Earlier this year, 11-year-old Hailey Weston applied and was chosen to participate in Mustang Madness 2020. This event is organized by Mustang Yearlings/Washington Youth (MYWY), a nonprofit whose principal belief is that “Kids make better mustangs, and mustangs make better kids.”

MYWY runs this well-respected program in partnership with the Oregon BLM Wild Horse Corrals in Burns. Each approved participant is paired with a yearling mustang to work with for a minimum of 90 days.

For Hailey, this is the next step in a horse life that she was born into and seems completely comfortable with... and for Stormy, a yearling mustang born in the corrals, life has just taken a whole new course.

Their journey together will help Hailey grow in her confidence and training skills and will eventually bring Stormy into a new life with a new family who will fall in love with this charming and spirited little filly.

Daily life on the Weston family ranch includes interactions and responsibilities with many critters. Chickens, dogs and a chummy goat all fit nicely into this equine facility that houses not only the family’s personal horses, beautiful gypsy vanners, but other boarded horses as well.

Hailey’s mom, Alison, is a respected trainer and her father, Paul, is a trusted farrier. There simply could be no better place to grow up and develop an interest in and love of horses, and no better learning platform to draw from.

Hailey’s first horse was an adult mustang named Faith. Their bond was strong and Faith was the horse that really progressed Hailey’s desire be a horsewoman. With an open heart, she developed a deep love for Faith and had planned for a long life together. Tragically and unexpectedly, Faith had an unknown condition and died suddenly.

Losing Faith was a blow that took time to heal. Within the same year, a gypsy vanner named Mystere’ arrived at the ranch needing rehabilitation. Mystere’ was “shut down and non-expressive,” but Hailey and her younger sister Savannah seemed to be just what he needed. Days after arriving, the girls were spotted being “followed” around the arena by the gentle giant —and that was just the beginning of a mutually healing journey.

Hailey’s heart once again connected to a special horse and yet, unfortunately, another heartbreaking loss awaited.

It is something quite extraordinary to find anyone who has gone through multiple losses and is still willing to enter into an endeavor where the outcome is about giving something up. Hailey is just that extraordinary. She is pouring her heart and soul into this little wild child and dedicated to building trust and solid “in-hand” skills so that Stormy’s forever home will be given a strong starting point.

From the beginning, Hailey has accomplished amazing results. The pivotal beginning goal of “first touch” was accomplished on the second day. Shortly thereafter came haltering and leading — again accomplished in record time. The biggest challenge Hailey faces is when Stormy tries to nibble on her. This is a playful yet potentially problematic and dangerous habit that needs to be dealt with immediately and consistently. Not surprising for a young horse, Stormy proves to require a little bit of mindful, tough love consistently in this regard.

Hailey’s mom is there when needed, but is also focused on this being her daughter’s experience.

From a trainer’s perspective, Alison shares that, “It’s such a great opportunity for her to work with one that has not been dulled by the human. She is seeing how very important patience is in everything she is doing. I feel it will make her appreciate her own horse that she rides currently, and the time it takes to get one to that place.”

Each day continues to bring remarkable advancements and in just three weeks, thanks to Hailey’s dedicated work, Stormy received her first hoof trim by a farrier with a personal investment. Paul describes being filled with joy while watching his daughter progress. As he observes every step forward, he tempers the fear of his daughter working with something that was wild and ungentled only weeks ago, with gratitude for what this opportunity is bringing to her life.

“I’m truly blessed to be able to see all this unfold and I don’t think a father could be any prouder than I am every time I see her walking around the property with Stormy, knowing how much work has gone into just getting her to this simple stage.”

As with all other aspects of life affected by the current pandemic, the Weston family is now waiting to see if the Mustang Madness event will go on as scheduled, August 6-8 in Cle Elum, Washington. The Mustang Heritage Foundation had planned to provide full funding through their trainer incentive program (TIP), however due to an imposed shutdown of equine pickups until after June 1, and MYWY’s desire not to shorten the trainer’s time with their horses, that funding fell away.

The Oregon BLM stepped in and is allowing trainers to participate in the Adoption Incentive Program after meeting certain requirements, which will help to offset their expenses.

MYWY, however, still needs help in meeting financial goals for putting on the event, and is encouraging each trainer to participate in fundraising efforts to ensure that the show will go on.

Hailey will be 12 years old when her time with Stormy concludes. As Hailey continues to expand her skill levels and confidence, while helping Stormy to become a good and respectful partner, she will also be helping build awareness to all that is possible within the relationship between a human and a mustang.

If you are interested in helping to support the financial needs of MYWY-Mustang Madness 2020 and Hailey Weston’s journey, visit: http://mywy.org/join-us/become-a-sponsor/ ).