NAMPA — Dressed in a black and white prisoner outfit, astride a horse draped in a matching getup, Matt Zimmerman rode through prison bars into the arena as “Bad Boys” blasted over the speakers at the Ford Idaho Horse Park.
The Caldwell resident guided Inmate Dan, the horse Zimmerman has been training for 100 days, across the dirt and through several obstacles. As the music faded into “School House Rock,” Zimmerman shot his gun at black and white balloons, never missing, while Inmate Dan galloped along. Just as the time was about to expire in the freestyle competition, Zimmerman jumped up on the mustang and danced while standing on the saddle.
About an hour later, Zimmerman was announced as the winner of Extreme Mustang Makeover and $3,000.
This marked the first time Extreme Mustang Makeover has come to Idaho. But it wasn’t Zimmerman’s first time to compete. He’s trained the wild horses for seven of the competitions, winning once prior to Saturday.
But he said he’s happy Extreme Mustang Makeover finally held an event close to home.
“It’s good because when I go away people don’t know what I can accomplish,” Zimmerman said. “With a competition here in Idaho, people can come and see what I can do.”
The event, held by the Bureau of Land Management and the Mustang Heritage Foundation, travels the country and puts horse trainers of all ages to the test and helps find homes for the horses.
Thirty-one trainers and their once-wild mustangs competed in the two-day event. By Saturday afternoon, the field was down to 10.
The trainers were with their mustangs for 100 days. Before that, these horses roamed wild and untamed across the western landscape.
“Mustangs are harder to train because they have to fight or flee to survive,” Zimmerman said. “They have more of a tendency fight.”
Nampa’s Matthew Livengood originally said his goal wasn’t to make it to the finals, but he was one of the 10 to compete for the top spot Saturday night. He finished ninth and took home a $450 prize.
This Bud’s For You, Livengood’s horse, was one of about 18,000 wild mustangs in Nevada before he started training him in April. It’s the first time Livengood attempted to train a wild mustang in his 20 years of experience working with horses.
“When we heard that the Extreme Mustang Makeover was going to happen here in Nampa, it was kind of like, well maybe now is the time,” Livengood told the Press-Tribune in July.
Livengood said Bud was tricky at first, but once the horse finally let the rancher touch him, Livengood said Bud was a quick learner.
BLM said Extreme Mustang Makeover is an opportunity to “showcase the beauty, versatility and trainability of these rugged horses.”
After the event, the trained horses were auctioned off. Meanwhile, untrained mustangs were sold throughout the weekend for $125.