OKEECHOBEE — Tatum Bickel, 13, of Okeechobee signed up last December to participate in the 2019 Ocala Extreme Mustang Makeover. She picked up a yearling filly that was assigned to her in Ocala on Jan. 27, 2019. Tatum was one of 18 young trainers from Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina and Kentucky approved for the competition.
All the participants were given approximately 100 days to gentle and train their mustangs. Those in the adult division received 3- to 6-year-old horses. All of those in the youth division received yearling fillies. May 10 and 11 they all went to Ocala to compete in Extreme Mustang Makeover.
Tatum’s filly was totally wild when she picked her up in Ocala. Over the next 100 days Tatum worked with her little filly six days a week, eventually gaining the filly’s trust and respect. She named her Gingerbread. Tatum and Gingerbread now have a very close bond.
At the Makeover Event, Tatum showed Gingerbread in three classes: Handling and Conditioning, In Hand Trail and a Freestyle routine to music. Tatum’s routine was based on a story song from the 60s by Sonny James called “Running Bear.” Tatum played the part of Running Bear and Gingerbread was Little White Dove.
Tatum placed sixth in her Handling and Conditioning Class, second in her In Hand Trail Class and second in her Freestyle Class. The Points totaled for all three classes put her in third over all the youth. She received some beautiful ribbons and a cash prize. This was a great experience for Tatum and it really increased her self confidence, patience, determination and consistency when training horses.
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.
Currently, the Bureau of Land Management estimates nearly 70,000 wild horses roam on BLM-managed rangelands in 10 western states, mostly in Nevada, Wyoming and California. As their populations grow, events like the Extreme Mustang Makeover encourage public education and adoption of these remarkable animals.
For more information about the Extreme Mustang Makeover program or to become a trainer, adopter or sponsor of the event, visitextrememustangmakeover.com.