If you love horses and want to help the local ecosystem, then the Meeker Mustang Makeover is for you.
The third annual event that showcases and auctions wild horses is on Aug. 28.
Applications to be a trainer for the Meeker Mustang Makeover are open until April 1. Trainers will look after 3-year-old wild horses or yearlings (1-year-old horses) and get them ready for the competition and auction.
“It’s not easy,” said Deirdre Macnab, a rancher who is also a spokesperson for the event. “A lot of these horses are untouched by human hands.”
Event organizers, all of whom are volunteers, are looking for trainers for 20 wild horses from the region. They will be given 120 days to coach the horses.
People of any age can ride the 3-year-old horses in a saddle competition.
People 18 years old and younger can guide yearlings in halter competitions.
And new to the event is another halter competition with yearlings for people aged 60 years and older.
An $8,000 prize awaits the winner of the saddle competition, while scholarship money is available for the youth yearling competition.
Trainers receive half of the proceeds from their horse’s sale. Last year, the highest selling 3-year-old horse brought $4,500, and $900 to 1,000 for a yearling, Macnab said.
But if the trainers decide to adopt the horse, they can be awarded up to $1,000 through the Bureau of Land Management’s Adoption Incentive Program.
“Our goal is to find the best possible forever home for these horses,” Macnab said.
It’s a tall order, but it can be worth it.
The end result is robust mustangs maneuvering through obstacle courses, riders and trainers taming nature, and ensuring that an ecosystem is intact.
The BLM is tasked with controlling the local wild horse population. But doing so is difficult and costly to taxpayers. Horses breed frequently, so overpopulation is often an issue, Macnab said.
“The herd size tends to double every four years,” Macnab said.
The Meeker Mustang Makeover alleviates that burden, finds good homes for the horses, and gives people hands-on experience in training and riding.
The rising populations also carry the risk of inbreeding, Macnab said.
“It’s a good marriage of educating people and providing practical solutions,” she said.
The competitions and auctions can be viewed online or in person at the Rio Blanco County Fairgrounds, 835 Sulphur Creek Road.
Entry will be free for children 12 years old and under, and will cost $5 for everyone else.
For information and trainer applications, visit meekermustangmakeover.org.