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Sermon on the trail

'Deacon' takes Extreme Trail Challenge in Norco

Special to the Horsetrader - June 3rd, 2010 - Norco, Show & Event News

Julie Bryant photo

Gary Wedemeyer of Winton and The Deacon win the 2010 Extreme Mustang Makeover Trail Challenge in Norco May 14-16.

NORCO — The Deacon, a well-made American Mustang trained by Gary Wedemeyer of Winton, seemed to come out of nowhere to preach a sermon on the talents of a wild horse with 90 days training. The 5-year-old gelding went on to take the win in the $9,000 Extreme Mustang Makeover Trail Challenge, held May 14-16.

The Norco event encompassed more elements than any other Extreme Mustang Makeover held this season. Not only did Mustangs and their trainers compete in the routine body conditioning, but also in hand and under saddle obstacle courses.
How challenging was the four-mile trail course?

“The only way up the hill was with an ATV or horse,” said Mustang Heritage Foundation Executive Director Patti Colbert. “The ruggedness was a production challenge, too. The very best challenge was thanking the more than 40 volunteers that helped us, and eating at every Norco restaurant where we heard ‘there’s those Mustang people, we love you!’ ”

When Mustangs and their trainers first took on the rugged terrain of the Norco foothills, David Kneller of Paso Robles and Polaris Mustang until day’s end, when trainer Lanny Leach of Tucson, Ariz., took the lead going into the next phase, an urban trail course.

With sirens blaring, dogs barking and llamas peaking through fences, the 28 Mustangs strolled through the Norco streets as well as along the neighboring riverbed. With a chance to walk in the sand and come across the occasional coyote, Mustangs were also able to cool off in a shallow river crossing before heading back to the Ingalls Equestrian Center for the evening’s finals performance.

Julie Bryant photo

Janet Titus of Crowley Lake and Poster Boy, the high-adopting horse at $3,500.

Going into Saturday night’s finals, the favorite was Chizm, trained by Utah Extreme Mustang Makeover reserve champion Ruth Livingston of Moroni, Utah. But The Deacon emerged the champion in one of the closest top 10 competitions in Extreme Mustang Makeover history.

Judged by Sandy Arledge of San Diego, Bill Enk of Paso Robles and Pat Wickenheiser of Aqua Dulce, the 10 finalists performed choreography, athleticism and some remarkable cow work. Trainer Don Douglas of Paicines performed cow work with Smokey, even while taking jumps. Tom Shiloh of Pahrump, Nev., whose tribute to Spanish riding techniques aboard Silent enchanted the crowds, scored equally well in his routine.

But it was Wedemeyer and The Deacon who took the top spot, scoring a perfect 10 under Bill Enk and 9.5 from the other judges — all of whom said they were in disbelief of what they saw from a wild horse with 90 days training.

The Deacon began his “sermon” by quietly pulling a barrel into the arena, then — to the strains of cowboy music — worked effortlessly through figure eights and a perfectly executed lead change before taking on a feisty corriente steer down the fence to the roar of the 2,000 fans.

“This horse likes people and enjoyed the people around him down there,” said Wedemeyer. “He was stalled right there at the back of the arena. So he’d greet the people when they came out of the grandstand. He kind of became a ham.”

When it came to the finals, Wedemeyer thinks he gained an advantage by going before his chief rival who also intended to feature cow work. The order was determined by performance in the preliminaries.

Julie Bryant photo

Jerry Jones of Fairview, Texas, and Orion take a breather in the riverbed.

“I was up before he was because he had placed second in the prelims and I was behind him, so I got to go before he did and work my cow,” said Wedemeyer. “I think it was to my favor because he ended up second, but he had to overcome what I had done. Perhaps he tried a little too hard and didn’t quite score as high as he would have if he had been out there first – and I would’ve had to catch him.

What impressed him most about his Mustang’s finals performance was that the horse had never worked a cow.

“I’d played with the cattle on this horse and relaxed him in the cattle,” he said. “I’d go around and follow him around and just hold one –- I’d let him play. It was kind of a fun thing whenever we ended a workout. He liked the cattle, but down that fence – we’d never turned a cow.

“He had a lone cow coming at him head-on, out of a chute, and I was thinking ‘you know, you’re really silly to do this in the finals because there’s so much pressure and the crowd and everything, and he sees that cow coming at him’.”

Wedemeyer thought The Deacon would likely turn around “and bail out toward the backend.” He was ready for that.

“I figured if he did, I’d make a little circle and come back, and he’d lock on to the cow and be OK,” he said. “I asked for that cow, and he turned that cow and just ‘eeeahhh’ – that horse was ready to get him and hold him! I could have asked for so much more, and yet I was just kind of easy on him -– but he was just ON! He just wanted to do it. He just loved it. That was a great feeling, and that’s what won it.

“It was a big chance and kind of a gamble,” he added. “It went so well, the guy who followed me, well he also did an awesome performance. We beat him, but I think if I had to follow him, he probably would have beaten me.”

Wedemeyer was awarded the Gist Silversmiths buckle for the win and $2,500, while Shiloh and Douglas shared the second place title and earnings of $2,000 each.

The Deacon was adopted on Sunday, May 16, for $3,000. The high-adopting horse was Poster Boy, trained by Janet Titus of Coyote Lake, for $3,500. Norco trainer and farrier Bob Mundy, who finished fifth overall with Shane, saw his Mustang also adopted for $3,000 to an Oakland buyer. The average adoption price on the 28 horses was $1,611.

More results: http://www.extrememustangmakeover.com/norco.php

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