Program run through Fitzgerald Farms
This past summer was an interesting one for Estacada's Sara Ellington. Over the past few months, Sara competed in the Teens and Oregon Mustangs Youth and Yearling Challenge from Fitzgerald Farms.
The competition pits teenagers against each other in taking a completely wild mustang and transforming it into a tame horse. Each year, about 20 mustangs are chosen from the Bureau of Land Management herds and given to trainers for the summer.
Humans have never handled these horses before, and it is the trainer's job to control the horse before being judged at the end of the summer based on showmanship, body conditioning and in-hand trail classes.
On May 21, Sara traveled to Yamhill to pick up her horse, Samson, from Fitzgerald Farms, with 98 days to convert Samson into a more adoptable mustang.
Upon receiving Samson, he was small and dirty with dreadlocks on his belly and knots in his mane, but underneath the grime, Sara saw the beautiful horse he could become. After being home for a few days, Sara decided on the name Samson because he reminded her of Samson from the Bible who never had to use his strength unless he had to.
Training the mustang was definitely a challenge for Sara, but with help from her friends, she was able to push through the difficulties. In the end, Sara finished 12th in the competition.
After the competition, there is a live auction for the trainers who decide to put their horse up for adoption. Trainers do have the option of signing the appropriate paperwork, however, if they would like to keep their horse.
This year, five of the trainers decided to keep their horse while the rest were auctioned off to good homes. Among the five was Sara, who decided with her parents that keeping Samson was the right decision.
The summer proved to be both fun and challenging for Sara and Samson both, but it was ultimately an extremely rewarding experience. Sara is currently a junior at Estacada High School, and she plans to enter the competition again next year.