Master trainers transform wild Mustangs into performance horses

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You'll see amazing things at an Extreme Mustang Makeover. Trainers from all over are matched with an American Mustang, a wild horse, virtually untouched by humans, and get about 100 days to gentle that horse, train it, then compete for cash and prizes.

Sponsored by the Texas-based Mustang Heritage Foundation, the Makeover is coming to Ocala, Florida on May 10 and 11, and trainers from the Bay Area are hard at work training their Mustangs and creating a routine to wow the judges.

Angel Lopez of Tampa is teaching her 4-year-old Mustang mare from Adobe Town, Wyoming what she'll need to know to compete against dozens of other horses.

"They have to be able to walk, trot, canter, whoa, back up. That is the bare basics," Lopez said.

She's impressed with the willingness of her young mare to do what's asked of her with enthusiasm.

"She has surpassed everything I've expected of her. There's nothing she really can't do," Lopez said.

Angel's little sister, 14-year-old  Alexa Lopez is training 10-month-old Peanut Butter Cup for the youth division of the Extreme Mustang Makeover. She'll show what this little filly can do in hand, no riding.

Little "Peanut" was sick when she first got her the end of January, they couldn't even start training until a few weeks ago. Alexa says it was touch and go for a while.

"We found out she had shipping fever, so she was sick, and we couldn't really do much training. I was very worried. We weren't sure if she was going to make it," Alexa said.

The girls' mom, Jackie Lopez, was worried too. She supports her daughters 100%, but she also holds her breath quite often watching them.

Says Lopez, "When they first get a wild Mustang, the mom part of me is like 'Be careful, honey. Be careful. Their talent is amazing and I'm in awe of them!"

Down Interstate 4 in the community of Davenport, 16-year-old Rory Loyal is training for his third Extreme Mustang Makeover. He named his yearling Hekate, which means goddess of magic. 

"She might be the smartest one I've gotten so far," Loyal said.

Rory comes from a long line of performers on horseback - 9th generation - and he dreams of eventually having his own act with American Mustangs. His mom, Liz says he's a natural.

Says Liz Loyal, "Rory is really hoping to make a name for himself in horse training and I think he's well on his way."

Ginger MacPhee is on the way to riding barrels with her 6-year-old mare from Salt Wells, Wyoming, Mahiah.

"I think we're going to make it. I'm excited to see what she'll come up with. She's a good girl," said MacPhee.

This is her first Makeover and she's already a fan.

"It's my very first one and it's been a fun experience. A lot of challenges and it's actually taught me a lot about myself and about horses," she said.

One thing all of these trainers have in common is their mission. Not to win, although that would be nice.

 All four want to see their Mustangs get auctioned off to good homes when the competition is over.

"My main goal is find her a good home. It's not about competing with other people. It's about finding these guys a good home," Ginger MacPhee said.

Angel Lopez added, "I'm there to show her off so she can get a good home. That's what matters most to me."

The Extreme Mustang Makeover in Ocala will take place Friday and Saturday, May 10 and 11 at the Southeast Livestock Pavilion in Ocala, Florida. It's free and open to the public, except for the Top 10 Freestyle competition Saturday evening. Those tickets are $15.  

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FOX 13's Cynthia Smoot will be there with the winner of the 2017 Florida Extreme Mustang Makeover, her own Mustang, Dream.

You can follow her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter at @DreamtheMustang