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  • Colton Woods

Makeover to Made-Over, Reflections on a Wild Ride


Not a single word, phrase, title or even paragraph can capture the magnitude to which a Extreme Mustang Makeover event has both on the people and horses connected. It’s truly a makeover for so many reasons but oftentimes we relate that to just the horse. However, many of us in the trainer position also experience a makeover of our own in the process. Before I try to capture my journey during the last 120 days with Reina during our Kentucky EMM experience, first of all I have to say, Thank You.

Thank you to my wife Maredith, to my parents, to my in laws, Joan Wilcoxen, to my brother and his girlfriend, to my friend Justin Haefner, to Erin, to Alaina Alderman, to Liz Sawicki, to Jeff, to Queenslake Farm, Brian Osborne, to all our Clinic hosts, to Stormy Mullins, Lizzy Foster, the entire MHF and EMM team, to Shelby Winsted, Sid Zacharias, Patrick King, to Sherrye Johnson Trafton and Dennis Cappel, to Cavin Graham, Mike Hurst, Charlie Workman, Courtney Jo Wexler, Corie Moore, Sana Abbas Anderson, and all the EMM competitors, to Frank and Nancy Conway, Melissa, Kelsey and Jack, to Wendy Xu and Hannah White, Excel Equine Feeds, Hay Chix, Espana SILK and Omega Alpha Equine and there’s more for sure. Thank you to everyone who has been a part of this journey.

When I took on the challenge of my first Extreme Mustang Makeover I had three main focuses for my ‘Why’. - To take my horsemanship to a new level - To help a horse find a home and be able to live a great life outside of a holding facility - And to be able to work with these incredibly innate, natural, untouched horses

To say those first three things were accomplished in 2018 during my first EMM would be an understatement. However it was just the start. That experience left me hungry for more. All the lessons learned, friendships and memories made far surpassed the late nights, money spent, sacrifices made and the list goes on.

In January as the beginning of the 2019 KY EMM approached I committed to a makeover of my own. I wanted to maximize everything I could with this next horse. That meant getting more in tune with my own mind, body and spirit because there is no question that these mustangs are so well tuned in to themselves and their surroundings. I made some changes to my routine, began new habits and started experiencing extraordinary results. These new routines, habits and lifestyle changes started not only changing my personal life but it started revolutionizing my horsemanship. These changes were made so I could be better prepared to work with a wild horse but they were also making me healthier mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. The potential that these basic simple changes could have on others lives became so so clear and fueled my fire even more to keep diving deeper.

Over the next 120 days we progressed full steam ahead putting in the hours and miles together. We traveled to 5 clinics in 4 states, experienced everything from schooling cross country fences and water obstacles to doing ranch riding, horsemanship clinics, reining maneuvers, trail riding, dressage and the list goes on. In those weeks together prior to the competition we clocked over 600 hours working together and quite a few miles.

When you want different results you have to try different things. That doesn’t mean what you try is going to work or guarantee you anything, but if you never try you’ll never earn. Luck certainly goes a long way but the harder you work the luckier you tend to get. So I poured everything I knew how to into this horse and myself. It proved to be successful throughout much of the preparation time and during the competition as well. We went off on a limb and tried many new things. Much of which built a solid foundation within us both and helped us find many successes together. Along the way we certainly experienced what it was like to try things that didn’t work. One can’t dwell on those loses too long. You just got to learn from them and move on. Same goes for the wins too. However it was pretty clear we tried something new when it came to our freestyle and it didn’t pan out. All that falls on my shoulders and in the weeks since the Makeover I’ve spent much time reflecting on it. The lessons learned are loud and clear and those are the ones that will continually push me to get better. All in all though I couldn’t be more proud of Reina. She was there with me every step of the way. She absolutely killed (in a fantastically good way) the compulsory pattern in the first round of the finals. So we left it all on the table. We gave it our best shot with everything we had, we experienced many great notes and found plenty of room for improvement. I couldn’t be more blessed and happy for what this horse and I accomplished within ourselves over the last several months.

Did I want to win? Yes, absolutely. I want to be the best I can be, do the best I can do, help my horses prepare to be the best they can be and perform the best we can when the time has come. The best part is, we got so much room for improvement and I’m more aware now of where my weaknesses are so the journey continues. Certainly winning would have been great but we didn’t earn it when it counted and that’s ok cause it’s on me, not my horse, and that I can work on.

Following the finals I purchased Reina back in the live auction. Then I made a Facebook post immediately following stating she was for sale. For anyone that talked to us throughout the weekend knew this was a possibility. This caused quite the uproar but it was done with the horse’s best interest in mind. How? Because I knew that there were people there at the event wanting to buy a horse and by making that post when I did there would be a chance those folks would see it before they left the event and they could have a second chance at purchasing her. I spoke to many potential adopters throughout the weekend and was so grateful to have met so many great folks and seen distant friends.

Throughout the weekend we answered the routine questions and many more:

Are you going to buy her back? -I am hoping not to as she is for sale, however if she doesn’t sell for what I think she is worth then I will buy her back. If you do buy her back are you going to sell her? -Yes if you see me buy her back and you’re still interested come talk to me in the barn, she will be for sale.

All weekend I was very transparent about my approach at the auction. I had no idea on what people were going to be willing to spend before the auction but I did know in the moment that the horse’s value far exceeding the final bidding price, which I paid, of $4600 which was the high seller for the weekend. One must keep in mind as well that the trainer only receive 50% of the final sale price as well so as the trainer we must keep this in mind when looking at recouping costs and protecting our investment into these horses. It’s not a charity event. We do it cause we love it but if we lose several thousand dollars each time we sign up for one, how many more can we continue to do? That answer is pretty simple: none.

It doesn’t sound romantic but it’s the truth: if we as people don’t take care of ourselves first then we can’t take care of our horses. And you can do that while finding a great home for a great horse. And trust me, making sure Reina finds a home that is the right fit for her and the human is of our highest priority. In fact we offer every year an opportunity for the adopter to come spend the next week at our facility free of charge with one on one instruction from myself so they can get to know the horse, start building that relationship and bond, learn about how the horse was educated, grow confident in working with the horse and really setting that person and the horse up for the best of success possible.

This situation has been a learning experience in itself and I will add this. Don’t hesitate to message me if you’re unsure, in disagreement, in support or whatever your mindset may be. My mission every day is to “Educate Horses and People with a Lifetime in Mind”. And in that means I’m still learning too. Every decision I have made I’ve tried to do with the horse’s best interest in mind. That doesn’t always mean it’s the popular decision and that doesn’t always mean that’s the only variable. There’s a lot of emotions that run through these types of situations but mind you, many of us have no idea the realities of the next person’s situation. Communication can go a long long way and in fact many of us have so much more in common than we do different. So let’s make positivity louder, communicate with one another and be thankful for the opportunities these great horses give us.

Since the makeover Reina has received some time off and now the focus is continuing her education and finding her a great home. No rush.

Definitely stay tuned for more updates on Reina, oh and she’ll be starring in some of our most recent educational videos on YouTube!

Thank you again to each and every one of y’all for your continued support. It’s truly an amazing blessing to be connected with each one of y’all and I certainly hope to have the opportunity to ride with you soon.

Wishing y’all a safe and blessed weekend! God bless.

Colton Woods & Reina


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