Wild at heart: A Wyoming mustang finds a home in Monticello

Ashley Hunter
ECB Publishing, Inc.

When Apache, a two-year-old sorrel pinto, climbed off the trailer and set hoof in Monticello, he was wild.
This mustang hailed from Green Mountain, Wyo., and had spent the majority of his two years of life on the grassy slopes, aspen forests and rocky plains of wild Wyoming.
A year before arriving in Monticello, however, Apache – then only identified by his tag number – was rounded up by the United States Bureau of Land Management's herd management program.
Clustered with some of the other horses that had been rounded up by the bureau, Apache was photographed and documented for ownership, which is where then 15-year-old Grace Paul, of Monticello, comes in.
Paul has been a trainer of horses and riders alike for the last three years, and the young horsewomen put her name into the hat in order to obtain one of the Green Mountain horses that had been housed in the bureau's Utah holding facility since 2018. If training and adopting a wild horse from Wyoming wasn't enough, Paul also wanted to enter the Mustang Heritage Foundation’s Trainer Incentive Program.
The program and its 100-Day Mustang Makeover Challenge, is an incentive that pairs American youth with American mustangs.
The challenge involved turning an “untouched” wild mustang into a gentled and trained horse. The trainers must halter break their mustang as well as teach the horse how to be trailer loaded, pick up their feet and how to be led through obstacles.
At the end of the 100 days, the mustangs and their young trainers would compete against one another.
On Monday, June 10, Paul picked up her wild mustang from Calhoun, Ga., and brought him home to her family's 56-acre farm.
Apache, who was muddy and filthy, was given his name and had his identification tag removed, officially marking his change from one of the thousands of mustangs in bureau holding facilities to a horse with a home and a purpose – and then the training began.
With only 100 days to train the wild mustang and guide him into being competition-worthy, Grace Paul had her hands full.
From her Facebook page, she documented the 100 days of progress that she and Apache undertook together. From training him to be led, to teaching her former-wild mustang tricks that relied on his trust in her, the mud-soaked mustang slowly faded away into a gorgeous, well trained horse.
On Saturday, Sept. 7, the Paul's opened their farm to the public as they hosted a Meet the Mustang Day. Soon it was time for Paul to leave for her Mustang Challenge competition in Georgia. The girl and her horse showed incredible calmness as they showed off the tricks and skills that they both had taught each other to their gathered audience.
Apache, with feathers braided into his mane, followed his teenaged handler around with calm docility, letting her lead him onto a pedestal before allowing her to prompt him to lay down. Meanwhile, Paul showed a gentle but firm leadership over a horse that, less than 100 days ago, had been completely wild.
Undoubtably, Paul's determination and skill with her mustang can be chalked up to her own personal resolve, as well as the stance that her parents, Erik and Amy Paul, have taken when it comes to fostering growth with their seven homeschooled children.
The Paul's, an entrepreneur family who own a 3D cast-printing enterprise, Exiom, LLC., out of Monticello, encourage their children to reach out and take risks.
While the Paul's have only lived in Monticello for a few years, they have already involved themselves fully in the Jefferson County community due in part to the family's desire to achieve, pursuit of their dreams and fearless determination – all traits that their oldest daughter Grace has shown time and again in her horse training.
Early Thursday morning on Sept. 12, the Paul's took their daughter and Apache up to Georgia to compete in the 100-day challenge finale.
When Grace Paul returned home after that weekend, she and Apache would be carrying home multiple ribbons and recognition for their efforts and competition displays.
In her age division, Grace and Apache received a second overall score, placing first in the trail class, second in the pattern class and third in the freestyle class.
“I am very proud of how well he did,” wrote Paul on her training Facebook page, before also announcing that at the end of the competition, her family ended up purchasing three more mustangs who had been similarly trained by teenaged handlers for this challenge.
According to Erik Paul, many of the horses trained for the 100-Day Mustang Challenge end up being sold at the end of the event to potential buyers who want a trained, but cheaper, horse.
That is a fate that Apache will never face.
“He's going to live a long life here,” said Erik Paul during his family's Saturday, Sept. 7, Meet the Mustang Day.
It might not be the rolling, mountainous hills of Wyoming while surrounded by wild mustangs and mares, but in the fenced pastures that lay beneath shady oaks, with a girl who loves him and other horses to run alongside, Apache has found his home.
You can learn more about Grace Paul and Apache's story and progress by following her Facebook page at facebook.com/graceshorsetraining.