ENTERPRISE - Local horse trainer Vixen Barney finished 25th out of 100 competitors in the finals of the National Heritage Foundation's Extreme Mustang Makeover competition on Sept. 22 and 23 in Fort Worth, Texas.
The purpose of the competition was to show the public that wild mustangs, with proper training, can make excellent domestic horses. Her draw in the competition was a three year old bay she named Chance
Barney also placed 16th in conditioning and 14th in groundwork.
The day after the competition, all trainers were required to put their horses up for public auction, in which some of the horses sold for thousands of dollars
Barney, who runs Dun the Barney Way Horse Training, Leasing and Lessons facility in Enterprise, traveled to Fallon, Nev., last June to enter the contest. Out of several hundred hopefuls, judges selected a hundred horse trainers from around the country to compete. And Barney was one of just two trainers from Oregon.
Each trainer was given a wild mustang, plucked fresh from the lands of the Bureau of Land Management, to work with for 100 days before having to trail the horse to Fort Worth to compete in the areas of conditioning, groundwork and riding a complex pattern.
"It was a huge honor just to be chosen, and I was thrilled to finish in the top 25," Barney said. "I wasn't nervous, because there were so many amazing trainers there and I knew I was coming in from behind."
Barney made the drive with husband Ryan and children Jalyn and Destiny. Additionally, both her parents and in-laws, as well as several close friends from the county, flew to Fort Worth to support Barney at the competition.
The high level of competition showed in the panel of celebrity judges: JD Yates, a member of the Cowboy Hall of Fame who has his own TV show; Bob Moorehouse, one of the cowboys responsible for getting reining into the Olympics; Susie Jean, a legendary breeder of famous western pleasure horses; and 2007 Road to the Horse winner and nationally recognized trainer Chris Cox.
Competitors were equally qualified and included top cowboys from the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association and title holders in cutting, reining and dressage.
Aside from the tough competition, Barney had a more personal - and painful - challenge to face.
While working with Chance, Barney suffered a broken back in a fall. Still not fully healed, the injury affected her ability to work with the horse in the final 30 days of the competition.
Despite the injury, she fell in love with the animal.
"I had shed many tears, especially the last week of our training time together, thinking that I had to say good-bye to this horse," Barney said. "I didn't even want to leave Wallowa County, thinking I wouldn't be coming home with him."
That all changed on auction day. Ryan's brother offered to buy the horse for the Barney's, and Chance is now safe at home with Barney and family, ready for more rides.