at it again, and are being joined by Jessica’s oldest daughter, Shelby. People often say that three’s a crowd, but in this case, three Bishops seems just right. Earlier this week I made a visit to their farm to meet their 2018 makeover horses and talk to them about what it’s like competing as a family.

Jessica and Silver Bell

Jessica’s makeover horse, Bell, is a three-year-old gray filly from the Cold Springs Herd Management Area (HMA). While she has progressed quickly on many fronts, she is still a bit head shy on her left side near her brand and ear. She is very sweet, but a bit on the insecure side and needs to gain confidence from her handler.

While obviously Jessica wants to do well in the competition, her priority is giving the horses that come into her care a complete foundation so that any adopter with a certain level of experience is able to pick up where she has left off. She emphasized that the point of these types of events is to find lasting homes for these wonderful horses, and the best way to do that is to not leave any holes in their training. For that reason, she is taking her time with Bell, stating “We’ll be where we are training-wise by the time of the Makeover, and so long as Bell maintains her confidence, wherever that might be is fine.” This is a point she has strongly impressed upon her kids as well and it is evident in the approach they have taken with their Makeover horses.

Jessica Bishop sharing a sweet moment with her makeover horse, Bell. Photo courtesy of Bishop Family Mustang Makeover.

Shelby and Patsy Cline

Shelby’s makeover horse, Patsy, is a three-year-old roan filly from the South Steens HMA. Shelby, now 19 years old and competing as an adult for the first time, is no stranger to the Mustang Makeover. She bought the very first winning horse, and has has additionally brought three more yearlings through the program.

While this might be her first year competing in as an adult, something tells me she’s up to the task. Her 2018 horse, Patsy, is proving to be a quick learner. She was under saddle on day five, but after seeming to lose a little confidence Shelby decided to go back to basic groundwork to ensure a solid foundation. She has since resumed saddle training and her decision to temporarily go back to basics has clearly paid off. The day I met Patsy, I saw a relaxed, confident horse with clear trust in her handler. Patsy is also a lovely mover, so heads up to adopters looking for a dressage prospect!

Shelby told me her favorite part of the training process is when you got to start working on more nuanced aspects of saddle training like teaching the horses to bend and listen to your seat.

Shelby Bishop getting some snuggles from her makeover horse, Patsy Cline. Photo courtesy of Bishop Family Mustang Makeover.

Joe and Cupcake

Last year when I met a 12-year-old Joe, while he was clearly quite capable with horses, he was a bit shy with me and would frequently look to his mother when I asked him a question. This year Joe’s confidence had clearly grown by leaps and bounds. He immediately started filling me in on all the work he has been doing with his 2018 makeover horse, a Cold Springs yearling filly he has named Cupcake.

Unlike his mother and sister’s horses, Cupcake arrived at their farm with confidence in spades. It could probably be argued that she was a bit too confident. As a result Joe had to take time establishing clear boundaries and showing Cupcake how much fun the two of them could have when they worked with each other  opposed to against each other. When asked what his favorite aspect of the Makeover was, Joe responded that he really loved just bonding with each new horse. “It’s like getting a new friend,” he said.  “It’s sad when you have to say goodbye, but we know we’re helping them find good homes, so that helps.”

Joe Bishop and his makeover horse, Cupcake, during a work session. Photo courtesy of Bishop Family Mustang Makeover.

Family Support and Encouragement

Jessica Bishop clearly has a way with horses, and it’s obvious to anyone who sets foot on her farm that she takes immense joy sharing her knowledge with her children. When asked what she liked most about participating in the Makeover as a family, she replied “my favorite part is seeing the kids shine and knowing that I’ve been able to pass on something useful to them — not in just training horses, but every aspect of it. From start to finish, they are getting lessons and skills that will make them better humans!”

The Bishop family and their Makeover horses. Photo by Biz Stamm.

You can catch Jessica, Shelby and Joe at the Teens and Oregon Mustang Makeover competition at the Northwest Horse Fair and Expo  March 23-25. I’ll be there cheering them on for sure!

Go mustangs!

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