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Corey Rogers has a sense about horses, about what makes them tick and what it takes to mold them like a lump of clay into a thing of beauty and trust.
"I just like it, "Rogers said from a barn at Chiefland's White Farms Friday where he works as a trainer. "This is about the only thing I've found I'm good at."
Rogers, a Chiefland native, likes it so much he moved away to Nevada to train horses after graduating high school in 2007. In June, Rogers came home with intentions to stay, but he wasn't alone.
"He was a little butt when we first got him," Rogers said, referring to the 2-year-old mustang he affectionately calls L.P. "He was real standoffish at first. Didn't care too much for ya'. Didn't care too much about anything."
Rogers got L.P. —who he compares to the kid in the "back of the class who doesn't mess with anybody as long as nobody messes with him" —from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management at a holding facility in Georgia shortly before he returned to Chiefland.
"It's a random draw for what kind of horse you get," Rogers said, explaining that he's got 90 days to train the mustang and get him ready for adoption through a program called the Extreme Mustang Makeover, run by the Mustang Heritage Foundation in Texas.
Rogers, the only one in the state to take part in the program this year, said he will take L.P. to Clemson, S.C., in October to compete and hopefully find a permanent home for the horse.
According to the Bureau of Land Management, at last count L.P., captured in Nevada, was just one of about 37,000 wild mustangs roaming rangelands in the western U.S.
Mustang Heritage Foundation representative Jennifer Hancock said there are too many mustangs, which are protected by law, for the federal government to manage.
"They're way over their number at the moment," she said, adding that in addition to the number on rangelands, about 45,000 other mustangs are being held in pastures and short-term corrals, all at the expense of taxpayers.
"Our mission has always been to save and to help with the adoption of America's excess mustangs," she said. Mustangs have a reputation as being unruly, she said, but that's not true. They are athletic and intelligent.
"They really are adaptable to any situation."
Rogers agrees. Although L.P. is his first mustang and was a little difficult at first, Rogers said he's coming along just fine.
"With mustangs, the slower you go, the faster you get with them," Rogers, 24, said. "But before you know it, it's like a snowball effect."
Rogers said he spent the first few days just "hangin'" out with L.P., getting him used to people. "They've never really been handled before, except for being run through a squeeze shoot to be doctored."
After a little more time of getting the mustang used to a saddle and the weight of Rogers' body, which he accomplished by gently laying on L.P.'s back, he took a "big, deep breath," and threw his leg over. And that was that.
"People have a bad stigma about wild horses," Rogers said. "But these guys are pretty much a clean slate," explaining that he'd rather have a wild horse afraid of humans than a kept horse full of bad habits.
Mustangs do well in captivity, he said, pointing out that L.P., though tending to be on the small side at 13 hands, has put on about 200 pounds since Rogers has had him. Mustangs such as L.P. can be trained to do just about anything.
"He's going to be a good horse," he said. "He's athletic and good minded."
Rogers will be putting on a free horse training clinic Aug. 28 at the Tractor Supply in Chiefland. The public is encouraged to attend, and people are welcome to bring "problem" horses for Rogers to evaluate. He can be reached at 352-634-1302.