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Mustang Challenge 2008
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See Luna's Progress in Photos
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"She moves like a deer.
In the shadow of the moon
Light on her feet,
And dark as the night."


Please find all narrative below by most recent date first and the pictures also by date at the bottom of this page as thumbnails.

A special thank you to the businesses that have partnered with Matt for the Mustang Challenge!

  • King-brand Feeds -
  • Shawn Stephey Farrier Services
  • HEMME Hay & Feed - (661) 942-7880
  • Van Dam Farms - (661) 946-7720
  • A. V. Tack Unlmited - (661) 273-4889

August 19 - Luna has gone home to be with her new owners! We had a wonderful time working with and riding Luna. Check back periodically as we hope to be able to use her at future events and expos.

August 15/16 - Luna wins the 2007-2008 Special Nevada Mustangs Futurity Trail Class! Matt was able to show Luna in Green Trail and Western Pleasure as well at the Western States Wild Horse and Burro Expo in Reno, Nevada. The dynamic duo placed second in both classes barely missing a win in the pleasure class due to a bobble on a lead departure. While there, Matt used her as his demonstration horse for two of his three clinics.

July 27 - Luna has been doing well these past weeks. Matt has hauled her to several clinics in and out of California. Luna always travels like a champ and has done great at every demonstration. She is really starting to move like a show horse. Matt is excited to show her in trail and western pleasure at the WSWH&B expo in Reno. Luna travels very slow in her jog, her lope is getting slow and she is carrying her head a lot lower like a true pleasure horse. She still is Luna and has her chubby build but she is a dream to train and work with.

June 12 - The Challenge is over but you can continue to follow Luna's progress as we prepare for the Western States Wild Horse and Burro Expo August 15-17 in Reno, Nevada. Look for Luna during clinics and in competition. My hat is off to all of the TOP SHELF trainers that showed up to compete at the Challenge!! Congratulations are in order for each competitor that showed up regardless of where they placed.

What a weekend we have just had! Luna did awesome in the preliminary rounds of the Western States Mustang Challenge. She placed 2nd in the In Hand trail course and 3rd in the Horse Course. We had a momentary concern when the body condition judge did not exactly like her "chubby" look and placed her 27th out of 29 horses! Yikes!! By the end of the preliminary rounds though, she was 5th overall. This qualified her for the finals, which was our original goal. Jennifer took my prelim scores and removed the body condition placing to see how I did? Without that horrible score Luna was actually only 1 point out of first.

For the finals we came back with what I had left for a saddle horse. Luna was really tired and ready to be done. I figured at best I had about 60% of her best effort left from what I had trained after five days of concrete and crowds. In all about 5000 people actually petted her in two days! During warm ups, one of the other competitors came into the arena with aluminum cans tied all over her horse. The horse looked like a recycled jousting horse! For whatever reason those cans sent Luna, Joe Misner's horse Laredo and Keith Danielson’s horse Tina Turner over the edge. All three of us had qualified in the top 5 during prelims and now faced trying to make it 4 minutes in the finals without a wreck. In an effort to settle the horses’ minds, Joe and I headed for a bale of hay and let our horses belly up to the bar so to speak. Keith worked on getting his mare settled away from the action.

Luna and Laredo settled down a lot and the sweats that had been achieved minutes before subsided. I was 5th draw in the finals go round and Luna was able to do most of what I wanted to achieve in our freestyle. It lacked the smoothness practiced at home and the quiet confidence that I had built but thank goodness we had done so much work! I walked her into the arena on a very loose rein, then picked up a jog, moved her into a half pass left then right, extended the trot, dropped the reins and started clapping to the music. (I figured things were not at their best so I had better have some fun with the crowd!) Next I trotted to the roping dummy and sort of roped at it. The reason why was that Luna had been studying dressage methods with Ray Ariss horse during her down time and was doing the pioff (sp?). Next I trotted to my daughter Emily who handed me the rope to drag my tire. Everything went smoothly there, and at pretty much the appropriate time she picked up a right lead and loped a small slow circle. The second circle was a large fast and I asked her to go as fast as she would. She did and it was cool! I then brought her back to a small slow again and did my lead change. Going left we again did a slow circle and then fast circle. I loped her around the arena fast again then slowed down for the jumps. She knocked over the first jump but sort of made the second. On the next pass she cleared the jump as I took my hat off for the spectators. I honestly should not have tried to fit in the bridleless riding at the end but attempted to get it in anyway. The result was that I was basically out of time. Fortunately I only got in a back up bridleless since Luna figured the gate was the way out and was heading there in a hurry.

Joe Misner (2nd) and Corrine Esler (1st) turned in superb runs and my hat is off to them for their work. I was glad to place behind such outstanding trainers and horses.

Following the announcement of the each riders placing the adauction (this is a new work that blends adoption and auction - look it up in Webster’s!) began. Luna's sold for $4400 and new owner is Barbara Miller from Twin Oaks, CA. Barbara sent her back to me so I can take her to Reno , NV in August to use as a demo horse and hopefully show in pleasure and trail classes. I was told that there is some talk about the possibility of the top mustangs being featured in a Mustang Tour later this year. Luna may be one of those horses!!

As a final note, I had the great privilege and pleasure of being chosen to represent mustangs, the Mustang Heritage Foundation and other trainers in an interview on Fox News Channel Friday morning. I was not aware that the interview would be shown all over the country until Friday afternoon after I did the piece. Furthermore, the interview was sent to Senator Harry Reid in Washington DC on Saturday afternoon. Wow, what an honor!!!

For those of you that have followed Luna's progress, we are hoping the fun has only begun. Thanks for your support and friendship along the way and please do not feel that a little publicity and money makes me any better than I was a week ago. It is very humbling if anything. I look forward to seeing you as I travel down the road the rest of 2008.

See you soon, Matt

May 23 - Since the last entry much has happened with Luna and all of it good. Matt is getting very excited about the competition in a couple of weeks. Luna has now been down the road a few times and performed well each time. Last weekend, Matt used her again in a horsemanship clinic. Prior to the start of the clinic, Matt did a demonstration Friday night at Family Community Churches "Cowboy Church". While there he really put Luna through her paces. She was great for the crowd while demonstrating ground work principles, riding under saddle in an arena, as well as, outside in a trail course. As part of the demonstration Matt pulled a tire with a rope and rode her bridleless for the crowd. This was met with great enthusiasm especially when he rode her out of the arena with still only a neck rope on. As part of the weekend, Sandi Anderson brought her Challenge Mustang, Outback Jack, up for the clinic. It was fun to work with Sandi and see the progress she also has made with her horse. For the final two weeks of training, Matt has brought in fresh cattle to work Luna on and to see how "cowy" she is. It should be exciting to see how the horses show in Sacramento. We hope to see you there and our best wishes to all the competitors.

May 8 - Matt had a great time in Nevada with Luna. He gathered cattle, sorted and rode miles by himself enjoying his project horse. The first day Matt rode her about 12-14 miles pushing cattle to a corner fence so they could sort. He didn't see another rider for at least an hour or so before they all met up at the corner to start sorting. Matt was put in charge of the cowboys that were to hold the outside rodear after the cut was made. He pushed over 100 pairs of cows and calves out to the riders with Luna. After a while the cow boss had Matt do some of the sorting on Luna before they drove the herd to a set of corrals for the day.

April 28 - Has it really been 7 weeks since this process all began? Matt has now hauled Luna to a clinic in the San Diego area and used her throughout as his demo horse. She did wonderfully well with loading, hauling and unloading at a strange location. She led and tied up beautifully everywhere they went. During the clinic if she was not with Matt she was at the trailer waiting patiently. All who saw her were impressed that such a short time ago she was a wild horse. Matt had many of the clinic participants practice with Luna on their groundwork since she is so accurate and soft in the halter. Everyone commented on how responsive she was. During the course of the weekend the wind blew often and sometimes hard. Wind has not been Luna's friend. She did well though. At one point an EZ-Up tent blew over onto Matt's trailer and startled Luna and the other three year old that he had hauled. Both horses pulled back only slightly and then went back to sleep like nothing had happened. This was very exciting for Matt, because Luna has been so spooky about things flying around her. Way to go Luna! Prior to getting started with the afternoon group, the local paper came out and interviewed Matt and took pictures of him riding Luna. Since it has been some time since the last entry, it only seems appropriate to update some of the other goings on. Matt has spent a lot of time just getting her feet moving and doing a lot of routine training...not really exciting stuff. He also has clipped her legs, bridle path, outer ears, and face. Luna seems to enjoy the clippers except at the end of her face. Even then she only tries to eat the blades. She has had her feet trimmed twice, been wormed twice and ridden much. For those of you that can keep the happy thoughts going, hope that her winter coat leaves by June. Matt reports actually seeing a few short hairs up on her neck. This rumor is yet to be confirmed by the proper authorities! (Pictures from the clinic to follow soon.)

Matt will be hauling Luna to Imlay Nevada this week to gather cattle, then on to his next clinic in Acton, CA. Finally, he will wrap up the spring with a clinic in Rosamond, CA before the Challenge competition. All of these trips should sharpen Luna and accustom her to travel nicely.

April 12 - Here it is the end of week 5 and Matt has successfully put 5 rides on Luna. 36 days down, 55 to go but who's really counting? Things are progressing very quickly now. She seems to really enjoy being ridden and the new work that comes with it. Matt has walked, trotted and loped her each ride. He has been able to disengage the hindquarters and even has her reaching with her shoulders some as a start to a future spin. Today, he asked Luna to stop and back. She did so softly and with little resistance. Luna is moving so nicely that she may someday make a nice little pleasure horse or western riding mare. Matt also swung his lead rope off of Luna and plans to use a real lariat rope in the next couple of days.

March 29 - Not much new has happened this past week. What has happened is that Luna is much more solid on everything she was beginning to understand. She now meets Matt at the gate almost 100% of the time and is much more the ready partner from the ground that he was looking for. Matt was finally able to stop leaving a halter on 24 hours a day as he felt Luna was easy enough to catch and would face up and drop her head into the halter regularly. He believes that the extra ground work time will pay off in the long run as she will be more reliable and willing to try new things.

Special thanks to the BLM and Mustang Heritage Foundation for their positive role in promoting the Challenge trainers. Two separate newspapers came out for interviews and took numerous pictures of Matt working with Luna. Luna was a champ all the way. With numerous new people around her and coming from all angles she showed off her new found ability. She walked over all her obstacles including bridges, logs, elevated logs, back-through, gates and side pass. She wore her saddle pad like it was natural and put up with some pretty intense flagging with little protest. After all the cameras and onlookers left, it was time to get to work again. Matt put a real saddle on this week including back cinch. In true Luna form she protested but not for long. A couple of big jumps later she was off to work. A while later Matt was able to climb up and down on the side of her. He decided not to take a ride as she felt good but he wants her to be a little more secure and accurate.....We'll keep you posted and have proof of a ride soon! Remember this is a race for quality not quantity....well until June 6 and 7 that is.

March 19 - Luna has been wearing her pad for nine days now. No not "24" hours a day.. She is not really comfortable with having things thrown around her like saddle pads but tolerates it reasonably well. Matt has spent much of the past few days working on getting her accurate with her feet on the end of a lead rope. Along with that, he has been able to introduce a grain sack on the end of his flag, get her flexing at the poll and pick up her front feet and hold them for extended periods of time. On another note, Matt had noticed when he picked Luna up at the corrals in Sacramento that she was away from the other horses and seemed rather indifferent towards onlookers. This cool behavior tipped Matt off that she was either a lead or loner mare. Either way, that has made his work a little harder and a lot slower.

March 11 - Another day of progress. Matt decided that it was time to swing a rope around Luna and get her used to being roped some. He also spent some time getting her to drive off better. She is pretty comfortable up close but needs to learn to leave and then return to Matt. After he finished his ground work, it was time to introduce a riding pad. Luna wore the saddle pad for about two and a half hours. She was not happy about the cinch at first as evidenced by the photo but within a minute or so moved out nicely.

March 10 - Spent a shorter time with Luna today but was able to flag her on both sides all over, rubbed her down on both sides back to her hip and drove her off in either direction better. After that Matt led her back and forth between the round corral and her pen. With progress like this in the last two days, the itch to start saddling and riding is getting pretty strong!

March 9 - Matt was able to get Luna leading, pivoting on the forehand and turning over her hocks some. He was able to throw his rope over her back and around her front and rear legs. A lot of time was spent getting her used to him touching her face on both sides without trying to bite him. Matt also worked on getting Luna to drive around the round corral a little from a standing position facing him.

March 7/8 - Leaving for Sacramento to pick up Matt's Challenge horse. All we know is that he is getting a mare to ride. So the ride to Sac. was more exciting than first planned. Matt left with Hiram, his friend, at 5:30 Friday eve. By Turlock the radiator was having some serious issues. By Elkgrove, the radiator had given up. The boys spent the rest of the night camped in a parking lot listening to trains and tractor trailers idling. Next morning Matt got a new radiator and they were off to Sac. to get the horses (He hauled two others for competitors). The pick up and haul home was uneventful. Once home there was a welcoming committee and a great BBQ party that followed.

The horse is named "Luna". This name was actually decided a week before going up, however, it is appropriate in every way for this little horse. First of all, Matt checked the lunar phase of the moon and it was to be a new moon on March 7. Second, Luna is a dark brown like a new moon night.

Luna's progress in pictures ...

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