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Diamond in the Rough Gets Polish


By Tommy Brannon; photos by Nancy Brannon

Kimber Goodman, owner of Circle G Guest Ranch near Campbellsville, Tennessee, is competing in the Extreme Mustang Makeover this July 6 at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky. Kimber has competed in past Mustang Makeovers and has a system for training Mustangs that seems to work well for her.

She picked up two horses from the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Mustang holding facility in Ewing, Illinois on March 17, 2017. Horses are chosen by BLM at random and the trainers only have 100 days to complete the training process before the competition.

If you have ever seen an Extreme Mustang Makeover competition, it’s pretty impressive. The horses, so recently out of the wild, will wow the audience with demonstrations and tricks that would make any circus horse envious. They may lie down and be still on command, stand on a box, or walk over a teeter totter, perhaps even jump. Quite often, though, it is an accomplishment just for the trainer to get the Mustangs to be ridden and show off the basics.

Kimber had a real challenge with one of the horses that she is training for this year’s competition. This horse is a black 15 hand gelding that had recently come from the wild and had only been neutered for four days. She named him Nevada’s Diamond In The Rough because he came from Nevada and has a diamond-shaped star, strip, and snip on his face. She could see a lot of potential in this horse.

Diamond has large feet complete with some feathering which he uses with skill in defending himself. Kimber said that, at first, she could not get near his back feet without him kicking out quickly to the side. As it turned out, he also had an injury near where he had been gelded that had become infected. This she noticed partly because he was so defensive in that area and when he dropped down she could see that the injury was swollen. The problem was: how to treat it. She called Dr. Matthew DeLisle at Tennessee Equine Hospital and explained the situation.  Dr. DeLisle had treated mustangs for Kimber in the past, but usually by the time of the treatment, the horses had had at least some handling. This horse was still feral. She began by touching him on the neck while standing away from his back feet, so that he would get used to human contact in the area where he might need an injection. A few days later when Dr. DeLisle arrived to examine the horse, Diamond was still so fractious that he could not be completely sedated and was still kicking out.  The veterinarian decided that the injury was not life threatening and should heal with a regimen of antibiotics. The next challenge was getting the horse to learn to eat grain so that he could be medicated. All of this set his training program back a few weeks on the tight 100-day deadline.

The weather in middle Tennessee did not cooperate either. It rained a lot this spring, so the round pin that Kimber uses to train green horses was constantly muddy. In a way, this turned out to be a good thing. Diamond took a long time to settle down and the deep mud helped to tire him out enough so that he decided it was better to trust Kimber and cooperate. Diamond has a very independent personality and preferred staying in the Mustang corral at Circle G, which is located some distance from the main barns. It was several weeks before she moved him up to “civilization” with other horses. 

    Kimber takes her time with Mustang training, gaining the trust of the horse. She is an admirer of John Lions, Ken McNabb, and Chris Cox and their gentling methods.   Her training round pen is fully enclosed so the horse cannot be distracted by what is going on around him. It also has a center pole so horses can be tied safely. She uses a Chris Cox simple snaffle and a very soft bosal. She emphasizes the need for soft hands and a light touch. She said that she like a horse to respond to just a barely noticeable movement of the lower fingers.

This is not to say that a Mustang in training can get away with bad behavior. If he acts up, he is quickly disciplined, but just as quickly brought back into her good graces and assured of her friendship.

She desensitizes her Mustangs to a wide variety of human induced objects and sounds, such as leaf blowers, loud engines, flapping flags, and tarps. 

In addition to lounging and riding, Kimber uses long lining (ground driving) as part of her training technique. This adds suppleness and balance in the horse. Diving might become skill that Diamond could add to his résumé in the future. She has also taught Diamond do half passes and to lay down on command.

Everyone at Circle G is looking forward to The Extreme Mustang Makeover in July and wishes Kimber and Diamond good luck.  

The Mustang Heritage Foundation (MHF) is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization that puts on the Extreme Mustang Makeover.  MHF’s mission is to help create and promote programs that provide information about wild horses and secure caring homes for excess horses. Working in partnership with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) MHF is passionate about ensuring a healthy wild horse population through the placement of Mustangs for future generations. This is the tenth year that MFH has conducted The Extreme Mustang Makeover and over 3,000 horses have been adopted at these events. There are six Extreme Mustang Makeovers scheduled for 2017 throughout the U. S.; Jacksonville FL, West Springfield MA, Lexington KY, Reno NV, Monroe WA and Ft. Worth TX. Visit http//
Kimber Goodman is the owner and manager of Circle G Ranch and Events in Lynnville, Tenn. This facility hosts clinics, classes, riding lessons, dressage shows, horse shows, weddings and more. It has accommodations for both horses and humans. For more information, visit http// or call 931-922-3464.     

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