We hear a lot from the competitors during the course of an Extreme Mustang Makeover competition but, what we don’t hear are the stories from the “support crews.” The husbands and wives, the brothers and sisters, the friends and…the parents.
There’s a significant time commitment that goes into the training of an untouched mustang and a lot of what we don’t see is the time dedicated by the friends and family of each competitor to ensure their success. This week, we catch up with Tessa Proffitt, mother of Avery Proffitt, 2022 Fort Worth Extreme Mustang Makeover Youth Champion, to learn what having a child compete is really like.
Q&A with Tessa Proffitt
MHF: Avery is a “first-generation horsewoman,” correct? What were your feelings/steps when you realized it wasn’t a phase?
TP: We involved her in lessons and introduced her to other horse owners from an early age (5-9 years old) to try and appease her horse phase, but the phase wasn’t going away. Her passion for learning more about horses was only becoming stronger by the day. We had Avery’s riding instructors and horse professionals telling us she had a gift and she displayed a special talent when working with horses. Avery always asked the right types of questions that made “horse people” realize her desire learning all she could about horses. We started preparing our property and building fences around her 9th birthday. We surprised her with her first horse. We now have 7 horses, 3 of which are mustangs!
MHF: What are some positive changes you’ve noticed in Avery now that she’s been working with horses more consistently?
TP: Avery is a very hard worker. She sets goals and puts in the daily work to make progress toward them. I’ve seen her develop patience, consistency, problem solving, time management and an ability to control her emotions – all of which are all positive qualities for a 15-year-old girl to embrace. Avery must practice these skills everyday while training and I definitely see how it reflects in all areas of her life. Avery does all her daily horse chores along with her horse training. I’m happy that she has this passion that drives her every day. I truly believe that it’s such a positive lifestyle for children and teenagers!
MHF: From an outsider perspective, what are some differences you’ve noticed in mustangs vs. domestic horses your daughter has worked with?
TP: This is a hard one to answer- I’ve seen Avery grow so much in her horsemanship over the past few years and I’m sure it has a lot to do with how the horse responds, both domestic and mustangs. It just so happens to be that mustangs are primarily what she’s worked with in the past 3 years during this growth. I will say that she really likes how the mustangs have a “clean slate” (no human trauma) and once they come to trust humans, they’re willing to give their whole heart. Mustangs are very versatile and amazingly smart! Avery really loves the mustangs and will continue working with them.
MHF: What were your feelings when she expressed interest in working with a wild horse for the first time? Did you have reservations as a parent? Did you take any steps to ensure her success?
TP: It kind of snuck up on us. Since we didn’t know much about horses, we let her acquire a few horses that needed a lot of work and training! Because of this, she found a passion for not just riding, but also for training. She found that a giving them a solid foundation really sets the horse up for success and they’re way more confident. She took lessons, attended clinics, read books, watched videos and would problem solve her horse’s “issue” by seeking help from professionals. She learned early on that you’ll never know everything and that she must keep learning everyday if she wants to get better and continue growing. So, to answer your question, she has competed in a local rescue’s trainer’s challenge three times, having 120 days with each horse. These horses need to be trained under saddle and then must perform a routine on competition day and it just so happened, 2 of those rescue horses were mustangs. That’s where her love of mustangs came to be. Avery was then encouraged to apply for an Extreme Mustang Makeover by Christa Smith (an adult EMM trainer and friend). Avery applied and competed in her first Makeover last year at the 2021 OKC EMM; she placed 3rd overall in the youth division. She was so excited to do her 2nd Makeover this year in Fort Worth!
MHF: What were your feelings when you realized Avery had won the Fort Worth EMM Youth Championship?
TP: We were so excited and happy for her. I got a little emotional for her because I know how much she worked in order to perform well at this Makeover. She’s had some obstacles and challenges that they had to overcome. Sweet Serendipity was not the easiest yearling that Avery has worked with, but once they earned a mutual love and trust for each other it was beautiful to watch. I couldn’t think of a better name for a horse that describes their journey together- “Sweet Serendipity.” It’s rewarding to see that the countless hours of working, training, preparation and sacrifice she puts towards these competitions is worthwhile in so many ways! She puts all her own money towards her horses. Avery makes sure their care comes above anything else she could spend her money on.
MHF: What are some words of advice and/or encouragement you might have for other parents out there whose children might be interested in competing in an Extreme Mustang Makeover event or equine sports in general?
TP: Obviously, you can’t choose this for them. They have to want it, but if this passion is in your child, do whatever you can to make it happen. We started out with nothing horse related, not even a truck! Horse people are the best at seeing passion and potential in a child and helping out with great advice. Yearling mustangs are a great way to get started in training. If you’re not a horse person, find a knowledgeable trainer and mentor to help your youth trainer. I happen to think the Youth Extreme Mustang Makeovers are the best thing out there for a youth trainer. The mustang community is incredibly supportive and talented. I love the heart that the trainers have for these horses. If an adult trainer sees how much it means to your child and that your child is willing to listen and work, they’ll help them out. Avery has found lifelong friendships in this community. The youth competitors are so supportive and encouraging towards one another. She has made friends from all over the country! They continue to talk and support each other even after the competitions. Avery wants to learn more and eventually get a chance to train with some of the adult trainers that she follows in the mustang community.