Nikki Tiesing had 100 days to train a reluctant mustang, and when the emotional experience was over, the trainer couldn’t separate from her horse.
The owner, trainer and horse behaviorist at Forever T Ranch in Auxvasse partnered with Chasin’ the Rainbow, or Rain for short, in the Extreme Mustang Makeover Challenge in Lexington, Kentucky, which was held this past weekend.
It was Tiesing’s first experience with training what other trainers told her was a very difficult horse. Some of them recommended she not participate in the Lexington competition and just keep training Rain, she said. Tiesing decided to buck that advice and took part in the competition. While she didn’t make the top 10, she decided to buy Rain through the competition horse auction Saturday so she can keep working with Rain and build their trusting relationship. All horses trained in the challenge are auctioned.
“It was the most emotional thing I’ve ever done,” Tiesing said. “A lot of the other trainers felt the same way (about their experience). Tears were shed by everybody.”
People who do not work with horses day-in-day-out cannot really fathom the competition and auction experience, she said.
“As a trainer, there is this sense of auction anxiety, whether you’re wanting to keep your horse or wanting to let your horse go to a good home, the auction is kind of the real thing,” Tiesing said.
Rain and Tiesing formed a really strong bond that created an indescribable feeling, she said.
“I knew I was going to do what I had to do at the auction to bring (Rain) home,” Tiesing said. “I want to make sure she is set up for success, and she’s been such a stubborn and sensitive little horse.”
Other competitors told Tiesing they would have sent the horse she received back, she said. Tiesing didn’t give up on Rain, though. “We didn’t come so far to only come so far,” she said. “She’s just not a 100-day horse.”
Tiesing will continue to work with Rain until she feels comfortable enough to decide whether to keep the horse. Tiesing is thinking about making Rain into a cow horse, because she was captured in cattle driving and ranch country in Nevada, she said.
“Those horses are known for being cow-y and that’s what we do. We do cow work and show with the American Ranch Horse Association,” Tiesing said. “From what I have seen of her, the maneuvers you do for cow work come naturally to her.”
Tiesing was amazed by the versatility of mustangs that were trained by the approximately 40 adult trainers and 30 youth trainers. “You had hunt seat riders and you had old cowboy riders. To see all the different directions you could take with a mustang was a really neat thing,” she said.
Tiesing and her family left Auxvasse Tuesday and drove through the night to arrive in Lexington to check-in Wednesday morning. Rain received a hip number which was used throughout the weekend for judges and for the auction.
Tiesing took time Wednesday to let Rain adjust to the Alltech Arena at Kentucky Horse Park, which is the size of a hockey arena, she said. Showing Rain in such a large arena gave Tiesing a proud feeling, she said. “I never could have imagined the emotions I felt with that horse over the four days,” she said.
Competition days were Thursday and Friday. Trainers showcased handling and condition, maneuvers and a trail pattern. Rain did all of her competition classes in-hand since she isn’t quite ready to ride yet, Tiesing said.
Awards were given Saturday and the adult top 10 trainers took part in a freestyle competition. The challenge is completely different than anything Tiesing has experienced, she said.
“You can only imagine what it is like to pick up that wild animal and get that first touch, and start forming a relationship and see this bond grow. There was blood, sweat and tears in the 100 days I’ve had this horse,” she said.
The bond between Rain and Tiesing has intensified because of how much one-on-one time they had over the weekend, and because buying Rain at the auction felt definitive, she said.
“Now that we’re home, it’s like now she’s mine,” she said. “She wasn’t really mine (in the 100 days). I can’t describe how relieved I am for that — now she’s one of the gang.”
Tiesing intends to take part in another mustang makeover challenge next year, she said. She plans to do fewer social media progress reports next year, because while they did give the public updates, it diminished Tiesing’s concentration in training Rain, she said.
“Everyone is on their own journey, and you have to do what is right for you and your horse,” she said.