Wild horses shine in competitions

Caitlin George, a 12-year-old Carson Valley Middle School student, has been competing and winning a series of special equestrian competitions with a bay mustang named Emmett.

These competitions are for wild horses only and have something for every type of rider, from reining to speed events like pole bending and barrel racing, but beyond the accolades is the special bond between a girl and her horse.

"I just love him," Caitlin said. "He's got a great personality and we've developed a mutual trust. It's amazing, how much trust we have."

The pair won a number of ribbons at a recent competition just outside of Salt Lake City, Utah. When asked whether she'd be willing to trade the horse anytime soon, she adamantly shook her head no.

"If I'm lucky, Kim will let me buy him," she said.

The horse is owned by Kim Cook, owner of Sunset Stables, just off Johnson Lane in east Carson Valley.

Caitlin is just one of five girls at Sunset Stables competing in these events.

Loagan Furry, 14, rides a three-year-old gelding named Thor. She just won a reserve champion award in Utah with the horse, who is just a beginner and competes in western pleasure classes.

"He's great," Loagan said. "It's like riding any purebred horse. He'd place well against any horse in any field."

Loagan, who is an accomplished rider, said once you've become involved with mustangs, you're hooked.

"I want to buy him," Loagan said.

Thor is owned by Nancy Salaices, who said her animals come from either the Bureau of Land Management or Virginia Estray program. She usually takes those mustangs that remain after an adoption is over and so far, there hasn't been a lemon in the bunch.

"I went to my first adoption to buy one mustang. I now have five," she said with a smile. "The Bureau loves to see me coming."

Salaices chaperones the five girls, who are racking up the praise at these competitions. Two more remain, one in Reno in August and another in Bishop, Calif., the last week of September.

Phil West of the California Wild Horse and Burro Show Association in Bishop said this is the sixth annual competition for these mustangs, a grass-roots effort that provides adopters a chance to show off their horses. The shows also demonstrate to the general public that these animals are worth adopting.

"Last year we had 80 horses competing and it grows a little each year," he said. "It's fantastic to see wild horses competing in everything from jumping to western pleasure."

Money from the show benefits the wild horses and burros, West said.

"One year, we donated the money back to the Bureau for burro watering stations and one year, we gave some money to Dawn Lappin."

Lappin runs Wild Horse Organized Assistance, dedicated to the welfare of these animals.

Susie Vasquez can be reached at svasquez@recordcourier.com or 782-5121, ext. 211.


The girls need about $500 for the two competitions remaining this season. They want to raise the money for the trips with a garage sale that will start at 8 a.m. Saturday at Sunset Stables, 2480 Fremont St. off Johnson Lane.

"We'll have pony rides, $5 for a 15-minute ride, sodas and candy bars," Nancy Salaices said.

Reno's Expo is slated for Aug. 18-20 and the Bishop, Calif., show Sept. 23-24.

The girls are taking donations for the sale. For more information, call Kim Cook at Sunset Stables, 267-5767.


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