Joshua Appleby has taken on a wild mustang for a chance to win $25,000.
Appleby, a Yucca resident, was one of 100 trainers nationwide who were selected to compete in the first ever Extreme Mustang Makeover Challenge. The trainers are each given a horse through one of two stables and have 100 days to train the horse for competition. The trainers will assemble at the end of September in Texas for the event.
After hearing about his work with a mustang mare, the Mustang Heritage Foundation invited Appleby to apply for the contest, he said.
A few years ago, Appleby said he was brought a mustang mare that supposedly couldn't be trained. He was able to gentle the horse and train it, and he eventually sold her to his wife's mother and stepfather. The horse is now ranked second in the world for endurance riding, he said.
When he was asked to apply for the contest, Appleby saw it as both a challenge and an opportunity.
"I always choose horses that no one else will," he said. The challenge of training an unmanageable horse has always thrilled him and training something wild adds to the enjoyment.
However, Appleby also sees this as a chance to gain credibility and a good reputation within the training world. As a young unknown, Appleby said it is always an uphill battle to gain respect and be taken seriously by other trainers, as well as clients.
This competition will allow him to really show what he's made of, he said.
Appleby was one of approximately 220 applicants vying for a coveted spot for the chance to win $25,000.
The horse is being trained for basic trail riding, Appleby said. He wants it to be a safe, supple, easy riding horse.
He has been working with the 3-year-old male gelding, Gambler, since he picked him up in Palomino Valley near Reno, Nev.
"Mustangs represent the spirit of America. The goal of Extreme Mustang Makeover is to promote the quality and value of mustangs," Mustang Heritage Foundation Executive Director Patti Colbert said. "The event also provides trainers an opportunity to showcase their ability to transform wild mustangs into suitable horses for ranch work or recreational riding."
One of the two trainers chosen from Arizona, Appleby stood out in his application, said Weslie Elliott, who is in charge of programs at the foundation. For someone so young - only 27 - Appleby had competed in a variety of events and had documented great diversity and experience with mustangs, Elliott said. His facilities were right on the mark with Bureau of Land Management regulations.
But what really put him over the top were the glowing references that accompanied his application, she said.
"On (Sept. 22), trainers will compete with their mustang at the Will Rogers Equestrian Center in Fort Worth, Texas. The trained mustangs will be judged on conditioning, groundwork and a 'horse course,' which represents maneuvers and obstacles found in trail and recreational riding situations," Colbert said.
Appleby has been training horses since he was 13. He got a job working at a ranch and fell in love with his work. His grandfather, who was a veterinarian for the cavalry, passed on his love for horses, unknowingly making them his grandson's dream.
Working alongside his wife, Appleby has trained horses in a variety of fields. They specialize, however, in team roping training.
Due to the sale of the ranch he had been working on, Appleby has not been able to spend as much time as he wanted to train Gambler, has a very playful attitude and loves being challenged. Appleby regrets not being able to push the horse to the limit.
The 100 mustangs will be up for adoption on Sept. 23, Elliott said. Adoption will occur through oral bids to raise money for the foundation.
The Applebys said they would be sorry to see Gambler go, but there is still the chance they could bid on him to take him back home, especially if they win.
The Mustang Heritage Foundation was founded in 2001 to help promote the BLM's National Wild Horse and Burro Program and to increase the number of successful adoptions. For more information about the BLM program, call (866) 4MUSTANG (468-7826). The BLM has a corral for these adoptions north of Kingman.
Appleby said it is still his dream to train horses as a fulltime career. If anyone is interested in his services, he can be reached on his cell phone at 897-2423.
He also said that people could adopt wild mustangs through him. He will process the initial adoption and train the horse. Clients simply have to pay for the training and the $125 adoption fee. For more information, call his cell phone.