Cumberland’s Mayer takes in mustangs, prepares them to compete

Cumberland’s Mayer takes in mustangs, prepares them to compete

Brittany Mayer, of High View Farm in Cumberland, trains and competes with wild horses, including her new friend Renegade, pictured with her here. (Breeze photos by Ethan Shorey)

CUMBERLAND – For Brittany Mayer, training wild horses and preparing them for a better life has changed her personality and made her a better person, grounding her and “evening me out.”

“You can’t get mad at them,” she said, recalling the one time she pushed a new mustang over a bit and paid the price.

Mayer, 29, of High View Farm at 150 Tower Hill Road in Cumberland, has followed in her mother Carol’s footsteps while blazing her own new trail in training mustangs taken from the wild and then competing with them before adopting them out.

Her seventh mustang, arriving early last week, is one of her favorites yet, she said, and she expects her to do very well in national competition. Her name is Renegade, or full name Quick Draw Renegade, and the horse believed to be about 4 years old was already developing a connection with her new owner after one day of domestication last Wednesday.

“I expect this horse to do great things judging by how her first day went,” Mayer told The Breeze.

Over the next few months, Mayer will work with Renegade in preparation to compete with her in the Mustang Heritage Foundation’s Extreme Mustang Makeover competition in Oklahoma City against trainers from across the country with their mustangs.

“We will continue to move at a fast pace to get her able to be touched and handled, trained to accept a rider and even do some fun little tricks when she gets more confident with being domestic,” she said.

Mayer, who has placed in the top five at a number of competitions as a professional rider, said she briefly attended school to become an elementary teacher before realizing that it wasn’t for her and returning to the farm. A teacher needs to be able to give 100 percent to the job, she said.

She certainly doesn’t do this for the money, as each entrant into the national competition earns only $100 for being there, with no guarantee of anything more unless they place well. A top-10 finish earns $1,000, while top-3 winners take home $4,000.

Mayer says she won’t compete in the virtual events that have been taking place during the pandemic, as she maintains that the camera has a way of making riders of all skill levels appear the same.

Prices on horses vary, and Mayer has a good idea what she’s looking for in a horse going into an auction. Renegade wasn’t initially on her list of prospects, she said, but she loved her when she saw her.

There are plenty of injuries that come with the territory – Mayer is currently dealing with a broken thumb – but she said it’s all worth it to do what she loves.

She said she was able to sit atop Renegade twice in the first two days of having her. Being in the wild so long, she said, the horse is accustomed to getting what she wants when she wants it, so there’s some pushback if she imposes her own will on her.

Many people don’t go for mares, particularly ones such as Renegade that are a bit “moody and sassy,” Mayer said, but she likes this horse because she reminds her of herself at times.


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Mayer’s work to domesticate wild horses is part of a larger effort she says is needed to avoid overpopulation on federal herd management areas located in about 15 states, where officials designate a certain number of horses as sustainable. Herd sizes double every four or five years, she said, with an estimated 70,000 horses or so in the U.S. wild today.

The practice of rounding up horses to avoid overpopulation has drawn some criticism from animal rights activists, but advocates say the practice is necessary to protect herds and preserve depleted resources.

While many criticize the practice of rounding up horses by using helicopters, Mayer said, what many don’t report is that of 16 horses out of 1,000 that might die during the process, 15 of them had serious health conditions.

Also an under-reported aspect of this whole situation, she said, is that though many people want to force ranchers to move their cattle back onto their ranches instead of allowing the cattle to go free on public land for a fee, making more room for the horses, that would likely badly damage the economy, as prices of feed and meat would skyrocket. She loves horses as much as anyone, she said, but that’s a step too far.

High View Farm has about 20 horses, and Mayer and her family offer lessons and training both on-site and off. They recently started offering mounted archery lessons as well.

For more on High View Farm, visit www.ridinglessons.com .

Brittany Mayer develops a deeper connection with Renegade by letting the horse rub her itchy face against her jacket sleeve.