More than halfway through a 100 day competition, local horse trainer Teryn Muench has chosen the mustang he will show at the Extreme Mustang Competition on September 8.
“His name is Keith Stone,” Muench said. If that name sounds familiar, you may, like Muench, be a fan of Super Bowl commercials — specifically a beer commercial from 2010. “I thought it would be a good name for a horse. And this mustang is a real smooth ride, so it fits,” Muench said. The mustang knickered at Muench as he approached his stall, leaning out to greet him as he brought the halter to lead him into the barn to be saddled.
This year’s competition will be the twelfth in which Muench has competed. “The first year for it, in 2007, I was working for someone else,” Muench said. He didn’t feel like it was the right time for him to jump in. The idea of the competition was intriguing to him, though. “I went down to Fort Worth to see it. It was interesting to see what other people could do in 100 days of riding.”
As a professional horse trainer, Muench said he starts a lot of two-year-old horses for others, giving them a solid foundation no matter what their intended job will be later on. “I specialize in cutting horses, but I’ve worked with barrel racers, ranch horses and some others,” Muench said. The mustangs are trained similarly to the horses bred for showing or racing at Teryn Muench Performance Horses. “A horse show is a horse show,” Muench said. “I train horses for a living. It’s a good challenge and an opportunity to see where I measure up against other trainers.” Muench said it’s also a means to re-home the mustangs, which are auctioned to the trainers through the Bureau of Land Management.
While Keith Stone is not the first mustang Muench has trained for the Extreme Mustang Competition, he is the first three year old he has chosen for the show. “The others I’ve worked with have been five or six,” Muench said. “He’s a little more immature and less comfortable with himself. That’s been the biggest struggle with this one.” Muench said he looks back at photos from previous years throughout the training process to keep tabs on his progress. “I’m at about the same spot with [Keith Stone] as with last year’s mustang,” Muench said.
“There’s lots of room for improvement. We have been working on guiding; he will go more where I tell him with a lot less leaning and dragging me around.” Muench said he’s been taking the mustang to every horse show he attends, as he has with all the mustangs he has trained.
“I work with the mustangs for fun, in my free time,” Muench said. “Working with the mustangs has made me appreciate the horses for what they are. The mustang I had last year, I liked a lot just for his personality.” Muench said that while he trains horses professionally, there are a lot of traits the mustangs carry that have been bred out of the horses he trains professionally. While some of the wild mustangs may breed with domesticated stock, the animals don’t live the same way as those intended for show or even rodeo circuits. Despite their differences, Muench said the mustangs can still take part in those events. “I use this one just as much as any of them to help out at the horse shows,” Muench said.
Muench demonstrated Keith Stone’s versatility on their home turf, first riding the mustang as he worked with horses and riders training for cutting events, then loping around the paddock before working on roping techniques. “I use the time with the mustangs to experiment and try new techniques,” Muench said. “Doing that makes me a better trainer with all the other horses.”
As the show draws near, Muench said he tries not to think of the end. “Showing a horse is 90 percent mental,” Muench said. “You have to deal with your nerves. If you can learn to control it and use that nervous energy to work for instead of against you, it helps.” While continuing to work horses alongside his wife, Holly, Muench has also been helping two of the entrants to the youth division of the competition. “Whenever they have a problem, they call or come over and we work through it,” Muench said. “It’s a commitment. It’s a lot of work.”
But to Muench, it’s all worth it.