On a hot summer afternoon, Alayna Neville is working with her wild mustang, Luna.
When other kids are swimming or staying cool inside, this 13-year-old is training a yearling that she named To the Moon and Back (long for Luna) for an upcoming competition.
The event is the Teens and Oregon Mustangs Trainer Event, with the competition to be held on Sept. 25, 2020, at the Yamhill County Fairgrounds in McMinnville. Currently, Alayna is the only Central Oregon Youth to enter the competition for 2020.
The Teens and Oregon Mustangs was founded in 2009 by Josh and Erica FitzGerald. It is sponsored by the Youth and Yearling Challenge, which is created by Mustang Heritage Foundation and modeled after an adult version of the program called Extreme Mustangs Makeover event. In addition to MHF, the Oregon office of the Bureau of Land Management supports the 501(C)3 non-profit. They accept donations from the community to help fund the event and provide trainer incentive money for the participating youth.
For the Sept. 25 competition, participants must be 10 to 17 years of age and are required to work with a yearling wild mustang that has been out of the wild no more than 60 days. They must also work with an adult trainer. Kristine Voakes, who has a Natural Horsemanship Training business, has been working with Alayna.
"This is both our first year, being part of the Teens and Oregon Mustangs program, which is so fantastic," said Voakes. "I have worked with mustangs before, and it's such a good program that not a lot of people know about. That is amazing — if you have never worked with a mustang, this is the way to go. It is so rewarding once you earn their trust — they will do anything for you."
This is Alayna's second mustang—separate from the Teens and Oregon Mustangs program. Kristine and Alayna have also worked together with her three-year old mustang, Magic.
"Out of excitement over her owning her own mustang, Magic, we went to one of these competitions and watched it in Prineville," said Alayna's mother, RaeAnna Neville. "So, when the applications came due, she asked Kristine for a recommendation and put in our application."
She added that they must be screened and approved by the Bureau of Land Management to apply for a BLM mustang. Alayna's mustang, Luna, is a Warm Springs reservation mustang. Before being eligible for the competition, she must also complete the adoption process for a mustang through the BLM. On the day they go to get their mustang for the competition, they are assigned a horse.
Luna just turned a year old in June, and Alayna will be entering the In Hand Youth Division, which is broke up between three categories; Body Conditioning, which is judged on the overall condition of the mustang; Showmanship, which is a performance class with emphasis on the exhibitor's ability to showcase their progress with their yearling, and In-hand Trail, which is an in-hand test of the horse control and of the handler's ability to guide the horse safely through a series of obstacles, with an emphasis on safety.
At the end of the competition on Sept. 26, there is an auction where the trainers can choose to either keep their horse or auction them to someone who will finish their training or utilize them on a farm or ranch. All proceeds go to the youth and trainer.
"It's a very fun program," said RaeAnna. "It's very rewarding for the kids. When they place in the program, they win tack, saddles, and things to help them in future years to participate."
"I have been super duper proud of how well it's gone," said Alayna. "I don't think it's as much me — it's more Luna because she is so smart. She picks things up so quickly."
Alayna has been working with horses for the past three years. She started with her 23-year old blind appaloosa pony, which she still has. She is also involved in 4-H with rabbits and pigs. She has also been involved in dance, although she currently wants to focus on her horses.
"The past year, she has trained her mustang, she has worked with her 4-H group and she was in the competitive dance team," noted RaeAnna. "She is pretty involved in the community and she likes to participate for sure, but her passion is horses."
RaeAnna added that Alayna is already involved in the horse community, and she continues to get more involved.
"She is honestly, though, one of the most dedicated kids I have ever seen with the horses," exclaimed Voakes. "She will be out here early in the morning until late at night. RaeAnna has told me she will miss dinner sometimes because she is out with the horses. Its incredible to have dedication like that. It's hard to find in young kids."
RaeAnna noted that the most challenging part of the process is the ability to get sponsorships — which provides the cost of feed, training, tack and traveling costs. The participants also are supposed to earn money to give back to the Oregon Mustangs and Teens program.
RaeAnna said that its been a hard year to obtain sponsorships. Their net goal is $3,000. In addition to sponsorship, Alayna has several long-term goals.
"I want to ne able to support Oregon Teens and Mustangs," said Alayna. "My long-term goal is to get some type of arena built out at the Powell Butte Community Center with the extra sponsorships that I have and get something that more people can go to."
She said that this arena could benefit 4-H youth to take a variety of animals to, especially for those who do not have a place to work them.
According to their website www.mustangheritagefondation.org, the mission of the Mustang Heritage Foundation and the overall goal of this event is to increase the adoption of mustangs across the county. The Mustang Heritage Foundation supports this and other events of their own creation to showcase the recognized value of mustangs through the training competition. It has placed thousands of mustangs for adoption since September 2007.
Mustang Heritage Foundation: www.mustangheritagefoundation.org
Mian website for Teens and Oregon Mustangs:
To donate or sponsor Alayna Neville for the Teens and Oregon Mustangs:
Go to http://www.teensandoregonmustangs.org/get-involved/donate/
place Alayna Neveille in the "payment reference" space.
You can also make a check to Teens and Oregon Mustangs, and send to:
8490 NW Moores Valley Rd., Yamhill, OR 97148.
Put Alayna Neveille in the notes.
A tax deduction form will be sent with either option.
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