Taming a Wild One: Nikon’s Story
Ok, ok–so I’ve missed a couple of months with my ‘Naturally Healthy Horse of the Month’, but I’ve found a great horse to feature for October! I’d like you to meet, Nikon, a two-year-old BLM Mustang who was adopted by sixteen-year-old Courtney Duclos.
Courtney first met Nikon when the yearling gelding was assigned to her in the 2014 Youth Extreme Mustang Makeover Challenge held in Orange, Massachusetts. Like the Adult Extreme Mustang Makeover Challenges, the Youth challenges are designed to facilitate successful adoptions of wild mustangs. The youth are given younger horses, though and are not allowed to ride them in the competition.
On March 15th, Courtney and her family arrived to meet and pick up her horse for the competition-then known only as Mustang #5988. She learned that all of the mustangs for the competition had come from a BLM holding facility in Oklahoma and that this particular horse’s original herd was from New Mexico.
“All the competitors randomly get assigned a horse–there is no choosing which one you get,” said Courtney. “The first time I got to see him, he came up to me and nudged me through the bars of the windows on the trailer. Everyone was in shock because none of the other horses were brave enough to go near their trainers for a little while.”
After the two-hour drive back to Courtney’s house, Nikon was unloaded into a paddock where he would remain until he was tamed. The pair would have 90 days in which to prepare for the competition.
Nikon, who’d likely had no human interaction before being shipped to Massachussets, surprised Courtney by how willing he was. The first day, she was able to touch his nose and he ate a small amount of food from her hand. By the second day, she was able to put a halter on him. Then, as the week progressed, she could touch his entire body without any problems. She began taking him on walks around the neighborhood.
“I could not have been happier that I had gotten this mustang because there were still other competitors that couldn’t get a halter on their horse until one-third and even half way through the 90 day training,” she said.
Courtney did much of Nikon’s training at liberty (no halter or lead rope), but also taught him to ground drive and pull objects such as a tire. She also taught him to do several tricks.
The actual competition was held June 14-15 of this year. There were three main events: handling and conditioning, a trail course, and a freestyle event, in which the trainer/ horse duo does a performance set to music. Unlike many of the competitors, Courtney and Nikon did several of their classes at liberty.
They were awarded 3rd place in the freestyle event (which they performed to Enigma’s Return to Innocence) and 4th place in the overall competition.
After the competition, some of the horses, including Nikon, were scheduled to be auctioned off.
“I had no plans of keeping Nikon after the competition was done but once it was time for him to go, there was no way I could say good-bye to him,” said Courtney.
An hour before the auction, Courtney’s dad became a registered bidder so he could bid on Nikon. Out of 12 horses in the auction, Nikon went for the most amount of money at $700 and Courtney was able to take him home.
Courtney is currently continuing Nikon’s training back at home. She continues to work on ground driving in hopes of teaching him to pull a cart and also so she can show him in the driving division next year. She doesn’t plan on riding him for another year or two so that “his whole skeleton can fully grow.”
Wow! I don’t know about you, but I am very impressed with both Courtney and Nikon. He was certainly fortunate to end up with such a caring young lady. We wish this duo nothing but the best!
If you’d like to learn more about the Mustang Heritage Foundation and/or the Extreme Mustang Makeover Challenges, please visit their website.
You can also like Courtney’s Facebook page which she keeps updated with Nikon’s progress.