Lola’s mustang journey from wild to calm
Last updated 3/14/2023 at Noon
It’s been almost three months since we introduced readers to Maddie Siler and her mustang, Lola. The two are edging closer to the big day when they’ll compete in the final stage of the Teens & Oregon Mustangs Challenge. Lola has come a long way since being rounded up and kept in holding pens at the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Wild Horse Corrals in Burns.
Before Siler loaded her into their trailer and brought her home, Lola had never been touched by a person. Her first day with the Siler family began on December 3. She was wary at first, but soon realized she’d landed in a place full of love and promise.
The BLM manages and protects wild horses and burros on 26.9 million acres of public lands across ten Western states as part of its mission to administer public lands for a variety of uses. The Wild Horse and Burro Program’s goal is to manage healthy wild horses and burros on healthy public rangelands.
Lola and Siler are an inspiring team. It’s obvious the young mare has bonded with Siler and trusts her completely. Siler’s training gives Lola the chance to start a new life. She’ll be offered in a live auction held on March 26, which takes place after the riding competition at the NW Horse Fair & Expo at the Linn County Expo Center in Albany March 24-26.
With just a few weeks to go, Siler is happy with their progress. She’s getting in as much training as possible before she competes in two classes. The first is called Halter and Handling. Lola’s body condition will be judged on things like muscle tone, if her hooves look good, how healthy her coat is, and how clean she is. The handling portion of the class will be based on Siler’s showmanship maneuvers. To see how Lola is when not on a lead, she’ll be turned loose in a round pen, Siler will leave the round pen, letting Lola go free for a while. Then Siler will go back in and catch her.
“You’re judged on if your horse comes up to you or runs away from you. That’s worth 35 percent of the score,” said Siler.
The remaining 65 percent of her score is in a class called Trail that has five obstacles to navigate. The obstacles will show how calm the horse is and whether they spook at things. Of the 38 trainers competing, only 10 will qualify for a final competition called the Top Ten Showdown.
“It’s a five-minute freestyle class where you get to wow the audience as best you can. You can get as creative as you want, like costumes and music. My goal is to make top 10, and do the freestyle event. I might have her pull a sled or I might carry a flag, or maybe have one of my sisters ride double with me. Siler continues to be amazed at how trusting and willing Lola is when ridden. The stereotype of a wild horse being a bucking bronc couldn’t be further from the truth with Lola.
“I found out Lola has an amazing mind, she is so calm… more calm than our domestic horses with a lot of things. She just takes everything in stride. Because of that, I think she’d be a great kid’s horse or a beginner-safe horse. If I make it in, I want my freestyle to reflect her safety as well as her training. She’s a really handy horse and can do things that a lot of other horses can’t,” said Siler.
A funny memory Siler has with Lola began with Lola lying down in her paddock.
“I decided to take a couple of minutes to go say hi. She let me sit down next to her with her head in my lap. I rubbed her forehead and she fell asleep with a line of drool coming out of her mouth… then she started snoring. I just sat there covered in dirt, in 32 degrees with a snoring mustang. It was the best day,” said Siler, laughing.
It turns out Siler’s biggest challenge with Lola had nothing to do with safety.
“My biggest challenge is not letting myself fall in love with her. I went into the challenge with a goal to help the mustangs. I wanted to show how versatile the mustang is, and part of that was creating an amazing horse for somebody. But I also created a horse that I want to keep. That’s the hardest, biggest challenge for sure,” said Siler.
Siler had help from her family, local businesses, and friends.
“I want to thank Hoyt’s Hardware, and Tyler and Meredith Hoyt, who donated $1,000 I used to buy Lola hay. Becky Boots from Mountain Montessori Pre-school also donated money. I’m so grateful for the support,” she said.
Siler has already committed to training another mustang, so it’s a pretty good bet Lola will be in the March 26 auction. The online auction will have pre-bidding available and an option for remote bidding. To see Lola’s progress, follow her on her Facebook page “Maddie’s Oregon Mustang”: https://bit.ly/3mQ2qW7. To learn more about the competition and auction visit: https://www.teensandoregonmustangs.org/events/adults-competition/.