San Juan County Fair: Six Four Corners area youth spent 90 days taming wild horses

Matt Hollinshead,

FARMINGTON — Six Four Corners riders had just 90 days to build mutual trust with their steeds, turning them from wild to mild.

“If you encounter an obstacle, you have to make sure they trust you enough to go over it,” said Durango’s Annette Bechtolt. “If they’re scared of something, they’re going to look to you.”

And the Wild Horse Challenge on Aug. 16 at McGee Park highlighted that evolved trust, as all six competitors navigated through some difficult and hands-on obstacles.

This was the first year the Wild Horse Challenge has been part of the San Juan County Fair.

Mykayla Dennison of Cuba encourages "Olympus" to jump over a pole during Friday's Wild Horse Challenge at McGee Park in Farmington.

“It takes a lot of patience,” said Bloomfield’s Jaiden Williams, who competed with her mustang Prancer. “It was more (about) building a bond with him. It took some time.”

After leading the horses into a pen left of the starting gate to get their halter on, the riders walked them forward into a trailer before getting them to walk in reverse coming out of the trailer.

After tying the horses to a side gate in the back right corner of the arena and draping a blanket over their backs, the riders guided them to four poles surrounding two tires. Some horse settled to simply pick their legs up over each pole, while other had the confidence to leap right over each pole.

Then came the final act of trust: successfully walking backward within a narrow pathway, without stepping outside either of the two barriers.

Jaiden Williams of Bloomfield and "Prancer" get ready for Friday's Wild Horse Challenge at McGee Park in Farmington.

Some of horses were a bit more anxious to make it through the course than others, but they’d keep looking right at their riders just for reassurance.

It may not have been the smoothest task, but it was the climax of evolving mutual trust.

Bechtolt and her mustang Blossom won the event. In just 90 days, Blossom went from being timid and malnourished to being confident and built to win.

Matt Hollinshead covers sports for the Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577 and on Twitter at @MattH_717.