Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Mark Lyon and Christian

During the Extreme Mustang Makeover, the competitions leading up to the finals are lengthy and extensive. As I watched the semi-finals of the Legends class of trainers and mustangs, I was spell-bound by the performances. So much talent in these animals, and buckets of hard work by their trainers!

There was one pair in particular that I was drawn to: Mark Lyon and Christian. They were so connected. Mark cracked a bull whip over his head, and shot balloons off of cones with a pistol while Christian kept his loping gait steady and smooth. But also what attracted me was Mark’s style. His handle bar mustache, straw hat held tight by a chin strap, brightly checked shirt and red boots made me smile. Not only was he an exceptional trainer, but he was having a good time!

After his run, I caught up with Mark in the barn, and we had a conversation. I asked him what it was like to train this mustang, and this was his reply: “Well, at first, we called him the Devil Horse because he was so aggressive, scared, and worried about things. Everything he did was BIG. He climbed up on my saddle horse and tried to bite him. Mustangs are bred to be agile and quick to run away from prey, but that means they’re also agile and quick enough to buck you off! After the first two weeks, things changed, and that’s when we changed his name to Christian.”

“Once I gained his trust, he was a different animal. He’s very athletic and tries so hard. As our training progressed, I realized what an exceptional horse he was. It’s like when you find a diamond in the rough. You don’t know what you’ve got until you knock the dirt off of it, and then you discover it’s the Hope Diamond! My plan was not to keep him. My goal was to be as tough and competitive as I could be and sell him. I thought he was a 6 or a 7; he turned out to be an 11!”

“What do you think of the Extreme Mustang Makeover program?” I asked. “I think it’s great.” He replied. “This program allows people that want a mustang to have one without it trying to kill them! Most people don’t have the strength and the knowledge to be able to gentle these mustangs. Once an experienced trainer has put some hours on these horses, the success rate of adoption by the general public goes much higher.”

When asked what he thought of the mustang in comparison to other breeds of horses, Mark said, “They’re everything we like about a horse. They come from all different climates and geographical areas; they’re hardier and more adaptable than other breeds, and they don’t colic as easily. They’re tough and persistent. If Christian got mired in the mud, he would try really hard to free himself, where other domesticated horses would just give up.”

Mark and Christian went on to win the Legends competition in the finals. Their performance in this event was breathtaking. Mark and Christian started with a beautifully choreographed dance using a Garrocha, which is a fourteen foot long wooden pole used by Spanish vaqueros to sort, prod and herd cattle. Then they escalated to spins, sliding stops, and shooting balloons at top speed. At one point, Mark’s saddle slipped to the side, and he fell off! A tribute to Mark’s training, Christian stood absolutely still as Mark quickly righted his saddle, finished their routine by walking through a hoop of fire on a teeter totter, and won! I was swooning!

After much contemplation, Mark decided he should let Christian go at the auction. “It was one of the most difficult things I have ever had to do.”, Mark said. He was pleased when Christian was sold for $4,000 to a much respected trainer and one of the judges for the competitions, John Lyons. To his surprise, John Lyons gave Christian back to him and told Mark that he needed to continue to train this horse and enter the Road to the Horse competition in March of 2009. John said he and Christian should stay together, and that if Mark wanted to keep him, they would work something out.

You can go to Mark’s website, www.marklyonhorsetraining.com, and watch his winning performance at the Extreme Mustang Makeover, (I get excited all over again when I watch it!).


Debbie said...
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Debbie said...

Great post!