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Belleville teen aids in extreme makeover for wild Mustang

ST. LOUIS – From wild to mild in 100 days. That’s the Extreme Mustang Makeover.

“This program brings in wild horses and gives them to trainers all over America and they have about 100 days to train them,” says Garrett Shanks, an approved trainer through the Mustang Heritage Foundation.

Shanks’ Mustangs are two of the more than 40,000 wild mares and geldings that have been living on off-range corrals on land managed by the federal government. These mustangs are running wild on about every state west of the Rockies, according to Stormy Mullins with the Mustang Heritage Foundation.

Periodically, the Bureau of Land Management removes excess animals from the range for herd health and to preserve land resources. The challenge is adopting out wild horses and that’s where trainers like Shanks come in.

“The only things these horses have seen is people running them down chutes, so they haven’t been able to get that connection with a human,” says Shanks.

His horse this year is Dolly, named after famed musician Dolly Parton.

“The first thing I have to do is go in and touch them. They’ve never been touched before. So there’s a process of going up and touching and releasing pressure and then I move to haltering and then I go to groundwork,” says Shanks.

All of this training will help Dolly be ready for the Extreme Mustang Makeover competition and become more adoptable.

“The competition is basically designed to showcase the versatility of the American mustang,” says Mullins.

The three-day national competition is June 20 through June 22 in Lexington, Kentucky.

“The first day we will go in with our horses and go through a handling and conditioning class which is leading them, walk, trot, loading them in a trailer and picking up all four feet,” says Shanks. “Then on day two, they’ll be walking over logs, over bridges, in and out of cones, and through gates.”

By day three, Shanks and Dolly will perform a freestyle routine to show off their teamwork. After the competition, he can either keep his horse or put it up for reassignment.

Last year, Shanks kept his horse Sheza so Dolly will be reassigned to an approved home. Shanks says it’s going to be really hard to give her up but he knows all their hard work will lead to a loving forever home and that’s what this competition is all about.

So far, more than 4,000 wild mustangs have been adopted through the Extreme Mustang Makeover program since 2007.

It costs Shanks about $3,000 for food, supplies, and vet care for each horse. If you’d like to help sponsor him, visit his Facebook fundraiser page.

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