MONROE TWP., N.J. — James Duffey, 18 of Garwood, drove his 2014 mustang through the doors of the Tractor Supply in Monroe Township, N.J. on Tuesday, June 12, about 12:30 p.m.
But it isn't what you think. Duffey is a lot like other high school Seniors. He likes to go out with his friends for a soda. In Duffey's case, his friend is a 4-year-old American Mustang he named "Star Spangled Dunes." Dune was wild, untouched by human hands, until Feb. 23, only 110 days prior. Duffey rode Dune into the Tractor Supply store in Monroe and bought a soda at the register.
Why ride a horse into a store? "Extreme Mustang Makeover,” Duffey said,”This is a contest organized by the Mustang Heritage Foundation and the US-Bureau of Land Management to showcase what mustangs can do as domesticated horses and encourage adoption. I'm part of the competition in Lexington, Kentucky next week. Each trainer has had about 100 days to work with his or her mustang. When we get to the competition we will each have to put our horses through challenges, like riding patterns and trail obstacles. The 10 trainers with the highest preliminary scores will present a freestyle routine. There are about 70 competitors in Kentucky this year. Seven of them are 18 years old, two younger than me. I rode Dune through the Tractor Supply because it shows off how quiet and cooperative he is. The manager and other folks there were really accommodating of our adventure. Not only am I responsible for training him, I also have to market him to potential bidders and buyers. At the end of the contest all of the mustangs go up for public auction. I want to make sure people know how a good a horse he is. He isn't very fancy or flashy in his training right now, but I've worked really hard to teach him how to interact with the human world in a safe way. I'm so proud of Dune."
Duffey took part in the 2017 Extreme Mustang Makeover Youth Challenge where he placed seventh overall with a filly named Gwen.
Duffey related some of the work he has done in his training. "First I had to be able to touch him. First touch was a big deal. Dune progressed well, so I was able to do our first ride in about 30 days. We went to Island Beach State Park and rode next to the ocean in April, which is a little crazy since Dune is from the Pancake mountains of Nevada. We marched in the Sayreville Memorial Day Parade. The Legacy Riding Stables mustangs were the first horses they have ever had in the parade. Dune was perfect and my yearling Gwen was well behaved for my buddy Samantha. We decided to do Tractor Supply because it worked so well with Gwen last year. And we stepped it up by riding through. He had already been walked through the store for 15 minutes first and was super chill while I shopped for a new halter. This weekend we are going to the Nine Pines Show at Dream Park. It's all about getting Dune ready to compete next week. I'm kind of nervous, because everything is happening at once."
Duffey will graduate high school on June 14 from his home school group. He has to give a speech, which he said is about horses. Duffey is also working with other Extreme Mustang Makeover competitors to try a mounted drill team at the contest venue for fun. "It won't be part of the show, but it should be good for some fun and laughs. Eight horses with 100 days of training doing choreographed patterns to music. Something for our spare time," Duffey said with a laugh.
He is also preparing to coach his second season of drill team for Legacy Riding Stables as part of their Summer Camp program in Sayreville.
When asked about Dune being sold to the highest bidder at the end of the contest, Duffey said, "I try not to think about it too much. This is the first horse I can't keep. Which is supposed to be part of this lesson, having to give him up. God gave me a great horse for it. He is a pretty color, but not my personal favorite. He is only 13-1/2 hands tall and kind of small for me. And he is very Western. He is perfect for a lot of people, but he is not a good fit as my personal horse. But I still love him and it will be hard to watch him go. On the plus side, I have at least seven people actively watching him for possible purchase in Kentucky. I'm glad that the video is getting him and the mustangs more notice."
The Nine Pines Horse Show is scheduled for June 16 and 17 at the DREAM Park, in Logan Township. See http://dreamparknj.com/ about the park and show.
The Extreme Mustang Makeover takes place June 21 to 23 in Lexington, Ky. See www.ExtremeMustangMakeover.com for more information.
For more information on mustangs and how to adopt one see www.MustangHeritageFoundation.org
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