In early September, 42 youth trainers and their yearlings entered the arena for the first time to compete for the title of Extreme Mustang Makeover Youth Champion. With such a large field of truly spectacular youth trainers, the competition was tough! In the end, it was 2-time EMM competitor, Avery Proffitt, and her yearling, Sweet Serendipity, that took home the championship on Friday night.
This week, we catch up with Avery to get a youth perspective on the Extreme Mustang Makeover competition, what her training journey involved, and her future plans for Sweet Serendipity.
Q&A with Avery Proffitt
MHF: Tell us a bit about your horse experience and what got you into mustangs?
AP: I’ve always had a love for horses, and I was able to start taking lessons at age 5. My parents surprised me with my first horse at age 9 and our herd has only grown since then. I began training horses when I was 12 and the first project horse I got for a local trainers challenge just so happened to be a mustang. Soon after training her, I adopted my first personal mustang. Then I learned about the Extreme Mustang Makeover and one of my friends who is an adult EMM trainer talked me into competing. Since then, I have competed in two Extreme Mustang Makeovers, winning 3rd place overall in 2021, and champion this year in Fort Worth!
MHF: What made you want to compete in an Extreme Mustang Makeover?
AP: I was able to see a few adult trainers who were in the process of training their mustangs and I immediately knew I wanted to do it. I wanted to gain more horse training experience and help mustangs find homes.
MHF: Walk us through your Fort Worth EMM experience. What was pick-up like? How did the training process go? What was it like heading into competition? How did you feel competing on the “big stage?”
AP: When I picked up for the Fort Worth EMM, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. This was my first competition where the horse was randomly assigned to me. Once I got Sweet Serendipity home, we got to work. She did not make it easy to gain her trust, and she definitely was not the easiest mustang to gentle. Once I was able to earn her trust and respect though, she was amazing. I worked with her for countless hours each day prepping for the competition. Once we arrived in Fort Worth, I was a bit intimidated by how big everything seemed, but I reminded myself to stay calm and positive, because my mindset has a way of affecting my performance and communication with my horse. Serendipity took everything in stride, and I couldn’t have asked for a better partner to compete with.
MHF: You’ve trained a few mustangs now, correct? What has your experience been with them vs. domestics? Are there any go-to techniques or methods you use when starting a new mustang that you’ve found to be most beneficial?
AP: Yes, over the past 3 1/2 years, I have trained 5 mustangs (2 of them being under saddle) and worked with countless others. One of my favorite things about training mustangs is they come with a “clean slate.” They haven’t been able to form bad habits due to someone else’s training. Training mustangs is a very humbling thing to do, because there is no one to blame but yourself for any bad habits they pick up. The best thing you can do while training a mustang (or any horse) is to give them a solid foundation to build on. I don’t skip any steps while training these mustangs. Even if I think they’re ready to go to the next level, I make sure to take the time it takes and do all the prerequisites first to avoid having any holes in their training.
MHF: What was unique about working with Sweet Serendipity?
AP: Sweet Serendipity is unlike any other yearling I’ve had. She has an amazing mind, and she is very athletic. She made me work to earn her trust and respect, but once I had them, she became an incredible partner. She was the first horse I’ve trained to do liberty, and she taught me just as much as I taught her. She didn’t make it easy, but she made it all worth it!
MHF: Is your family supportive of your horse-crazy lifestyle?
AP: Definitely! My family is the reason I am able to do what I do! Although they didn’t start out as horse people, they have devoted so much time into learning in order to support me. I wouldn’t be where I am now without the help and support I’ve received from my friends and family.
MHF: Do you feel that horses in general and the EMM experience have helped shape other areas of your life?
AP: Yes, the things I have learned from horses have definitely helped me in other areas of my life. I have learned patience, hard work, persistence, and much more from training horses. All of the youth competitors in the EMM are so supportive of each other. I was able to meet some of my best friends through the Extreme Mustang Makeover.
MHF: What was the feeling when you realized you’d won your first EMM Youth Championship?
AP: I was very excited and I even got a little emotional. I was so proud of Serendipity and how well she performed for me. It was amazing to see all the hard work we put into the EMM pay off!
MHF: What are your plans for Sweet Serendipity moving forward?
AP: My plan is to continue doing groundwork with Sweet Serendipity for a few years until she is mentally and physically ready to be started under saddle. I’m going to further her liberty training and hopefully do more performances with her. She is truly an amazing horse and I think she’ll be able to go in any direction.