A year ago, Roan Ranger stood free and wild in the fields of the western United States.
The 6-year-old strawberry roan mare was among more than 40,000 wild horses that roam the country, according to the federal Bureau of Land Management, which gathers the mustangs, assigns a trainer and gives the pair 120 days to train.
Today, Roan Ranger and her Fort Worth trainer, Jonathan “J-Dub” Weisiger, are in deep competition with 11 other mustangs for top prizes in the Mustang Magic Trainers Challenge at the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo.
On Friday, the two went through handling, conditioning and compulsory maneuver events.
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“We are sitting in a good spot,” Weisiger said Friday after the end of the second day of events.
On Saturday, the teams will go through two more events before the top mustang is named Saturday night. The horses will then be adopted by mustang enthusiasts, who must undergo a background check to make sure the horses will be properly cared for.
“You don’t know what type of mustang you’ll get,” said Joe Gray of Aledo, whose ranch, Promised Land Cattle Co. near Hamilton, is where Weisiger learned to train quarter horses and then mustangs. “A trainer will spend probably 300 hours working with a wild mustang, and sometimes that may not be enough. But [Weisiger] has worked well with every mustang that he’s been assigned.”
Gray, 79, was aiding Weisiger on Friday during the annual event, sponsored by the Mustang Heritage Foundation in Georgetown. Since 2007, the organization has placed more than 5,000 mustangs into adoptive homes.
“Our goal has been to increase their adoption and public awareness about them,” foundation spokeswoman Kyla Hogan said. “This year alone, we have 11 events like this scheduled.”
Weisiger, 37, is in his ninth Mustang Magic. He’s a farrier and a salesman for Sunbelt Rentals in Fort Worth when he’s not training mustangs.
“I just love the competition,” he said. “… It’s a challenge, survival of the fittest.”
The trainers at the Stock Show are from all over the country: Tennessee, Georgia, Nevada, New York, California, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, Alabama and Kansas, in addition to Texas.
Saturday night, $10,000 in prize money will be distributed to the top 10 finalists.
“I don’t feel pressure,” Weisiger said. “I just love training mustangs, and we’ll see how well we’ve done this year.”
Domingo Ramirez Jr., 817-390-7763