June 17, 2012 in Region

Gentle touch earns trust of mustang

Alex Paul Albany (Ore.) Democrat-Herald
 
Associated Press photo

Trainer Blake Powell, of Lebanon, Ore., works with EZ, a 2-year-old mustang from eastern Oregon, on Monday.
(Full-size photo)

ALBANY, Ore. – Watching Blake Powell gently guide EZ around the arena at Heart Cross Ranch southeast of Albany, it’s difficult to believe that just three months ago the 2-year-old was a wild mustang roaming eastern Oregon.

Barely moving the leather reins, Powell moved EZ backward, side to side and circled the arena.

“It’s all about super-soft motions,” explained Powell, 28, of Lebanon, Ore. “I don’t believe in having to jerk the horse around, or to spur it. Our way of training takes time, but the benefits far exceed the extra effort.”

A journeyman plumber by trade, Powell competed in rodeos for many years, riding bulls and bareback horses, “until the kids started coming along.”

Five years ago, he began learning how to train horses with Marv Ramsey, who has more than 30 years’ experience in the field.

“He started as my assistant, and he’s turned into a really good hand,” Ramsey said of Powell.

The men train horses of all breeds for other owners, focusing on the Vaquero style of horsemanship: gentle motions and trust.

EZ is Powell’s first wild mustang and he will compete in the Extreme Mustang Makeover set for June 29 to July 1 at the Linn County Fair & Expo Center. EZ comes from the Bureau of Land Management property in the Owyhee area in southeastern Oregon.

“The horse is actually pretty young for training,” Ramsey said. “We like to start them at 3 years of age. But he’s done very well. He’s very smart.”

Powell said EZ never “bucked, kicked or bit,” even during his first days in a new home.

At 14 hands tall and 900 pounds, EZ still has room for growth over the next three years.

“He was pretty thin when we got him in March,” Ramsey said. “He has filled out nicely. He knows where the feed is.”

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