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Mustang makeover.

Byline: Mark Baker The Register-Guard

WALTERVILLE - Wild horses could not drag Bob and Guy Brinkman away from Fort Worth, Texas, this weekend. Not even a wild mustang.

In fact, a mustang is the reason they are on the road right now, headed for the Lone Star State.

"We call this whole adventure `Living the Dream,'?" Bob Brinkman said Wednesday, the day before he and his son put a creature that had never been touched by human beings until June into their trailer and hit the highway.

Bob Brinkman, a retired Eugene businessman, was the only trainer from Oregon selected for the Extreme Mustang Makeover Western Stampede in Fort Worth, an annual three-day event that begins a week from today.

"And it's a tremendous honor to be selected," said Brinkman, 67, sitting in the family room of his ranch-style house on the McKenzie Highway with his wife, Julie, and his son. Guy Brinkman moved back from Montana earlier this year to help his father train the mustang they named Mystic McKenzie - or Mac, for short - after Bob Brinkman broke his leg in two places when he fell off one of his horses at a January show at the Oregon Horse Center.

The Extreme Mustang Makeover was created in 2007 by the Mustang Heritage Foundation, based in Georgetown, Texas, as a way to increase the adoptions of mustangs across the country through the federal Bureau of Land Management's National Wild Horse and Burro Program. Selected trainers are given 100 days to train a wild mustang provided by the BLM and showcase them in a training competition that involves everything from obstacle courses to jumping through rings of fire.

The mustangs are then put up for auction by the BLM on the event's final day. The Fort Worth event is the premiere event among six Extreme Mustang Makeover competitions held this year, including the Northwest Extreme Mustang Makeover that was held in Albany in March.

Bob and Guy Brinkman got Mac from the BLM in Palomino Valley, Nev., about 20 miles north of Reno, in June.

"We didn't know what we were going to get," Bob Brinkman said. With a new horse trailer that includes sleeping quarters, Brinkman was a little worried about putting a wild mustang in the back. The first horse they saw was trying to climb over a fence as two cowboys tried to defend themselves, he said.

But once they got Mac into the trailer, it wasn't long before he settled down during the 10-hour drive home.

"He began to notice us, and look at us," said Bob Brinkman of the horse, which they believe is about 3 years old.

They didn't lay a hand on him, however, for the first two weeks after arriving home.

With eight other horses on their 5-acre property, they worked with the brown mustang with the black mane in a small corral, touching him only with a bamboo pole. They played a radio every day to get him used to sounds and people's voices. One day they put a hand on his shoulder, then his back. Then they put a blanket on him, then a saddle.

Guy Brinkman, a 1980 Churchill High School graduate, finally hopped up on him. "And got off him real quick," he said.

Three months later, you'd never know this was a wild horse. He appears as gentle as a carousel pony.

Bob Brinkman is a little worried, though, about how Mac will handle competing in front of thousands at the Will Rogers Memorial Center in Fort Worth.

"In some ways, we want to compete, and in some ways, we don't," Bob Brinkman said.

That's because trainers can bid to keep their own horses, and the better they do in competition, the greater the likelihood they'll have to bid a higher amount. But now that Bob Brinkman has bonded with the once-wild animal he trained all summer - much of it in the Cascades, at the base of peaks such as Three-Fingered Jack, Mount Washington and Three Sisters - there's little question that he'll make a bid.

Winning bids average about $1,000, but the mustangs can garner more than $3,000, Bob Brinkman said. Trainers receive a 20 percent commission on the sales.

Brinkman, who grew up in the McKenzie River Valley, got his start with horses as a boy, watching his grandfather Hal Brinkman Sr. train horses. Working with Mac has been the thrill of a lifetime, he says. He once owned 15 horses, but had to give them up years ago to focus on his Eugene businesses, such as the former DeFrisco's bar and restaurant in the Atrium Building.

Now after struggling back from the broken leg that required surgery, he is back in the saddle again.

"I couldn't be any more pleased in the way he's come along," Brinkman said of Mac. "I want to push my own limits, and I want to push his."
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Title Annotation:City/Region
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Sep 11, 2009
Words:818
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