Part One: The Build Up
The miracle girl. Ask her and she will simply laugh it off, but watch her at work and it will quickly make complete sense. Most fifteen-year-old girls are worrying about the latest high-end fashion or stressing about high school life, and while both of those things have surely crossed Kayden Frazier’s mind at some point, her life is a little different than her peers.
On the outside she seems like any other busy high school freshman, participating in athletics, band, and UIL competitions year round, but look closer and one will find a hobby not many people take on.
“Are you sure you want to do this, to train mustangs?” Kayden’s mother Heather fondly recalls as her first reaction to her daughter’s new interest. “What are they really good for?”
Her reaction is likely the one most people have when they think about mustangs, they are after all commonly referred to as “wild.” These are animals people love to look at on some wide-open stretch of land in the many places they roam throughout America’s heartland, but no one ever imagines actually taking one in, for many mustangs are like any other wild animal, something that can be nice to look at from afar but the thought of ever getting close seems unattainable.
“Horses I have been around my whole life,” Kayden said. “I started when I was two and have been hooked ever since, but mustangs were something different.”
And so the legend was born.
Another family who had adopted mustangs the previous year asked Kayden to go with them to an auction for horses that were eligible to compete in the 2013 Mustang Million. The basic premise was that people placed a bid on mustangs they were interested in training and if they won the auction, they adopted the horses from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The money raised from adoption fees went straight to the BLM to continue the care and management of wild mustangs.
From there, adopters either competed themselves or asked others to train and compete with their horses. At the end of the 120-day period the trainers would compete at Will Rogers Coliseum in Fort Worth, Texas for a total of a million dollars in cash prizes.
Kayden was offered the chance to train one of the extra mustangs of the family she attended the auction with, and she jumped at the opportunity. She received a beautiful spry filly, and Kayden was entranced from the start.
“It was love at first sight.” Kayden laughed as she talked about their first meeting. “Well it was until she kicked me, not fun.”
Maybe most would have stopped there, decided mustangs were wild for a reason and gone back to working with their own horses. Instead, Kayden took another approach. She did not quit and by the end of the first day, she had the filly walking and leading.
“We gained respect that day,” she remembers. “She kicked me; I gave her a look and we moved on.”
From there the two continued to teach each other things every day. This transaction of knowledge soon became Kayden’s favorite thing about the breed. She welcomed the knowledge because even though she had competed in rodeo since before she could walk, mustangs were still a relatively foreign breed to her.
“I initially thought they would be harder to train [than quarter horses],” she said. “And they are in some ways, but overall they pick things up really fast.”
She did not consult with books or online guides on training a mustang either. Instead she continued allowing the mustang to teach her just as Kayden taught the mustang.
“One day she laid down on her own,” Kayden recalled. “I then made it a goal to get her to do that on cue, and it ended up working.”
Kayden says it was her experience with mustangs that taught her this new way of training, of how to work with the horses, not against them.
“They react differently; they can read your body language better,” she alluded to as the biggest difference. “Once I realized this, I began to see how quickly they pick things up because of it.”
As time went on she also consulted several adult trainers that helped her continue to grow an understanding and admiration for the breed. Everyday she learned something new while working with the mustang filly, and soon thereafter tried it with her other horses. By the end of the summer she had the majority of the horses on the ranch laying down on cue, bowing, and other impressive feats, all of which have led to the “miracle girl,” “mustang whisperer,” and other nicknames being associated with Kayden by those who have seen her at work.
“It makes me feel good that I can show people something new,” Kayden said when asked about the reactions she hears from people when they see what she does. “It shows people mustangs aren’t just something taking up land.”
An aspiring veterinarian, Kayden has become an advocate of sorts for mustangs, and furthermore, she is slowly becoming a fixture in the mustang community. Kayden ended up in the top half of the youth division a year ago and is anxious to have another crack at it in 2014.
This year instead of an auction, the Mustang Heritage Foundation went back to the Extreme Mustang Makeover format. Making matters even tougher, they decided only 27 youth from around the nation would be selected to compete in this year’s Texas Mustang Makeover, held once again at Will Rogers Coliseum in Fort Worth. To be considered, all prospective trainers had to submit a detailed application explaining why they should be chosen for this year’s contest.
“I wanted to do it again this year really bad,” Kayden said. “I wanted to see how much I have improved from last year and see how far I can go in only 120 days.”
To the delight of Kayden and everyone around her, the Mustang Heritage Foundation selected her out of a large pool of applicants to participate in this year’s competition. In late May she traveled to Paul’s Valley, Oklahoma to adopt and pick up, her assigned mustang.
As the Defining Wild series continues, the entirety of Kayden’s 2014 Mustang Makeover journey, from meeting her new trainee to competing in September, will be chronicled, giving readers the opportunity to see just how much progress the miracle girl herself can make in only 120 days.
Stay tuned as there is truly no telling what this Comanche High schooler has up her sleeve.For more information on the mustang breed please visit the Mustang Heritage Foundation’s website at: www.mustangheritagefoundation.org. For questions about Kayden’s journey or the Defining Wild series itself please email firstname.lastname@example.org.