LOWDEN - Taming a wild mustang takes time and patience.
Thirteen-year-old Gabrielle Longmire has plenty of patience, but only 99 days to change the yearling Jet from a wild animal to a docile horse who will follow her on a lead rope, and confront obstacles without bolting.
Gabrielle is participating in the Teens and Oregon Mustangs event, which pairs teenage equestrians with "plain-colored" wild horses who are less likely to attract an auction buyer's attention.
By gentling the animals, program sponsors hope the young horses will be attractive to buyers. The Mustang Heritage Foundation, through its Youth and Yearling Program, sponsors the program.
Gabrielle and her family drove to Newberg, Ore., to pick up Jet on May 22. He and other young mustangs had been trucked from Burns, Ore., the Thursday before. The young mustangs were part of a herd captured on BLM lands in late November.
The soon-to-be black horse still wears much of his baby fur, an unkempt brown fuzz. His ribs show, but his face and perked ears reflect curiosity and intelligence.
He doesn't panic when Gabrielle enters his 20-foot-by-20-foot pole pen, but he is wary. For now, Gabrielle's goal is to get him to move where she wants, and to discourage him from turning his rear - and his back hooves - to her.
"I've touched him, but it's been very brief. It's not been a soothing thing yet," Gabrielle said.
Sometimes Jet will come close enough to sniff her, but the slightest movement sends him away.
The Longmire family's three other horses have been helpful in demonstrating to Jet that every little thing isn't going to attack him. "He sees them relaxed, or he'll jump at something, and he sees whatever it is doesn't bother them," Gabrielle said.
Jet wears the halter and lead rope he came with, along with a number tag tied around his neck. It will be a milestone when she is able to remove the tag, Gabrielle said.
At the end of the 99 days, Gabrielle and Jet will be showing what they've learned in competition with other young horsemen and horsewomen and their mustangs Aug. 28 at FitzGerald Farms in Yamhill, Ore. The judging will be based on conditioning of the horse, showmanship and completion of an in-hand trail course.
Winner of the contest will receive a trophy saddle.
Yearlings not adopted by their trainer and family will be auctioned off for adoption following the competition events.
It's not likely Jet will be on the auction block.
Gabrielle's father, Shane Longmire, initiated her participation by finding the contest on the Internet. Before they picked up the horse Longmire said he made a list of criteria for adoption, heavily leveraged against it. The yearlings are more likely to be fillies, and bay or sorrel in color. If Gabrielle's charge were black, a gelding and "nice," he would consider keeping it, he said.
Mustangs tend to bond with one person, Longmire concedes, and that would be Gabrielle.
Gabrielle is a five-year member of the Thundering Hooves 4-H Club, led by her mother Tracy Longmire. Jet isn't the first colt she's gentled, either. Last summer she worked with a yearling that belonged to a friend.
Although Gabrielle is just 13, she exhibits complete self-confidence in the pen with the horse, which doesn't surprise her father. "She's as much a horsewoman as I've ever seen," he said.
Carrie Chicken can be reached at email@example.com or 509-522-5289.
About Teens and Oregon Mustangs: Mission of the organization is to make Oregon BLM mustangs more adoptable. Learn more about the organization at: www.teensandoregonmustangs.org.
Other Web sites with related information are
www.mustangheritagefoundation.org and www.blm.gov/or/resources/whb.