Taking the Mustangs for a Ride
"I had a good job as a battery engineer,” explained Chad Kelly at Davidson’s Quarter Horse ranch recently. “I worked for the company that supplies the batteries for NASA and other major government contracts. I have four degrees plus an honorary degree in engineering, but I really hated my job. I was inside all day and on the road 40 weeks a year. I put myself through college starting colts and shoeing horses and I realized after 10 years as an engineer, the horses were what I really wanted to do.”
Today, Chad Kelly and Cheri Davidson’s operation adopts more wild mustangs through the Bureau of Land Management’s wild horse adoption program than anyone else in the United States.
“Cheri and my daughter, Paige got me started with the mustangs,” Chad admitted. “My first thought was that these mustangs would be scrawny little horses, but I found out that is not necessarily true,” he continued, as he walked into one of the barn stalls and patted a 15.2 hands high gray mustang. “High Mileage Mike here is probably the toughest, most stubborn customer I’ve had so far. Now he’s my buddy and will come right to me.” The horse happily nuzzled Chad’s hand in response.
“There’s a video they still show on the Horse Network and RFDTV, two cable networks, that shows me when I first started with these mustangs, getting one of them into a squeeze chute. It was really something with the horse trying to climb out over the top. Fortunately, what you don’t see is me cussing the horse, and asking ‘what have they got me into?!” That has been a few years ago, and in the last 15 months, Chad and Cheri have worked with 200 mustangs.
Their latest acquisition is a beautiful paint horse named Sundance that has only been on the ranch two weeks, brought home when Chad returned from the Jan. 23-24, Ft. Worth Extreme Mustang Makeover, a horse training competition. “The first time I competed at Ft. Worth, I ended up being disqualified because I spun too many times.” He added with a chuckle, “one of the judges told me you really can ride, you just can’t count.”
Cheri picked up the rest of the story. “About 100 days after bringing that particular wild mustang home from the competition, Chad had him gentled down to the point that he walked him through a group of kindergarteners at an exhibition.”
“That’s what we do,” he explained. “I’m under contract with the Mustang Heritage Foundation and the Bureau of Land Management, working to encourage people to adopt the wild mustangs.” The horses are taken off Federal lands in states like Nevada and Utah, where wild horses still run free, and offered to the public by the BLM at various adoption events across the country. The next southwest Missouri wild horse adoption is scheduled at Humansville, Mo., on March 27-28.
“There are lots of ways to start a colt, gentle him enough to guide him, drive him, ride him, all depending on the temperament of the horse, and how he responds,” Chad added.
Last year at the Ft. Worth mustang event, Chad was asked to be the manager, which involved 400 horses. Two of the wild mustangs Chad started, which are offered to the public for the government’s standard adoption fee of $125, have sold at auction for $3,500 and $8,500.
Chad’s latest adventure literally involves taking his mustangs on the road. He is in the final planning stages of a cross country ride, sponsored in part by two major cable television networks. “We’ll be riding from Las Vegas to Fort Worth, beginning in June, to raise money for the Mustang Heritage Foundation and to continue the fight against breast cancer.” He is also planning a Missouri ride sometime in May 2009.
Always busy with more ways to publicize the need to adopt wild mustangs, Chad will be a clinician for Horse Fest in Springfield March 13-15, 2009. He concluded, “a lot of people think mustangs are worthless and the truth is these are not champion show horses but for most people who are looking for a good, sturdy trail riding horse, a mustang works just fine.”