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Macy Montgomery has spent her summer working with a once-wild horse named Annie Oakley outside Sherwood.

PMG PHOTO: SCOTT KEITH - Macy Montgomery, 17, poses for a photo with the mustang she calls Annie Oakley. She has been training the once-wild horse all summer, although she wont be able to keep her.At the Rainy Day Ponies boarding barn, located in a serene, country stretch of land outside the city limits of Sherwood, 17-year-old Macy Montgomery has been spending her summer days looking after a mustang horse she has named Annie Oakley.

You might say it has been a labor of love for Montgomery, who has taken care of Annie Oakley, tending to the mustang's daily needs, through the Teens and Oregon Mustangs program.

Montgomery, who lives in Tigard and goes to Mountainside High School, developed an interest in horses early in life.

"I started riding horses almost five years ago," she said. "But I grew up following in my stepsister's footsteps, because she was a rodeo queen for two years. I would go to all of her rodeos and watch her and all the other queens. I was so impressed with everything they always did."

This interest led Montgomery to become involved in the Teens and Oregon Mustangs Program.

"It's an awesome program, and they work closely with the Bureau of Land Management," Montgomery explained. "They help rescue and re-home horses that are out in Oregon, in the wild, because there are not enough resources in the wild for all of these horses to survive and have a long life."

The idea behind the Teens and Oregon Mustangs Program is to educate the public about training and adoption of Oregon's wild mustangs.

Mustangs are a rich part of Americana. But their origins are European.

Horses aren't native to the Americas, and the mustangs that have become an icon of the West are descended from horses first brought across the Atlantic Ocean by Spanish explorers, missionaries and conquistadors in the 16th century, according to the Mustang Heritage Foundation.

"The United States has over 90,000 wild, free-roaming horses in 10 western United States," said Erica Fitzgerald, Teens and Oregon Mustangs program founder. "The Bureau of Land Management believes that Oregon, alone, can sustain healthy herds of about 2,650, when, right now, we're at 6,500."

Fitzgerald continued, "With that many overpopulated, there's a trickle down, as with everything. Our natural resources are depleted. Ranchers are upset because the horses are encroaching on their property, land, crops, hurting their livelihood."

Fitzgerald notes that horses can die in the wild without natural resources; problems can include drought and lack of water. One herd of these feral horses, which are federally protected, can double in size every four years.

Hence, the Teens and Oregon Mustangs program, through which these wild horses can become acclimated to humans and live safer, more comfortable lives as domestic animals.COURTESY PHOTO - Trainer Macy Montgomery brushes Annie Oakley's face. Annie Oakley will live out her days as a domestic horse after being taken from a wild herd of mustangs in Oregon, which has an unsustainably large mustang population.

Montgomery recalled being introduced to the program by a rodeo princess.

A few years back, as a member of the St. Paul Rodeo, Montgomery said, "I was at one of the events there and I was talking to the rodeo princess at the time, and she was telling me all about her experience with the program. I just thought that was so cool."

Montgomery continued, "I did a bunch of research about it. I talked to my family and friends. They all helped me get the opportunity to do this."

The program, based in Yamhill, allows trainers, such as Montgomery, to train and break the wild horses.

"The first month, I was there (at the boarding barn) almost all day long," Montgomery said, recalling her introduction to the horse she now calls Annie Oakley. "I would go out pretty early in the morning. I would do some work with her, then give her a break. It took me 10 whole days to be able to touch her or walk up to her."

Upon receiving her mustang, Montgomery recalled the horse was a bit shy.

"She would watch what we were doing," she said. "Very curious, but very unsure. Throughout the month, she became very comfortable with all of us at the barn. She literally begs, like a dog, for treats from everyone."

Montgomery has enjoyed spending her days training Annie Oakley, who is estimated to be about 4 years old.

"I've been personally working with her every single day," since day one, Montgomery said.

After a period of 100 days, the trainers compete in a show together.

"Each and every one of us has trained our own horses. It will be awesome to see where everyone is after 100 days," Montgomery said.

According to Fitzgerald, it takes about 100 days to get a horse from "wild to willing."

Under the program, each trainer can choose whether to permanently adopt the horse or sell them after 100 days.

For Montgomery, the decision was difficult.

"I made the heartbreaking decision to sell her," Montgomery said. "I really wish I could keep her, (but) especially if I go to college next year, I want her to live to her fullest potential."

Montgomery hopes horses can be a part of her life in the years to come.

"Hopefully in college, I will be able to take my other horse, that I already have, down to college with me and hopefully should be on one of their equestrian teams for a few years," Montgomery said. "I would love to have kids and have them be a part of horses, too."

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