By Laura K. Snell
Twenty youth enrolled in 4-H and FFA from Modoc, Lassen and Siskiyou Counties and picked up weanling horses from the 2019 Devil’s Garden Wild Horse gather in early January. With the opportunity to win over $2,500 in cash prizes, youth set out to ground gentle their colts in just under 6 months. After months of preparation, 15 youth showed up to the Alturas Livestock Showgrounds on June 13th to participate in the inaugural year of the Devil’s Garden Colt Challenge. A cold, windy morning provided additional difficulties for youth as they prepared for the show, settling them into new surroundings.
Gracie and "Ellie" completing the pool noodle obstacle.
Youth participated in an obstacle course focusing on desensitization, basic ground gentling skills, and horse maintenance including picking up feet and loading into a trailer. Horses weaved around cones, trailed over ground poles and a tarp, and walked through colorful hanging pool noodles blowing in the wind. A halter class focused on the health, grooming and behavior of the horses. Horses walked a course around barrels and into the covered sale ring with spectators talking softly. Finally, a showmanship class focused on the youth and their ability to show their horse, setting the horse up, and general horse care and knowledge.
Kaitlyn, an Intermediate 4-Her from Siskiyou County, and "Starlight" came home with several prizes including the Top Colt Award with a grand prize of $1000. She also won the video challenge earlier last month, received first place in the obstacle course and showmanship, and fourth place in halter class. Kaitlyn plans to show her colt in the Siskiyou Sidekicks show in August and continue working with her with the goal of putting her under saddle next year.
Kaitlyn and Starlight entering the show ring.
The Devil’s Garden wild horses live on a high plateau in Modoc County in northeastern California. Currently their population is 5-10 times the appropriate management level of 204-402 horses. Wild horses have expanded far beyond the boundaries of the territory and are negatively impacting the ecosystem by damaging riparian habitat, contributing to annual grass conversion and threatening the rural economy. Helicopter gathers starting in 2016 have provided wild horses from the Devil’s Garden for adoption and sale to the general public. DG Horses have about 100 years of history in Modoc County and were historically working horses from local farms and ranches, and bred for the US Cavalry.
Cody, a junior 4-Her from Modoc County, and "Jade" scored first place in the junior age class and sixth place overall. Cody also showed Jade at the Modoc Junior Livestock Show and plans to continue showing her in halter and showmanship until she is a little older and ready for a saddle and riding.
Cody and "Jade" exiting the show ring.
For each horse entered in this project, an additional horse is placed with a friend or relative of a participant. This program aims to educate the public about wild horses while providing an educational project to youth to learn about training wild horses. There are fears and astigmatisms that still exist about wild horses in our own community. This program aims to showcase DG Wild Horses as trainable and just as versatile and safe as domestic horses encouraging people to bring home a mustang.
Each wild horse placed from a Devil’s Garden gather is one step closer to the appropriate management level of 204-402. This program placed 20 wild horses 4-6 months old with youth 9-18 years old. We plan to expand this program next year and include more Northern California counties. Keep following our progress on our Facebook page, Devil’s Garden Research and Education and check out other great DG Wild Horse stories on Fall in Love with a Devil’s Garden Mustang.
All photos are copyrighted to M Squared Photography - Lizzeth Mendoza. If you would like to receive one of the previous photos please contact us via email at email@example.com with the subject line "Colt Challenge Photos-Blog".