Carolyn Lynch of Teleford, PA and her yearling Mustang Bullseye placed seventh in the Extreme Mustang Makeover.
Her 4-H Club calls her “The Horse Whisperer.” Caroline Lynch isn’t sure she’s worthy of that title, but after breaking a yearling Mustang colt last summer, she’s willing to call herself a wild horse trainer.
The 16-year-old Teleford, PA native has always loved natural horsemanship, devouring numerous books on the topic ever since she was a horse crazy kid.
While researching natural horsemanship, she stumbled across the Extreme Mustang Makeover, a competition organized by the federal Bureau of Land Management that gives trainers 90 days to break a Mustang yearling.
“My parents told me I could enter because they didn’t actually think I would get selected,” Lynch said, explaining that the youth division only accepts 25 competitors. “They were shocked when I was chosen, but very proud.”
Lynch and her father traveled 25 hours with a horse trailer in tow down to Mississippi to pick up her Mustang. Each competitor’s horse is randomly selected, so Lynch was given a tag number and told to locate her Mustang in the pen.
“I was told he was bay, but most were bay so that didn’t narrow it down much,” Lynch said. “I saw one bay running around the pen biting at the other yearlings, and I thought, ‘With my luck, that’s probably him.’”
It was. Bullseye, who Lynch named after the lovable stuffed horse from “Toy Story,” was loaded into the trailer and hauled back to Pennsylvania.
Establishing a Bond
Hoping to let him adjust to his new surroundings, Lynch turned Bullseye out into a small paddock once arriving back home. But he tried to jump the five-foot fence, and nearly succeeded. He spent the rest of the day in a stall while Lynch and her father added more boards to the fence.
“The next day I tried to work with him, but it was not going well at all,” Lynch said. “He was really unresponsive. I tried some natural horsemanship with him, like round penning and joining up, but he wasn’t responding.”
All the youth trainers kept blogs about their training experience, and Lynch was discouraged to see that most of them seemed to be making a lot more progress with their Mustangs.
“It was a little bit disheartening when you saw the pictures of them and they were touching their horse all over, and I could barely get near Bullseye,” Lynch said.
Refusing to give up, she took a break and came back out to Bullseye later that day, determined to get a lead rope clipped onto his halter. She did – and held on tight.
“He dragged me all around the paddock, but I figured out that as long as I kept my shoulders parallel with his, he couldn’t overpower me,” Lynch said. “He was only a yearling, but he was still pretty strong.”
By the end of the day, Lynch had begun to form a bond with Bullseye. She could lead him all around his paddock, fly spray him and pick up all four of his feet. He also followed behind Lynch without a lead rope.
“He did great after that,” Lynch said. “By 30 days into it, I was able to put a saddle on him. I even sat on him, but I didn’t want to push him since he was only a yearling.”
Hard Work Pays Off
In October, Lynch and Bullseye traveled to Murfreesboro, Tenn., to compete in the Extreme Mustang Makeover competition against the other 24 youth trainers.
“My goal was just not to get last,” Lynch said. “I wasn’t setting my hopes too high since it was only my first year, and a lot of the youth trainers were affiliated with barns that break colts professionally.
After completing the obstacle and showmanship courses, Lynch and Bullseye were in seventh place, meaning they moved on with the rest of the top 10 to the final freestyle portion of the competition. Lynch and Bullseye placed seventh overall in the freestyle.
At the end of the competition, trainers can auction off their Mustangs, but Lynch wasn’t ready to say goodbye to Bullseye. She had already applied for a scholarship to keep him by writing an essay about her experience with the colt. She was one of two youth trainers selected for the scholarship.
Lynch was very pleased to place seventh overall with Bullseye, especially when considering she didn’t have any professional assistance with his training and had never tried to break a horse before.
“I was going into the competition by myself,” Lynch said. “I didn’t have any trainers helping me. I had friends in Texas and Kentucky who I met along the way and gave me advice, but no one was in my area to help me.”
Now Bullseye spends his days in further training at Lynch’s home. She lunges him regularly in side reins to work on his flexion and hopes to train him to jump in the future.
“You can really tell we have a bond. He really is one of the sweetest horses I’ve ever worked with,” Lynch said. “He’ll walk right up to you in the pasture. You can’t tell at all that he was wild.”
For the Love of Mustangs
Lynch has her sights set on competing with Bullseye in 4-H production shows in the Montgomery County 4-H Club. Long term, she plans to continue his training under saddle.
Lynch definitely wants to train a Mustang again, as she has a newfound appreciation for the breed, one she didn’t know much about before working with Bullseye.
“They are extremely loyal horses,” Lynch said. “They also don’t grow up to be bratty. As long as you set them straight in the beginning, they get the message.”
Lynch hopes to compete in a Mustang competition again, but this time she wants to tackle the Supreme Extreme Mustang Makeover once she’s old enough.
“For the Supreme Makeover, you adopt an adult wild Mustang and have 90 days to train it in either cow work or jumping,” she said.
Lynch never imagined she would get the opportunity to train a wild Mustang, and she hopes other horse enthusiasts will consider taking on the challenge.
“I would encourage anyone who knows enough about training to take the chance, because it really was a great opportunity for me and helped me learn more about Mustangs,” Lynch said. “They really are incredible animals.”