MIDLOTHIAN — Combining the wild west with the African plains, Midlothian’s Indian Creek Ranch is hosting nationally-acclaimed horsewomen, Madison Shambaugh, this weekend with a couple of unusual companions – mustangs and zebras.
“Madison is coming to do demonstrations and use her team of horses where she doesn’t use a halter or bridle, and she gets the animals to do amazing things, and it’s beautiful,” explained Martha "Marty" Davis, owner of Indian Creek Ranch.
“They do tricks, lay down, circle around her, and she gets him to basically do anything. And she also has these two zebras, and they’re part of the show that she does as well,” she added with a chuckle.
“I started traveling with these animals about a year and a half ago,” recollected Madison Shambaugh, Fort Worth Stock Show Mustang Magic champion and horse trainer. “And I’ll have at least five mustangs and two zebras with me."
Native to Fort Wayne, Indiana, this 23-year-old has surfaced in the equine industry for her ingenious methods and performances.
“My hope is that there’ll be a sea change in the way people think about how to train horses where you don’t have to use harshness and that you don’t even really have to use bits and whips," Davis acknowledged. "But that you build a relationship with a horse and have a much sounder animal, like what Madison is doing."
In this weekend’s performance of “Meet the Mustangs,” Shambaugh will demonstrate her skills in what she calls “liberty,” the training without the use of horse equipment or ropes, but rather body language and “herd communication.”
“Liberty is a way of communicating with equines that is similar to how herds move and communicate naturally together,” Shambaugh related. “It is about becoming highly sensitive to our nonverbal communication and our energy, which is somewhat becoming a lost art.”
“Horses are naturally interested in things like unity, harmony, and working together,” she added. “Liberty embodies each of these elements. We constantly ask them to be a part of our world by jumping higher, spinning harder, and running faster; but liberty is a way that the human enters their world - the horse world.”
Making a name for herself globally in Germany as well as throughout the United States, Shambaugh has hosted training seminars and performances for the Extreme Mustang Makeover program of the Mustang Heritage Foundation.
"I started doing this to raise awareness for America’s wild horses," Shambaugh noted about her 2017 tour.
Inviting the community to attend the combination weekend fueled by live demonstrates, a barbeque dinner, and training workshops, Ellis County residents won't be disappointed in Shambaugh's performance of the all-around American breed.
"I'll be talking about the story of the mustangs and what we can learn from them and how we can apply that to our lives," Shambaugh explained Friday night's agenda. "These horses are the complete underdog, and so a lot of people can really relate to that at some point in their life.
I'm going to showcase what these horses can do because a lot of people think that they’re untrainable but they’re really a diamond in the rough and hits home with people," she added about the statewide issue.
According to Mustang Heritage Foundation, the Bureau of Land Management is currently responsible for more than 47,000 horses in the short term and long-term care.
Through the Extreme Mustang Makeover challenge where competitors transform a wild mustang into a domesticated horse in 100 days, over 7,500 American Mustangs have been adopted through since 2007.
“All the mustangs I have with me are previously wild horses, and a lot of people are unaware that around 50,000 wild horses that of indicted up from the public rangeland and holding facilities until they get adopted out," Shambaugh described.
“There are actually more mustangs in need of being adopted out than there are in the wild," Shambaugh articulated. "It’s actually pretty controversial issue, and there are lots of different arguments where the reasoning for the Bureau of Land Management around the forces out that the Mustang population increases at a rate of about 20 percent per year, and they’re not managed."
"So basically there are not enough resources for these horses and is currently a lot of research and how we can better manage the population, but right now it’s just a big mess," she included. "For this to work people have to be adopting horses, and adoption rates have been on the decline for quite some time."
After competing in the January 2017 Mustang Magic Trainers’ Challenge in Fort Worth, Shambaugh put her “gentling techniques” to the test when working with a 7-year-old mustang, named Amira, with less than 200 days of being out of the wild.
“The kind of methodology I use something I created over the years by studying the wild horses and zebras as well as getting advice from natural horsemanship trainers, but I compiled it all into my own program which is what I call 'The five golden rolls to horse-human connection,'" Shambaugh emphasized.
According to a Mustang Madi press release, Amira and Shambaugh had such a great partnership that the duo brought the crowds to tears and to their feet by performing bareback and bridleless—without any equipment—to the soundtrack of Disney’s “Cinderella.”
It goes on to recall that that footage of Shambaugh performance has gone viral, garnering nearly 1 million views online.
Stealing the limelight for this weekend's performance will be two striped, spunky zebras named Zena and Zeus in a presentation that is rarely seen.
“These are some of the only trained zebras in the world because they have a very strong 'fight or flight' instinct," Shambaugh recognized.
“Most horsemen would agree that zebras—an undomesticated species—are untrainable, but that’s not true,” she added. “With an understanding of their nature and pushing beyond what’s perceived to be possible, we can accomplish anything; I hope that’s a message that rings true both in and out of the horse world.”
With the weekend nearing, guaranteeing a presentation sure to wow audiences, Shambaugh also mentioned that the proceeds made from the event would go towards hurricane victims and relief efforts.
Inviting the community to attend, both Shambaugh and Davis are looking forward to touching lives through the stories and instincts of the wild mustangs and zebras.
“I would encourage the community to come out and see the show and to learn about the mustangs and the training that’s involved, and how it’s really not as hard and complicated," Davis urged.
“This is great for the younger generation because they can learn compassion, how to take care of an animal, horse husbandry, and so much more. But the overall theme is about the relationship you can have with a horse - it’s a partnership rather than a forced submission of its will," she included.
“If nothing else," Shambaugh jumped in. "I want people to walk away from the event learning what the mustangs have to offer; that we all have a greatness inside of us and it’s up to us to reveal it by pursuing our passions."
Meet the Mustangs is scheduled for Sept. 22-24 at Indian Creek Ranch on 1155 Indian Creek Drive, Midlothian. Friday’s performance is scheduled for Friday at 6:30 p.m. – 8 p.m. The horse training workshops will be held on Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. To purchase tickets, go to mustangfevertour.com/liberty-midlothian-tx. For more information, visit mustangmaddy.com.
Chelsea Groomer, @ChelseaGroomer