Oregon resident Tracy Schmidt maneuvered her mustang, California Queen – walking her, trotting her and brushing her to show Midwest Horse Fair Mustang Challenge judges just how domesticated the horse has become.
The pair finished in 12th place of 56 trainers in the overall challenge during the 40th annual Midwest Horse Fair, which took place from Friday, April 12, through Sunday, April 14.
According to a horse fair press release, the Mustang Challenge is a new addition to this year’s event. Fifty-six trainers, many from around the United States and Canada, were matched with wild mustangs and have been working with them since January “to allow the animal’s natural abilities to shine through,” the release states.
Though Cali wasn’t a top-10 finalist, Schmidt told the Observer she still did well.
Cali showed her stuff in a handling and conditioning, patterns and trails challenge, which all contributed to her ranking in the competition. The horse placed 22nd for the handling and conditioning competition, eighth for patterns and seventh for trails, she said.
Schmidt said handling and conditioning involved day-to-day activities like brushing the horse, leading her into a trailer, walking – the “simple things.”
The patterns challenge involved trotting the mustang, more walking, pivots and side-passing, which is the horse crossing its legs over to move sideways – “showmanship patterns” as Schmidt called them.
The trails challenge involved maneuvering the horse through paths made by obstacles, Schmidt said. One involved backing the horse up in an L-shaped trail made of poles the horse couldn’t hit.
Schmidt, who has been training mustangs since 2010, said the activity takes a lot of “time and patience.”
She said Cali was “flighty” at first. When the horse didn’t want to complete a task, she would run away from Schmidt.
And Schmidt said she thinks the number of people at the Midwest Horse Fair worried Cali. She attributed Cali’s placement in the handling and conditioning challenge to that fear.
The process of domestication is good for the mustangs, Schmidt said, and keeps the population down, since the horses have no natural predators in the wild.
Cali was captured in Wyoming in October 2017 as a 3-year-old mustang. But it’s to her benefit, Schmidt said, as Cali will soon be living with Schmidt’s cousin.
“More than 50 wild mustangs have found the fortune of a promising future in a qualified and caring home,” the horse fair release states.