Battle Ground girls adopt wild mustangs for training program


Battle Ground sisters Norah and Claire Garlington recently adopted wild mustang horses as part of a four-month training program hosted by Teens and Oregon Mustangs.

The goal of the program is to make mustangs more adoptable by showcasing the animal’s value and trainability, while helping trainers improve their horsemanship skills and allowing youth to build training skills through competition.

The girls have formed a close bond with their new animal friends. They are part of the Youth In-Hand yearling mustangs division.

“I really like that I saw the opportunity to train horses,” 10-year-old Claire said. “I enjoyed fostering a horse, so I thought I would enjoy this too.”

Norah, 12, also has a love for horses.

“I’m open for any chance to be close to one,” Norah said. “I really did like the mustang breed, and so I really like that the opportunity is open to kids to train horses and not just adults to do the important stuff.”

Norah said they found their horses, Baileymay and Albin, at the Clark County Horse Expo at a booth that allowed people to meet the founder and volunteers of Teens and Oregon Mustangs. The girls were able to learn more about the program there. 

“It was really exciting and they made this program seem like it was the right fit for me and my sister,” Norah said.

Once the girls finish the training period, they will be able to compete with the horses.

“There’s no certain way to train them,” Norah said. “You can watch videos and read and everything, but you’re kind of on your own. But if you get really stuck, then they also can help you a little, but they’re not going to do it for you.”

Norah described her horse, Baileymay, as “spunky and spontaneous,” while Claire considers Albin to be “curious.” Since they’re still new to the training, Norah said she’s primarily worked on brushing the horse, and leading the animal around the corral, while Claire focuses on groundwork and brushing.

Claire said the end goal of the program is to be able to hoof pick the horses successfully, halter and lead them, do groundwork, and load them into trailers.

Besides spending quality time with the horses, both girls genuinely enjoy the training program itself.

“I really, really like it,” Norah said. “It makes you get outside and not just be in the house all day, and it gives you a chance to be around horses.”

Claire added, “I love that they also think of the wild mustangs and not to overpopulate them, so you can give them homes and stuff.”

Norah said overpopulation is an issue with wild mustangs, so one of the goals of the program is to get the horses off Bureau of Land Management land.

Their father, Brandon, said it took about three weekends to build the round pen the horses stay in, but he noted the work was worth it.

“I kind of took it as a leap of faith,” Brandon said of their participation in the program. “My wife, Kim, was a little nervous about the whole thing, but I figure instead of having the girls watch it be done on the YouTube videos, we could actually go out and do it.”

The training program has helped teach the girls patience because it’s a slow, methodical process, Brandon said.

“Watching them go at their pace and their horses’ pace was really rewarding,” he said.

Once the training is over, a news release stated each division will compete in the Mustang Adoption Challenge from Sept. 2 to Sept. 4. Participants will be judged on showmanship, overall body conditioning, and in-hand trail. Each division will then compete for the title of Mustang Adoption Challenge Champion and receive a trophy saddle.

The final competition will take place at the Linn County Fair and Expo Center in Albany, Oregon.


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