This September, riders and mustangs will convene again in Fort Worth to compare training skills at the Will Rogers Equestrian Center.
Those selected to compete have just 100 days to gentle a randomly assigned 12-24-month-old horse. The youth division competes for an estimated purse of $9,000 and a custom A Cut Above belt buckle.
Tori Underwood, 14, a local high school freshman, is a trick rider who has been participating in the challenge.
She discovered trick riding by watching a 2012 movie titled ‘Cowgirls ’n Angels,’ and soon was under the tutelage of a professional trick rider — Ginger Duke.  Last year, Underwood ran for rodeo queen. This year, she’s training a mustang.
Underwood said Duke has participated in the Extreme Mustang Makeover challenge a couple of times herself. “She’s done it  a few times, so I decided I wanted to try it,” Underwood said. This year is Underwood’s first year to enter in the competition. Her mustang is named Athena, after inspiration from another movie — ‘Wonder Woman.’
“Working with a mustang and trick riding can be hard,” Underwood said. “Sometimes there are just bad days. She won’t want to listen or anything.”
Underwood has had some help from one of the adult competitors—Teryn Muench of Teryn Muench Performance Horses in Love County.
Working with Athena has been fun, too, said Underwood. “She goes over the  jumps, she can lay down,” Underwood said. “I like teaching her the tricks.” Underwood hopes to train Athena to perform as a trick horse. “Right now, we’re working on our freestyle for the competition and brushing up on some basics.”
The purpose of the competition, according to the Mustang Heritage Foundation in Georgetown, Texas, is to showcase the beauty, versatility and trainability of wild horses. Mustangs roam freely on public lands thought the Western United States, where they are protected by the Bureau of Land Management under federal law.
The BLM Wild Horse and Burro program periodically removes excess animals from the range to ensure herd health and protect rangeland resources. Thousands of these animals are made available each year to the public for adoption or purchase.
The mustangs chosen for the Extreme Mustang Makeovers are virtually untouched before they’re picked up by the competitors in May. The youth trainers and their adopted mustangs will compete in a series of classes that will show off their new skills, including handling, conditioning, pattern and  combined trail classes.
Underwood said she is hopeful that she’ll add another belt buckle to her collection.