Steve Bauhr: Mustang Makeover 3

June 10, 2009
Tonapah Ora had a hard time getting used to the saddle, but once Steve got on, he's done most of his riding in a hackamore and halter.
Tonapah Ora had a hard time getting used to the saddle, but once Steve got on, he's done most of his riding in a hackamore and halter.

The Extreme Mustang Makeover returns for its second year at the Western States Horse Expo in Sacramento, which will be held June 12 to 14. The Extreme Mustang Makeover will showcase 30 trainers who have each had just 90 days to gentle and train a mustang. The Extreme Mustang Makeover was created by the Mustang Heritage Foundation in cooperation with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The purpose of the event is to help bring recognition to the mustang and to show the public how trainable and versatile these horses are. For the past two months, we’ve been following along with Steve Bauhr as he works with his mustang, Tonopah Ora. What’s happened since then? Read below to find out. - Editor

Walking out to feed the other morning, I was greeted by our Mustang mare, Tonopah Ora. She was waiting for a rub on her forehead before I tossed in a flake of hay.

Just 50 days ago, I watched wranglers chase her into my trailer, wild, scared, and having no idea what lay ahead for her. It wasn’t that long ago that just opening the back door of the house was enough to send her racing to the corner of her paddock, scared to death.

We’re just past the half way mark in the Extreme Mustang Makeover. The challenge has been everything we thought it would be and then some. We now have some rides on our mare. She is able to stand tied, and we can handle her feet, pull on her tail, load her in the trailer, and give her a bath--well sort of! All in all she is doing wonderful.

Yet, only two weeks ago, we were still working hard for every thing she gave us. It seems as though she took a look around and decided no one here was going to hurt her. From that point on, we have really made some progress.

My training with her has remained the same as with most colts that we start. We work everyday on the boring foundational things: leading, standing to be groomed, handling the feet, and standing nice to be saddled. I’ve spent a lot of time handling her face, ears, and muzzle, which has been difficult.

In the round pen, it’s more foundational work, teaching her to move in a balanced way with the saddle, and preparing her to be balanced with a rider. She walks and trots nicely, but she really doesn’t know how to canter. It’s more of a dead run. Loping nice circles isn’t something they work on in the wild!

She had a hard time getting used to the saddle, with the noise it makes, stirrups banging on her, and the cinch. That slowed us up a bit, but once that looked good I got on. So far, every ride has been uneventful with her trying hard to do a good job carrying me around. I’ve done most the riding in a hackamore and halter. I’m just now starting to use a snaffle bit.

What’s next
The second half of our time with her we’ll do more riding and a lot of trailer time going to other ranches and facilities. I really don’t want the Expo to be her first trip to town. We’ll continue to help prepare her for our world, which includes fly spray, clippers, cleaning her nose out, and walking through a dark barn. We’re still working on that bath!

My thoughts
I feel the Mustang adoption program is a do-able venture for most anyone. I would recommend that your skill level and time available dictate the age of the horse you get. For most people, I would not recommend any horse over two years old. If your skill level is higher, and time is not an issue, the older horses can turn out wonderful, also.

We want to thank the folks at the Mustang Heritage Foundation for choosing us to compete. It’s been a great ride thus far. I also want to thank our sponsors, Scott Gulley Ferrier Service in Oakdale, Sweet River Equine Veterinary service in Modesto, and the Andastango Ranch in La Grange. A special thanks to Ride! Magazine for covering our progress and helping to raise interest in these wonderful horses! We look forward to the Expo in June. Please come by and meet us and Tonopah!