If you follow Cat on Instagram or Facebook, you probably see her post a lot of the trick and liberty side of her training, especially with her younger projects. However, I can attest that the trick and liberty training is really just a small fraction of what she does with her horses.
The majority of her time is spent establishing and developing a proper groundwork foundation, working obstacles, desensitizing, making sure the mustangs respond to body language and verbal queues and not have to primarily rely on a lot of effort from the handler or a tool (such as a whip) that won’t always be there.
As Cat says, “Getting to teach tricks is just a fun thing I get to do with them, that they enjoy, in between all the other groundwork exercises! As for the liberty, every horse gets a basic liberty foundation such as a come queue, ‘leading’ at liberty, and doing basic maneuvers at liberty… being able to perform basic maneuvers and exercises without a halter/rope does set them up to be a better horse to be around on the ground.”
And that takes a lot of patience and hard work.
This past week, I showed her video from the Midwest Horse Fair TIP Challenge Mustang Makeover to my students at City College where I’m teaching. Viewers can really experience the process of gentling a wild mustang by watching that video. So many people just post the good photos of perfectly polished moments. I love that Cat shared the video with the not-so-polished moments such as being trampled and sand surfing. One of my students asked of Cat was “breaking” the mustang’s spirit. I shook my head. To me, when Cat is “breaking” a horse, the last thing she wants to do is break their spirit. She works hard at gentling them and always does it herself so that the bond is even stronger between her and her horse(s).
That’s the only way that she can achieve her goal of creating an overall soft and responsive horse.
UPDATE ON “Little Miss Sunshine”
Here is Little Miss Sunshine, a 2018 Mustang filly, lunging over a jump at the Florida Horse Park.
Next week is the Mustang Heritage Foundation’s Extreme Mustang Makeover in Ocala. On May 10th and 11th, Sunshine will compete with other youth trainers and their mustangs.
We are very excited to get together with all of our mustang friends. This year was especially exciting for Cat. Many of the other trainers have been getting together during the past 120 days of training. It’s great to see the youth trainers working together during the training period. After all, it’s not about the competition, but about the mustangs.
For the past 120 days of training, Cat and Little Miss Sunshine have been working hard training in a variety of areas: groundwork, obstacle work, desensitizing, trick training, and liberty work.
After the competition, Cat will give Sunni a chance to relax and take a bit of a break. She wants the filly to have time to “be a baby” and grow. When Cat brings her back into work, it’ll be time to start prepping her to be started undersaddle. With the foundation that Cat has given her, I’m sure starting her under-saddle won’t be a big deal!
ATTEND THE EXTREME MUSTANG MAKEOVER IN OCALA
We hope to see many of you at the event in Ocala, Florida. If you haven’t already purchased your tickets for the Saturday night event, you can preorder them here.