2018 Texas Extreme Mustang Makeover Champion earns $50,000 check in Fort Worth

With record-breaking attendance at the Top 10 Freestyle Finals, this Extreme Mustang Makeover was one for the ages. With approximately 100 days of bonding, gentling and natural horsemanship, mustangs and their trainers headed to Fort Worth, Texas, for the 2018 Texas Extreme Mustang Makeover for the chance to win $50,000. The event was held Sept. 6 to 8 and brought together 61 talented adult competitors and 25 skilled youth trainers.

With the most attendance since Mustang Million in 2013, Nate Eicher and Heza Mercedes gave it all they had during the Freestyle Finals to capture the Championship and a $50,000 purse. Although he was tied for second going into the finals, each competitor is given a clean slate for their freestyle performance.

Eicher performed an entertaining freestyle where he showcased his horses’ skills by two tracking both ways at a trot, along with performing a few sliding stops and many other maneuvers. He also made sure to throw in a few fun tricks. The crowd especially seemed to enjoy when he sat Heza Mercedes down in an outhouse and then, after standing, he pretended to play the fiddle while standing and dancing on his calm mustang’s back.

“This experience has been very unique compared to the others,” said Nate Eicher, of Weatherford, Texas. “I knew from the fourth day that I was working with Heza Mercedes that he was going to be special. It’s been a great, rewarding journey. The competition was stiff with so many great trainers and I am just blessed to have been in the Top 10 and get the Championship.”

Each competitor creates and prepares for their freestyles differently. Some contestants know what they want to do before they get their mustang, while others gradually put things together. Eicher evaluated his mustang’s strengths and then came up with a comical freestyle performance.

“About two months ago I started coming up with the freestyle,” said Eicher. “I had the buggy at home and I’ve been wanting to use it, but the chance never seemed right. I knew Heza Mercedes was quiet enough, so we worked that in. Early on I taught him how to sit, so then the rest was just trying to figure out how to put it all together.”

Eicher garnered a $50,000 check, a Cut Above belt buckle, a Martin Saddle, a Best Ever Custom Saddle Pad certificate, an NRS Jacket, Classic Equine Sheets and a Kimes Ranch Jeans duffle bag for his championship.

All adult horses were available for purchase via public competitive bid. All 61 adult horses were placed into adoptive homes for an average price of $3,500, with the highest selling mustang going for $18,000. Complete event and sales results can be viewed at mustangheritagefoundation.org.

Christopher Trapp, of Carlton, Oregon, didn’t let the first-time nerves or vibrant atmosphere get in the way of earning the Youth Championship with his mustang, Watson. The duo was sitting in the number one spot going into the finals, but anything could happen. Luckily, they kept their cool and completed the event at the top.

“I’m just really excited,” said 17-year-old, Trapp. “It’s been such a great experience. Getting Watson ready for this competition has been really fun. We traveled 2,300 miles to get here and he really did great.”

Although Trapp has been working with Watson for roughly 100 days, he admits that the mustang has not always been easy and willing to work with. It wasn’t until something finally clicked with Watson, and then everything changed.

“He started out as a fighter and he didn’t want anything to do with people,” said Trapp. “Then things changed about a month and a half ago. He turned a corner and now he loves people. Once and a while he can get a little scared, but he has come such a long way.”

As for the future of this dynamic duo, Trapp looks forward to working with Watson and one day getting to ride him.

“I’m excited to keep him,” said Trapp. “This winter he will be on light work since we have pretty wet winters. But I want to teach him to bow and lay down, and then eventually get him under saddle so I can ride. He’s really athletic so I am excited to see how it all goes.”

Trapp took home a $3,000 check, a Cut Above belt buckle and a Resistol Hat certificate.

The mustangs that competed in the Extreme Mustang Makeover for adults were wild mares and geldings 3-6 years old that have been living in Bureau of Land Management (BLM) off-range corrals. Youth trainers worked with yearling mares and geldings for the competition and are randomly paired with their mustang approximately 100 days prior to the competition.

At the competition, the horse-and-rider duos compete in a handling and conditioning class, a pattern class and a trail class. The Top 10 adult competitors then compete in a Freestyle Finals performance, and all youth perform freestyle as well.

Presenting sponsors for the 2018 Extreme Mustang Makeover in Fort Worth, Texas, were the Mustang Heritage Foundation, the Weisberg Family Foundation and Western Horseman. The event was also made possible through a partnership with the Bureau of Land Management.

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The dates for the 2019 Extreme Mustang Makeover’s have not been released, however the cities are as follows: Ocala, Florida, Lexington, Kentucky, Fort Worth, Texas, and Los Angeles, California. Visit our website for the release of the 2019 dates at https://extrememustangmakeover.com/.

About the Mustang Heritage Foundation

The primary mission of the Mustang Heritage Foundation is to create and promote programs and activities that provide information and education about wild horses and burros, elevate their image and desirability, provide opportunities to become involved in the wild horse and burro experience and secure adequate numbers of caring homes for excess horses. Working in partnership with the Bureau of Land Management the Mustang Heritage Foundation works to ensure healthy wild herds and rangelands through the placement of excess animals removed from public lands so future generations can enjoy this distinctive part of our American heritage. As a 501 (C)(3), public, charitable, nonprofit organization, the Mustang Heritage Foundation works to identify and develop sources of private financial funding to further support the mission of the Foundation. For more information visit mustangheritagefoundation.org.

About the Bureau of Land Management

The Bureau of Land Management removes wild horses and burros from public lands to ensure a healthy balance of land and animals. Since 1971, the BLM has placed more than 235,000 wild horses and burros into good homes nationwide. Partnerships, like the Mustang Heritage Foundation, provide the BLM with additional opportunities to place animals into good homes. Interested applicants can attend BLM offsite adoption/sales event, visit a BLM Off-Range Corral, or participate in an Internet adoption/sales event to apply to take a wild horse or burro home. To learn more about the Wild Horse and Burro Program, please call 866-468-7826 or visit BLM.GOV/whb.

The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land, the most of any Federal agency. This land is primarily located in 12 Western states, including Alaska. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of subsurface mineral estate throughout the nation. The BLM’s mission is to manage and conserve America’s public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations under our mandate of multiple-use and sustained yield.