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Estacada High School student Winter Palmateer is training Rico through the Teens and Oregon Mustang program

COURTESY PHOTO - Through the Teens and Oregon Mustangs program, Winter Palmateer has 98 days to train three-year-old Rico.

When Estacada High School student Winter Palmateer met Rico, a wild mustang she'll be training for the next few months, she realized he was a very expressive creature.

"He's a lot more emotional. He can't hide his feelings," Winter said. "He loves to express how he's feeling with his face. He has lots of expressions."

Palmateer, 16, is a participant in the Teens and Oregon Mustangs program, which gives participants 98 days to gentle and train a mustang.

Founded in 2009, Teens and Oregon Mustangs is a nonprofit organization that works in partnership with the Mustang Heritage Foundation and the Oregon Bureau of Land Management.

Once the 98 day training is complete, a competition to highlight the animals' new skills is scheduled for Sept. 3-5 at the Yamhill County Fairgrounds in McMinnville, and an auction for the animals takes place on Sept. 5. COURTESY PHOTO - Rico's trainer, 16-year-old Winter Palmateer, says the mustang has a lot of personality.

A total of 60 horses and 10 burros have been trained through the Oregon Teens and Mustangs program. The organization offers multiple divisions for participants, including in-hand, which ground trains yearling horses; riding, which trains mustangs three and older to be ridden; and burros, which focuses on ground training yearling burros. In-hand is open to those 10 and older, riding is open to those 14 and older and burros is open to those 10 and older.

This is the third year Palmateer has participated in the Oregon Teens and Mustang program. COURTESY PHOTO - Winter Palmateer is training Rico, a three-year-old wild mustang.

In 2018, she participated in the in-hand training program. Last year, she trained a mustang named Rain and placed third in their division during the competition.

Since completing the program, Palmeteer has been able to continue to see Rain.

"She went to a great family that we know," she said. "It's definitely a relief to still see her as often as we do. I'm very thankful to still see her."

Palmateer brought 3-year-old Rico home on May 22. The pair has been mainly working on trust building exercises and desensitizing work, such as working with tarps and pool noodles.

"He's starting to come out of his shell more," she said, noting that she recently started taking him on trails. "I want to start going to different atmospheres to see how he'll react."

For Palmateer, the best part of the program is seeing the animals develop new skills.

"You get to see how the horses transform from a wild mustang to a trained horse and find good homes for them," she said.

Palmateer has worked with horses for most of her life, and she's looking forward to continuing to train Rico.

"I hope he goes to another great home like Rain. Moving forward, I want to teach him fun stuff, like tricks," she said.

To follow along with Palmeteer and Rico's progress, visit Winter's Rico on Facebook.

Mustangs in Oregon

In 1971, the United States Congress recognized Mustangs as "living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West, which continue to contribute to the diversity of life forms within the nation and enrich the lives of the American people."

In Oregon, 19 mustang herds are roaming wild alone and 17 are managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

"Oregon's populations reached their population numbers back in the 1980s to where they could live healthy without destroying the range-lands or running low on water resources," the Teens and Oregon Mustangs website states. "To preserve this population the BLM selects the best horses to be turned back on the range to produce the next generation of horses for our adopters based on temperament, size, color and conformation."

COURTESY PHOTO - Winter Palmateer has been training Rico since late May.


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