Program gets wild horses ready for sale

IDAHO PRESS-TRIBUNEJuly 13, 2014 

Matt Livengood with Bud, a mustang

Matt Livengood is training Bud, a mustang, at his ranch in Nampa for a competition later this month.

ADAM ESCHBACH — The Idaho Press-Tribune

NAMPA - He came with the number 6670 hanging around his neck.

Today, he goes by Bud, due to his stocky, almost Budweiser-Clydesdale-like build.

Bud stands calmly next to trainer Matt Livengood. He has three white socks on; a white star adorns his face. Almost 100 days ago, Bud had not met Livengood and had little contact with humans. Back then, Bud roamed northwest Nevada with other mustangs - part of about 18,000 horses that roam the state.

Livengood, who has worked with horses for about 20 years, was always intrigued with the prospect of working with a mustang.

"When we heard that the Extreme Mustang Makeover was going to happen here in Nampa, it was kind of like, well maybe now is the time," Livengood said.

On July 25-26, about 30 trainers will descend upon the Ford Idaho Horse Park in Nampa for the Extreme Mustang Makeover, which gives trainers 100 days to train a mustang and compete for a $10,000 purse. Afterward, the horses will be auctioned off.

The event is put on through the Mustang Heritage Foundation, which works to increase adoptions of horses held in U.S. Bureau of Land Management corrals.

The challenge is one way the foundation showcases the versatility, trainability and worth of mustangs.

Livengood was randomly assigned Bud from a BLM corral in Boise and brought Bud to his ranch in Nampa.

"I backed the horse trailer up, opened up the pen, opened up the back of the trailer and he came flying out and went to the far end of the pen," Livengood said. "He stayed as far away from me as he possibly could."

Livengood said that working with Bud has been an "interesting journey." And though Bud may have strong survival instincts, he also possesses another quality.

"He is very curious," Livengood said. It took a month to be able to get close enough to touch Bud, Livengood said, but since then Bud's learning curve has soared.

Idaho has more than 775 wild horses managed across six areas around the state, including three in the Owyhee Mountains, Idaho BLM spokeswoman Heather Tiel-Nelson said. That is only a portion of the nearly 50,000 wild horses and burros that roam 31.6 million acres of BLM lands in 10 Western states - a number almost double the amount of horses those lands can support. The BLM has seen a significant decline in horse adoption since the early 2000s as the economy faced a downturn. The makeover event shows the public that mustangs are adoptable and can be trained.

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