Wild horse and burro expo continues in Gardnerville
For Warm Springs Correctional Center inmate Fred Winkler training mustangs has changed his life.
“It’s awesome. It has changed my life,” Winkler said of the horse training program. “I’m getting out in 37 days, and I’ve learned a lot from the program.”
Inmates from the prison’s Saddle Horse Training Program showcased their training efforts today and Saturday during the Western States Wild Horse and Burro Expo.
Winkler is four years into a 10-year sentence for burglary, and has been in the training program since the beginning of his incarceration. He has trained 26 mustangs.
“I love doing what I’m doing. I’m going to try to be a horse trainer when I get out,” he said. “I’ve learned a lot of self-respect. If you don’t take pride in yourself, how can you take pride in your horses?”
The expo at the Douglas County Fairgrounds also featured 105 different classes of competition including halter, cattle, trail Western, English and speed.
“This is a way of getting the word out that wild horses and burros make tremendous mounts. You can do anything with these mounts,” expo president Stacey Coleman said. “A lot of these horses came out of the wild six months ago, a year ago. Mustangs are not throw-away animals. They are tremendous, so are the burros. Give them a chance.”
Britta Kuhn of Gardnerville gave a gelding named Tonka a chance this year, after exclusively riding quarter horses for 10 years.
“I wanted to get more involved in mustangs and the mustang program,” she said. “I bought him after seeing him at the expo last year.”
Kuhn competed with Tonka in the novice division of the English events for the first time today.
“I taught him how to jump yesterday. He got over the jumps and figured out how to do it,” Kuhn said. “They are much more versatile. I can take him pretty much everywhere, and expose him to anything. The other thing about mustangs is that you don’t have to shoe them. Their feet are like bricks.”
Tonka won third in showmanship and first in English pleasure.
Gardnerville resident Sheila Schwadel competed in all of the Western events with her 9-year-old Pine Nut mustang Babers.
“There’s just something special about mustangs,” she said. “Mustangs have better instincts than domestic ones. They are more personable and have an innate knowledge when you’re out in rugged country. They know how to handle their feet.”
Syd Blankenship of Monterey County, Calif., has competed in the expo for six years. This year she brought her 3-year-old mustang, Mystic.
“I would encourage anyone to look at mustangs. They do English, Western, dressage. They’re very versatile,” Blankenship said. “They are leftovers from the expansion of the Wild West, and the settling of the country. They’re a part of our heritage.
The wild horse and burro expo continues Saturday with competitions starting at 8 a.m., and the auction at noon.
For more information, and complete schedule of events, visit http://www.wildhorseandburroexpo.com.