(FOX 13) - Mustang trainers from all over the southeast are at a center outside Atlanta this weekend, competing for cash prizes - and bragging rights.
The 2018 Mustang TIP (Trainers Incentive Program) Challenge will feature more than 90 trainers and their mustangs, and among them will be three local trainers who've spent months getting ready.
The owner of RJ Farms in Plant City, Jennie Sloan has been training mustangs for nearly a decade, but this is the first time she has competed in a TIP competition.
She and her students had 100 days from the day they chose their horses to the day they compete.
"We're winners already because we've gotten this far. I never dreamed I'd get this far in 100 days. Ever," said Sloan.
She chose the horse she named Draxx because he had been overlooked for adoption seven times and she saw something in this former stallion who had lost his life in the wild, where he had a family of mares and foals.
"He was named after the Marvel character, big and strong and powerful, but soft and kind at the same time," she explained.
Part of the training includes an obstacle course with things totally unfamiliar to mustangs. Walking through Styrofoam noodles can be terrifying for a wild horse that lived in a constant state of watching out for predators.
Sloan said, "In the wild, if something touches him from behind, it's life or death. If something touches him underneath this belly, it's life or death. It's something eating him, so he has to run. He has to get away from it."
Even the young horses are wary of what they've never seen. Haleigh Price is 16 and says the yearling she named Mona Lisa wasn't too fond of people at first.
Said Price, "Some things she's like no, I'm not doing that. Other things she's like yeah. She loves to jump!"
Hannah Bradley, 20, juggles college classes, a job, and training her mustang. At 8 months old, Penelope is still a baby, so Bradley has been much more than a trainer.
She said, "If I do it, she'll do it. Because she was pulled away from her mom so young, I'm kind of like her mom now."
Sloane says even horse people have misconceptions about mustangs.
"Most people expect mustangs to be wild rodeo horses. They expect them to be dangerous snorting demons and they're not," she said.
She and her students are on a mission to show the world what mustangs can do, the relationship that you can forge with one of these icons of the American West. Sloane says she knows from experience, and it changed her life.
Said Sloan, "They're 100-per-cent open to anything we're willing to teach them. As long as you're willing to teach them fairly and kindly, they'll do just about anything. Once you do a mustang, you don't want anything else."
There is a sad postscript to our story. We've learned that Haleigh Price's mustang, Mona Lisa fell and broke her shoulder and had to be humanely euthanized. It is devastating for Haleigh, who has spent every day since mid-June working with the filly and building a relationship.
You can follow Jennie, Haleigh, and Hannah on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/RjFarms/
To follow the Mustang TIP challenge in Georgia at https://www.facebook.com/groups/1683375645238245/