That's Joe Weitekamp and Little Bear. When I look at this photo I see the attentiveness of a horse reluctant to connect, a lead that is slack, an open, gentle hand and an attentive human. Joe is a Las Vegas based trainer that competed in the Western States Extreme Mustang Makeover and finished in the top ten with a beautiful little mare named Bella. The Mustang Boys and I met Joe at the National Wild Horse Association's show down in Las Vegas. Lucky us.
Joe came over to meet our 'reclaimed' Mustang geldings. A great big thank you to Sherri for making sure we got introductions. Polite and soft spoken, he sized up the geldings as we talked. We talked about the Mustang and he told me what great potential he saw in them. Those are not words I hear everyday. Some people believe Mustangs to be worthless scrub horses with no real genetic value. Some people love the idea of the Mustang but the romance quickly fades when the horse is actually in their hands. There are lots of good intentions but those intentions sometimes wind up with both horses and owners in bad situations. Joe and I talked about the sensitivity of these horses, their willingness to learn and how to best reach them. His passion for what he does makes Joe a good man to know.
Although I had little trouble getting Light Foot and Little Bear into the trailer for transport to the show, Little Bear is so anxious about exiting the trailer that the longer he is contained the more stressful he becomes. He actually ripped off the top of the bumper pad on the front wall and pulled out the foam. It is just so much stress for him to be trailered. I know that the only solution to his anxiety is building confidence in backing up and in his handler. I so wanted to attend the Clinic that Joe was giving in Sandy Valley but the trip was sixty miles for me one way. I was uncertain if Little Bear could take the pressure of the drive. When I called Joe and talked to him about it he asked me to make the shorter drive to his place the day before the clinic.
And so Little Bear and I became students together.
Our experience was amazing. What I learned at Diamond W Ranch was to be inspired. Although I do know many of the techniques that Joe used with Little Bear, it is amazing to see them applied by someone that has passion, connection, patience and experience. Even though Little Bear was reluctant to allow leadership by Joe, eventually Joe was able to get his attention and his cooperation. Soon enough, Little Bear was sending, walking over a bridge, backing and unbelievably, Joe was sending the gelding over a mattress. I watched Joe allow the Mustang to try, to think about it, to look to him for direction and to encourage the horse. He pawed at the mattress to let Joe know that he wasn't sure about it and Joe gave him time to think and breathe and to trust. Big accomplishment for a little horse that had just met this man. Soon enough, Little Bear was walking into a slant load with Joe and then into the straight load and backing out with confidence. It was awesome.
Light Foot and I will be attending Joe's Clinic in December and so will Little Bear if I can find a handler for him. Joe has inspired me to work on something special for these two geldings. The BLM has no authority once a Mustang has been titled and therefore is not a resource for us, I believe that these 'Reclaimed Mustangs' can find a new beginning with just a little help. It is my goal to help provide that. With people like Joe Weitekamp in the Mustang's corner, I feel so much more hopeful.
And for those of you interested (and who isn't?) Joe will be picking up a Mustang in February 2010 for the next Mustang Challenge. I'll be posting updates and likely bugging you to become a sponsor. You knew that would happen, right? I'll let you know my plans for the Mustangs and will update later tonight on Wildflower. Oh! And email me if you want information on Joe's Clinic or to contact him as a sponsor!