SWEET VALLEY — Little Toy Gun emerged from a trailer, reared up and flipped over.
“She showed just how untamed she was,” said Kendall Jackloski, a 26-year-old horse trainer from Dallas, who has been working with the mustang for two months since that acrobatic beginning.
It took Jackloski four hours to get a halter on the horse, and four days to get her to accept a saddle, working under the philosophy “to be as gentle as I can be and as firm as I have to be.”
Now horse and rider are half-way through their preparations for a competition called Extreme Mustang Makeover, which gives trainers 100 days to get a mustang ready to follow all sorts of instructions.
At the competition, set for August 5-6 at the Topsfield Fair Facility in Topsfield, Massachusetts, Jackloski expects to show how fluidly Little Toy Gun can move from a standstill to a quick lope and how quickly she can stop. Another mandated maneuver shows how the horse can approach a mailbox in order for her rider to remove an envelope.
The trainer wants Little Toy Gun to be prepared for surprises, too, so she’s been getting the horse used to various items she never saw in the wild, from a lawn sprinkler to a little bridge to squeaky toys.
“I want her to experience as much as possible, to help her understand that she can trust me and I’ll take her through anything and she won’t get hurt,” Jackloski said.
Horse and rider will be competing against at least 30 other entries in the adult division of the competition, Jackloski said. Afterward, the horses will be up for auction, and it’s important for potential bidders to know the horse is ready to be ridden.
Jackloski is hoping the bidding doesn’t go too high, because she wants to buy Little Toy Gun herself.
“We’ve really bonded,” she said, explaining she knew instinctively that she and the mare would be a good team.
A previous mustang she tried to tame “put me in the E.R. with a third-degree sprain,” Jackloski said, a second one didn’t work out because of health issues and a third “just wasn’t a good fit; we didn’t trust each other enough.”
This fourth time, she believes, could be the charm.
“I think she’s enjoying civilization,” Jackloski said. “She likes to have a bath after a workout, and she loves grain.”
The Extreme Mustang Makeover competition is designed to show the beauty and trainability of the wild horses that roam public lands in the American West. The Bureau of Land Management periodically removes animals from the range to protect natural resources and ensure herd health. Since 2007 more than 6,200 mustangs have been adopted through Mustang Heritage Foundation events and programs.
Little Toy Gun was rounded up from an area near Twin Peaks, California. She was chosen at random to be paired with Jackloski when she ran up a chute that led to the trainer’s horse trailer. Jackloski runs SSR Quarter Horse Breeding & Training in West Pittston with her mother, Toni Jackloski, with whom she started training horses at age 12.