The Mustang Million finals in Fort Worth

Back in 2010, a good friend of ours had adopted a wild mustang and trained it in connection with the “Extreme Mustang Makeover,” sponsored by the Mustang Heritage Foundation. The makeover program gives owners and trainers just 120 days to train a mustang before the competition. We thought our friend’s beautiful horse did remarkably well that year, especially considering that the trainer had broken a limb during training when he was kicked by another horse. Anyway, we attended the finals in Fort Worth and enjoyed it thoroughly. So we were eager to attend again this year when she reminded us about it.

We arrived in the afternoon and spent a little time browsing around in the stalls near the Will Rogers Coliseum.

While we were knocking around in the stables we had a chance to talk to one of the competitors, young Jordan Donnelly from Nevada, who was riding her horse Mercedes a couple hours later. She is a remarkable equestrienne, finishing seventh overall against some extraordinary competition. Keep an eye on this girl in the future.

Jordan Donnelly on Mercedes: They finished seventh overall, a remarkable showing for a nineteen-year old girl and a horse that first felt the saddle on its back just 120 days earlier.

Most of the riders tried to show that their horses had learned to trust them, by getting the horses to do things that, well, normally sane horses would be reluctant to do, like walking across a see-saw (see photo above) or jumping through a big, wet hole in a set in the arena (next photo).

That was Bobby Kerr on Trigger; they came in second overall.

The riders also asked their horses to demonstrate remarkable poise and control, as in this lovely moment on a platform.

And some of the contestants took “artistic expression” pretty literally and got quite creative in their routines, like this rider and horse, Dan James on Smart Little Mustang, who came in fourth and won the Crowd Favorite award. Like 99% of the population, I didn’t see The Lone Ranger, but I still found this presentation exciting and fun to watch.

The twenty-finalists all took home cash prizes, with $200,000 going to the grand prize winner. A total of $1 million in prize money was awarded, hence the name “Mustang Million.” Last time we went (in 2010) it was a much smaller affair. Glad to see it’s growing in popularity and support.

The grand prize winners, Tom Hagwood and his horse Merv (seriously, the horse’s name is Merv) did not give the most imaginative routine. But they did give a beautiful and very impressive routine, in which Merv helped Hagwood rope a calf. I gather that this is like passing a grad school exam for a western horse. It was thrilling to watch.

Our friend is gearing up to compete again next year or year after. I’m looking forward to it already.

You can see these and more photos on my Flickr site, here. Last time I was shooting for a newspaper in east Texas but this time I was shooting for myself which is why these pics are at Flickr rather than And be sure to click over to the web site of the Mustang Heritage Foundation. They working hard to preserve an important part of our American heritage.


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