Equestrians to form all-mustang drill team

Monday's mud, sleet and rain weren't enough to deter 13 women on a mission.

All members of the Cowgirl Way Equestrian Drill Team in Southern California, they're in Northern Nevada to pick out horses for their new, all-mustang team.

"We're doing this because we love horses and it's a great way to promote mustangs," said Kim Miller, the team's vice president. "We're very excited. This is a new adventure. A few of the women have belonged to the club since the beginning, but some of us came later. These horses will put us all on the same page."

Speed, agility and courage are the major factors the experienced riders look for in a drill team horse, and none seemed to have any qualms about picking out a mustang for the job.

Team member Sandy Anderson already owns a 4-year-old mustang gelding named Gus, who is performing with the group.

"He's doing fine," she said.

The idea for the team started after a series conversations between Anderson and Kathy Barkum of the Wild Horse Commission, who was hostess of the two-day shopping spree. The women first discussed the adoption of an abused animal, and one thing led to another, according to Anderson.

"We talked via e-mail for weeks," she said.

The women toured Bureau of Land Management's holding facility Monday morning then went to Warm Springs Correctional Facility in Carson City, where wild horses are being trained and gentled.

A cooperative effort between Nevada's departments of agriculture and prisons, the program uses inmates to train the animals and has been operating for about 18 months.

Monday's event was impressive, despite freezing temperatures and inch-wide snowflakes.

Prisoners at Warms Springs Correctional Center performed a special drill, riding the mustangs they are training, to the cheers of the women. As a gesture of support, the team presented the Warm Springs training facility with equipment donated by their club, including saddles, bridles, halters and blankets.

Most drill team members will choose their horses today from BLM's facility in Palomino Valley just north of Reno. Once chosen, the horses are expected to be transported to Warm Springs Correctional Center, where they will be trained and gentled.

At least one wild horse, a pinto gentled to ride, was sold on the spot Monday at Warm Springs.

Between three and five horses will be trained at a time. The goal is to have all the horses trained and ready for new homes by July.

The group was organized in 1999. In 2000, it formed an alliance with Breast Cancer Survivors, whose sole purpose is to put money into the hands of victims of breast cancer. The money, about $4,900 thus far, is used primarily for bills during a patient's recovery period.

Cowgirl Way competes in equestrian drill competitions and performs at rodeos, fairs, parades and special events.

"People ask. We rarely say no," Miller said with a smile.


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