The Star-Herald

Local horsewoman trains mustang for competition

FORT FAIRFIELD and CASTLE HILL, Maine — Castle Hill resident Chelsie Nickerson will compete on Aug. 31 in the 2019 Massachusetts Mustang Heritage Foundation’s TIP Challenge with her yearling mustang filly, Greta Rose. 

Eighteen other horse/handler teams, 13 youth and six adults, will join the competition in Athol, Massachusetts. 

According to Nickerson, the Mustang Heritage Foundation holds these events in several states to raise awareness of the 51,000 mustangs in government holding facilities. The competitions show the horses’ trainability, versatility and willingness.

Greta Rose, a mustang trained by Chelsie Nickerson of Castle Hill. (Courtesy of Chelsea Nickerson)

“Some events offer the mustangs for sale or adoption afterwards,” she said. “This particular event does not have a sale so the mustangs are ours to keep unless we choose otherwise.”

Nickerson said she found out about this competition just days before the May 1 application deadline. 

“I found out that I was selected on May 6 and picked up my horse on June 1 in Orange, Massachusetts,” she said. 

“I’m very excited and a little nervous for this competition.  This has been an awesome experience and a wonderful opportunity for me and my family,” said Nickerson. “I’m very thankful for all the support, encouragement and donations that I’ve gotten from my family, friends and local businesses.”

The horses were randomly drawn for participants, who then had 90 days to gentle and train their mustangs. The Aug. 31 event takes place after the 90 days, and competitors will return to Massachusetts to compete in three different in-hand classes.

 “The first class is handling and conditioning,” said Nickerson. “What that means is the horses are judged on their overall health and body condition. Then the horse and handler are judged after they show some basic horse obedience. There is also an in-hand trail class. The final class is freestyle. We all get to pick our own theme, obstacles and tricks.”

She said this will be a new experience for her.

“I’ve been showing horses locally for years. but this is my first time ever competing in a show like this. I’m really not sure what to expect; I’m the rookie,” Nickerson said. “I’ve been watching a lot of videos to get ideas and asking people who have done it before for suggestions.”

She said most of Greta Rose’s training has been quite easy, though the hardest part has been the limited time she’s had to spend with the horse.

“I’m used to working at my own pace. I like to let the horse tell me when they are ready,” said Nickerson. “She is very smart and we have a good bond. She trusts me, which makes a huge difference.  She still doesn’t love tarps or plastic bags but she’s improving all the time. She is very curious, sassy and a little bit stubborn at times, but that’s very typical for a yearling.”

Since June 1, the mustang has gained about 52 pounds and grown 3 inches taller.  

“Greta Rose will have a forever home with me at Lucky Horse Farms and I look forward to continuing her training as she grows,” said Nickerson. “I’ve really enjoyed my experience so far and I’m hoping to enter the competition again.”

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