(please see Important Trouper Update at the end!)
In 2007, the Mustang Heritage Foundation created the Extreme Mustang Makeover to increase the adoption of mustangs across the country and to showcase the recognized value of mustangs through a national training competition. They choose 100 trainers and place them each with a wild mustang and give them nearly 100 days to gentle and train them before competing with all of the other trainers. On the third day of the competition, all of the mustangs are adopted out to the highest bidder. The Extreme Mustang Makeover has placed thousands of Mustangs into homes just since September 2007.
It was actually the Extreme Mustang Makeover that brought Trouper and I together. My family and I attended the very first Extreme Mustang Makeover in Fort Worth, TX in 2007. We went to support a friend and fellow horse trainer from California, but we met so many wonderful trainers while we were there. It inspired me to work with a wild mustang. I had worked with mustangs before, but never a wild mustang. I had only taken mustangs that had already been gentled.
Before I could even apply to be a trainer, I had to prove that I had a “mustang friendly” facility. That meant a holding area with at least 6 foot high fencing with no barbed wire, a shelter from the wind and rain and a round pen or training area that was also 6 foot high.
We didn’t have the money to buy all of the materials that we needed to make our facility more mustang friendly, but people started donating lumber, plywood, sheets of tin and money to go towards building supplies. My husband worked late into the night many times to get everything safe and sturdy enough for a wild mustang.
Less than a week before I turned in my application for the Extreme Mustang Makeover, I was put in ICU with a heart arrhythmia known as Atrial Fibrillation. I’d had spells before, but this time, my heart wouldn’t convert back into sinus rhythm on its own. They were about to administer electric shock, when the medicines finally worked.
When I left the hospital, I was given medicines to keep my heart in rhythm and I quickly sent in my application for the Makeover just before the deadline. Little did I know that the medicine wouldn’t work and that I would end up in the hospital again before I was to pick up my mustang.
I ended up needing surgery to correct my arrhythmia and on July 13th, 2009, just five days before I picked up my mustang, I had a Cardiac Ablation. Dr Troup and Dr Smith from Trinity Medical Center performed my procedure. Dr Troup is the one that rushed the surgery to get it done before I was due to pick up my mustang.
When I arrived at Cross Plains, TN at Carr’s Wild Horse & Burro Center, I was given a brief description of my mustang and a number that I would find tagged and hanging around his neck. I rushed out to the holding areas to see which mustang I had been randomly assigned to. When I realized that my mustang stood head and shoulders above the rest, I was thrilled. I decided then to name him Trouper, after Dr Troup who helped make it possible for me to be there that day.
My husband was very concerned about the size of this horse. He was not the average Mustang! He stood at 15.3 hands high and a good 1000lbs! He looked like a giant next to the 14 hand high mustangs that stood around him. My husband looked at me and said, “Our pen will never hold this horse!” He tried to talk me into asking them to assign me another, smaller horse, but I refused.
On the way home, my husband reminded me that I shouldn’t get attached to Trouper because he would get adopted out after the competition like all of the other horses and that we couldn’t afford another horse. I agreed.
When I got Trouper home, I had to take things very slow as I was still healing and regaining my strength from my heart procedure. I spent days just walking around in Trouper’s pen and talking and singing to him. He actually walked up to me on the first day and sniffed my hand! That was such an amazing feeling!
Within the first week, I was able to pet Trouper on the shoulder and feed him hay out of my hand! He was even eating hay out of our 2yr old daughter’s hand! On the second week, I was able to get a rope around his neck and take the ID tag off of him. When I removed his ID tag, it was a very emotional moment. Until I brought Trouper home with me, he was known as 2287, but on the 11th day of training, when I removed his ID tad, it was as if he wasn’t a wild horse anymore.
Towards the end of the second week, my husband said to me, “You know we are going to have to find away to bring Trouper home, don’t you?” Those were the words I wanted to hear! I had promised myself that I wasn’t going to get attached and this was just another horse that I was training, but it was just impossible! He said, “I’ve seen the way that horse looks at you! I just can’t stand the thought of him going to someone else that might not understand him the way you do.”
Then, not only was I concentrating on training a wild horse, but also about how to come up with the funds to bid on him after the competition.
I quickly put my horse up for sale to pay on medical bills and make room for another horse. I also had a yard sale and tack sale to raise money. There were a people that donated money towards the “Bring Trouper Home Fund” and some who donated tack and other things for the yard sale.
Meanwhile, Trouper and I were still getting more attached by the day. I started riding him on the 5th week and on day 38, I put our 2yr old daughter up on his back! On the 41st day, I rode him out of the riding pen for the first time and there was no stopping us after that.
Well, except for the rain! There were many days that I could not even get Trouper out of his pen because of the rain and mud. I lost allot of training time with him and the competition was creeping up on us quickly. When I arrived with Trouper at the competition in Murfreesboro, TN in Oct, I had not even brushed Trouper in over 2 weeks!
Luckily, the slow start that Trouper and I had paid off and formed a more solid foundation. Trouper did great, despite my nerves. We tied for 1st place in the body conditioning score, took 5th place in the In-Hand Competition and 17th in the Riding competition placing us 12th overall in the Idols Category, which was just shy of the Top 10 placing required to compete in the Freestyles Finals.
After the competition was over, I realized that I was more nervous about the auction then the actual competition. My goals were to place 17th or better overall and bring Trouper home! The most important goal was yet to be reached.
Before the competition, all of the trainers were told about the Dawn Lappin Trainer Assistant Fund. We were asked to write an essay telling why we wanted to keep your mustang, what our plans would be with them and why we needed help funding our purchase. We were told they would pick up to 5 of us and grant each one up to $500 to go towards the purchase of our mustangs.
In our trainer’s meeting before the competition, they announced the winners of the grant. I listened patiently as they called the first 4 names out, awarding them amounts from $200-$500. Then, they said that they were doing something different this time. They said that they had an application that had touched them so much, that they decided to raise the amount to $800. Then, they called out my name! First, I screamed, then I busted into tears! I was too choked up to speak, but I quietly thanked God for making this possible.
Turns out, it was JUST the amount that we needed to add to the money I had already raised and be the highest bidder on Trouper! The moment the announcer said, “This horse is going home with his trainer” I felt the greatest weight lifted off my chest. What a magical moment that was.
Trouper now lives in our pasture with our other horses and is just one of the family now. Since the Extreme Mustang Makeover, Trouper has been asked to be the official mascot for Northeast Alabama Community College. Trouper enjoys visiting the campus and other various parades and events. I think he knows he has a special connection with the college. The students love seeing him there, also.
Working with a wild mustang has been one of the most rewarding challenges in my life. It’s amazing to think how a wild, untouched horse that had so recently ran free in Nevada is now such a willing partner. It didn’t happen over night. I had to build a solid foundation and not give up when things seemed hard. Many days, it would have been easy to say that I was just too tired or that I didn’t feel like working with Trouper, but it’s important to not give up just because things are difficult. All through our lives we’ll be faced with difficult situations, but we must overcome them. Triumph over tribulations makes the victory even sweeter.
Like the mustang, we also need guidance in our lives and we have to be willing to except that guidance. It is also important for us to have a strong foundation, such as a good education. We need to always have a desire to better ourselves.
There will be days when things just seem too hard, but that is when you need to try even harder! You may even find yourself wanting to quit, but you just have to push yourself and never give up on your goals. You will look back at your life one day and be so proud of yourself for sticking with it and triumphing over your tribulations!
Mustangs are such amazing creatures. We must remember that like the Mustang, we too can be living legends!
Important Trouper Update!!!
On March 1st, 2012, Amber and her family relocated to South Africa. Amber's husband, Jamie, is from South Africa and his whole family live there. Jamie came together with his brother's and joined the family construction business, Mathewson Group Construction.
When Amber and her family moved, they sold everything they owned except some clothes, their saddles, some tack and Trouper! Trouper is currently living at Amber's parent's farm, but Amber is missing Trouper so much and is trying to raise the money to have Trouper brought to South Africa to be reunited with her again. There are a few really great places just minutes from Amber and Jamie's house where Trouper could stay and there are lots of trails, arenas and riding areas!
Trouper is in great hands with Amber's parents, but they have noted him standing and staring off into the distance, as if he is looking for something. Amber is also longing to have Trouper back with her again.
There has been a fund raiser set up online to raise the money to have Trouper imported to South Africa. The goal set would cover the cost of transporting Trouper from Atlanta, GA to Johannesburg, South Africa and then to his quarantine destination. It would also cover his quarantine period. There will still be other costs outside of this goal, but reaching this goal would make the whole process possible.
If you would like to make a donation to help reunite Trouper and Amber, you can do so below. Please remember that $10 can make a HUGE difference!!!
Even if you can't give, please spread the word. You can find this info on Trouper's FB page as well. (see link to Trouper's page at the bottom of this page)
We are going to try to have the money raised by June 12, 2013!!!
You can donate by clicking here: http://trouperthemustang.chipin.com
Trouper the Mustang is proud to endorse
Trouper enjoying his Redmond Rock
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