Comprising the Colony, Lewisville and Marcus FFA programs in the Dallas, Texas, area, the Lewisville Independent School District (ISD) FFA is helping solve the nation’s feral horse problem one adoption at a time.
The chapter’s advisor, Melissa Barnett, has led the charge for the past two years, most recently adopting five untrained, untamed horses formerly housed at the Bureau of Land Management Palomino Center in Reno, Nev. After picking them up in Pauls Valley, Okla., on June 1, 2019, Barnett brought the horses back to Texas and handed over the reins to her FFA members. After all, they had an event to prepare for.
Hosted by the Mustang Heritage Foundation, the 2019 Trainer Incentive program was held in Graham, Texas, in August and provided an opportunity for trainers to bring their formerly wild, now gentle (halter broke, willing to pick up all four feet, and able to load and unload from a trailer) American Mustangs and demonstrate their new skills with the goal of finding a suitable adopter.
“In our community, we have several students who are interested in horses and would even like to own one someday, so this seemed like a great project for us to take on as a chapter,” Barnett says. “FFA members can learn more about horses and work with them closely, preparing them for an owner, which helps reduce the number of feral horses across the U.S. These horses have never interacted with humans before or been handled, so students have to start from scratch when it comes to training. That’s a rare and valuable opportunity. Plus, for some FFA members, it serves as a supervised agricultural experience.”
To prepare for the program, FFA members were tasked with grooming and coaching their horses during twice-a-day sessions, during which they practiced halter training and taught their horses to walk, trot and canter. Five Lewisville ISD FFA members participated in the effort: Trevor Moreno (pictured above), Maddie Trussell, Abigail Smith, Bri Gutierrez and Rebecca Wittek, who has adopted the horse she tamed.
“My horse, Duke, came to me pretty wild and aggressive,” says Wittek, a senior at Marcus High School in Flower Mound, Texas, who plans to pursue a career as a horse trainer in the future. “We’ve worked through it together, though, and now he is a fantastic horse. Duke has taught me so much patience; the bond we’ve created is incredible.”
Barnett says the Lewisville ISD FFA will continue doing its part to reduce the prevalence of feral horses. It plans to train four additional horses for adoption at the Fort Worth Stock Show event in January 2020.