Wild horses and trainers show off the gentled side in an annual Fort Worth, Texas, competition.
Photography: Bureau of Land Management
The bond between horse and trainer can be as strong as the one between dog and master — even when the animal is a mustang 100 days off the Bureau of Land Management range. The Mustang Heritage Foundation’s Mustang Million, a September 16 – 22 competition at Will Rogers Memorial Center in Fort Worth, Texas, is proof of that. Established in 2007 as the Extreme Mustang Makeover, the event has been rechristened to reflect the cash and prizes on the line ($1 million) and the increased number of entrants (450), the most in its history.
Participants and their gentled partners will go for broke in one of three divisions — Legends, Specialty, or Youth — but only the top 10 youth riders and the top 20 Legends riders will make it to the finals on the last two days of Mustang Million. Particularly exciting is the Specialty class, discipline-specific contests that include trail work, hunter hack, dressage, and cow work, not to mention a $150,000 total purse for competitors.
Event director Randi Blasienz describes the Specialty class as a space for creativity and for inclusiveness. “It allows us to welcome everyone, to showcase a great span of skill sets. It’s full of surprises.”
Bobby Kerr, last year’s Legends champion and fan favorite, calls Mustang Million life changing. “I was driving trucks before Mustang Million. Now my previous acts have become rodeo acts for me,” Kerr told Cowboys & Indians during a phone interview from his workshop. “I’m tweaking my props for this year’s show right as we speak.”
While he wouldn’t offer any hints about what we can expect from him at Mustang Million, Kerr (pictured below), who has been training horses for 40 years and co-founded the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame, did explain that he thinks of the Wild West shows of his youth when planning routines.
Photography: Mustang Heritage Foundation
Kerr’s act in the Legends division could land him $200,000 and a Dodge Ram truck, if he places first in horsemanship, pattern class, riding trail, and the compulsory and freestyle finals. The youth champion will receive $10,000 after showing off excellent horsemanship, pattern class, riding trail skill through the finals.
Who will ride to the championship? That’s anyone’s guess. But he or she like all the participants will enjoy their time in the ring. “To see what people can do with a mustang in 100 days is really amazing,” says Blazins. “Once the competitors realize how fulfilling and fun it is, they come back for more.”
Kerr agrees. “I’m having a blast. They couldn’t keep me away.”
To learn more about Mustang Million and to purchase tickets to the finals, visit www.mustangmillion.com.