Sisters teen is training a wild mustang
Last updated 6/14/2022 at Noon
Olivia Pulver, a sixth-grader at Sisters Middle School, is training a wild Oregon mustang. Her mustang, Ronan, comes from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land outside Paisley, Oregon. Prior to this training, Ronan had never been touched by humans and had never been out of his wild homeland.
Pulver is already making strides with training her mustang for the upcoming Teens and Oregon Mustangs competition that takes place in September. The final competition will include showmanship, overall body conditioning, in-hand trail, and for those in the riding division an additional riding class. Each division will be competing for the title of Mustang Adoption Challenge Champion and a trophy saddle.
Pulver applied to be a part of this competition last Christmas. She got involved in horses and horseback riding with her mom at the Jude Creek Arabian barn and took lessons, and fell in love with the sport. Olivia has been riding for about a year and trains for hunter/jumper twice a week.
“I kept going and then I found out about this Oregon Mustangs program and wanted to apply,” said Olivia Pulver.
Applicants have to fill out an extensive form stating why they are worthy of adopting and training a mustang. Olivia, at 12 years old, had to have the support of her parents behind her to go through with being able to keep and train the horse.
Any competitor under the age of 14 can only do a walk-through of the obstacle course; they cannot ride their mustang. There is a division of competition for older kids and adults that involves riding their yearling.
Pulver was selected to pick her mustang and begin training in April, and she has been training Ronan ever since. Her family picked him up at the Burns Corrals in Burns, and transported him to their home in Sisters. Transporting a wild mustang in a trailer was the first challenge Pulver faced with him
“It was a challenge, but you kind of have to just run ’em into the trailer and go,” she said.
Within the first day, Pulver had removed his tag, gotten close enough to touch him all over, begun to lead him, and removed his dragline. The second day, Pulver was able to change his halter, brush him, and pick up his front feet. They have been working on lunging in the round pen, changing directions, and learning about voice commands.
“The biggest place to start is to get them to trust you — you have to start working from there and take them through all of the steps,” said Pulver.
Pulver has until September to master the elements of training with Ronan.
“I don’t know what to expect for the competition; you aren’t supposed to know going in. They set up an obstacle course for you and your mustang to walk through, as well as trailer entrance and a lot of other obstacles and tasks,” she said.
A big aspect of this competition is that during the process of training these horses, the teens become more patient and learn the art of patience with an animal.
“You can’t just walk and jump into it, you have to take it a lot slower,” she said.
Ronan recently had his first-ever bath.
Pulver is excited to continue the training process through the summer.
“I am excited, and it will teach me how to be better with my other horses, because they need just as much attention and training. It really teaches you to read your horse and to see how they express themselves and what I have to do to figure it out,” she said.
Another big mission of Teens and Oregon Mustangs, and something Pulver is passionate about people knowing, is the positive impact training wild mustangs can have on not only the horses but the land as well. There are over 82,000 wild horses and burros living on national public lands in 2022. With that many animals on the land, the ecological impact is massive, as the land cannot support that many animals.
According to the BLM, “Overpopulated herds threaten land and herd health. Too many wild horses and burros can lead to: starvation and thirst, less native vegetation, and more invasive weeds, such as cheatgrass, more wild horses and burros on highways and private property in search of food and water.”
The BLM is striving to solve the challenge through reducing overpopulation, implementing fertility control, as well as finding good homes and providing long-term care for these animals. Teens and Oregon Mustangs is one of the organizations striving to help find these mustangs a forever home and provide them with necessary care that will in turn benefit the horse and the land from an ecological and population standpoint.
“A lot of people feel negatively about removing horses from the wild,” said Grace Pulver, Olivia’s mother, “but the land literally cannot sustain that many, so this program and competition is encouraging the youth to get involved with horses, while also providing care and a forever home for the horses. We are just trying to bring awareness to this area about what BLM and Teens and Oregon Mustangs are doing.” The competition provides an incentive for the youth to be able to train and potentially own their own horse afterward.
At the conclusion of the final competition, a live auction adoption will be held on September 4, to place the mustangs into new forever homes. Proceeds from the auction of the mustangs will go directly to the trainer.
“It’s cool to be able to say, that horse was picked, trained and trained right by me,” said Olivia Pulver.
Pulver is currently working on getting sponsors from around the area to support her during the training season with things such as supplies, feed, and other items to help training. She is selling raffle tickets for the items up for auction at the competition in Albany in September. Pulver has been working hard every day before and after school training Ronan and getting him competition ready, but also becoming best friends.
“I am really excited to get this opportunity to be a part of it and being able to train my own horse,” said Pulver.
Reach out to Grace Pulver regarding sponsorship and raffle tickets at [email protected]
Learn more about Teens and Oregon Mustangs at www.teensandoregonmustangs.org/back-story/our-program/.
Horses will also be available for pre-bidding online throughout the 100-day competition at the Teens and Oregon Mustangs website, www.teensandoregonmustangs.org/events/live-auction/.