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Doc’s Teddy Bear, Real-Life Mustang Wows Kentucky Kids

One touch. One dream. One mustang.

In July 2012, Cohn Livingston of Pearl, Mississippi, accepted a special invitation to introduce his champion mustang to more than 5,000 attendees at the 23rd Annual BreyerFest Celebration held at the Kentucky Horse Park.

Meet Doc’s Teddy Bear. He’s the newest “poster boy” for hundreds of little girls who were able to touch a real mustang for the first time at this year’s BreyerFest. With bedroom floors full of model horses and imaginations brimming with pretend horse adventures, Cohn and Teddy Bear gave them all the opportunity to lay their hands on a living, breathing mustang.  For many of them, this first touch will be the start of their own journey with mustangs. Cohn and his gentle, patient Teddy Bear posed for hundreds of photos with smiling children, and the line for pictures grew even longer after their bridle-less demonstration ride before thousands of event spectators.

Demonstrating their 2011 championship performance from Tennessee’s Extreme Mustang Makeover, Teddy Bear’s flawless performance had the BreyerFest crowd on their feet.

Teddy Bear, Cohn and R.G. Livingston, and Sarah Ann Bowman pose for a picture at BreyerFest

Cohn’s journey with mustangs began in 2009, when his wife Brandee convinced him to compete in the 2010 Ocala, Florida, all-mare Extreme Mustang Makeover. After the competition, “Diamond,” who placed eighth in the Finals was sold to an enthusiastic bidder who outbid even the Livingstons that day. Within a month, a special arrangement was made between the two families, and Diamond came to Doc Livingston Farm to stay.

She had stolen his heart. “When you get to know a mustang, that’s just the way it goes,” says Cohn.

Sarah Ann Bowman rides Teddy Bear for the BreyerFest crowd, performing this maneuver as well as jumping the ring of fire, all bridle-less.

It only takes one.

One touch. One dream. One mustang. R.G. Livingston and her best friend, Teddy Bear. The tiny girl gave him his name the very first moment she laid eyes on him. “Daddy!” she exclaimed. “He’s a teddy bear!” And so he was. 

Cohn and his wife Brandee live in Pearl, Mississippi, with the light of their life, future mustang trainer Riley Grace, known as “R.G.” Together they operate Doc Livingston Farm and Stables, which has become a haven for families and their children as they learn about mustangs and horse care. Cohn’s full-time job building roads provides a healthy appreciation of the horses and children that keep Doc Livingston Farm busy. Cohn, Brandee and their students have won four of their last five Extreme Mustang Makeover events using teamwork, humility and compassion as the foundation for success.

 You can visit Cohn and his family on their Facebook pages here:

 For more information on how to adopt a mustang of your own, please visit:







A chicken and a nickle. The cost of courage.

There are a “bazillion” quotes by famous people on things like courage, fear, and success. Go ahead, Google it.

What you can’t Google, though is the feeling that comes from recognizing your own courage, facing your fears, and enjoying the satisfaction of success.

Carol Etlicher of Weatherford, Texas knows all these emotions better than she knows her name. Together with her mustang “Rio” she has faced her fears with courage and tasted success in small bites. Her journey with Rio has never been easy, but she has never quit.

Carol fell in love with mustangs when she attended the very first Extreme Mustang Makeover in 2007.  While she watched from the safety of the bleachers during that inaugural event, she wondered. “Could I do this?” As the trainers and their mustangs competed, her memory took her back to a horse from her childhood. Carol’s uncle, at the tender age of four years old, had traded 5 cents and one barnyard hen for a rangy mustang yearling he named “Thunder.”

Fourth from the front, Carol Etlicher’s first mustang ride on Thunder 

Once a mature herd stallion from the Calico Mountain Herd Management Area, Rio and Carol have faced their fears together, one step at a time.

Carol listened to her heart and with the excitement and courage of a true adventurer, adopted Rio at the 2011 Mustang Magic competition in Fort Worth, Texas. Although it took several months to get acquainted, Carol and her mustang developed a relationship that led to their first trail ride together.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” Mark Twain, American Author

For Carol, the cost of conquering her fears and “setting sail” as Mark Twain so aptly wrote was easy to figure. It was as simple as a chicken and a nickel. But building a relationship with her very own mustang?


What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.  Ralph Waldo Emerson

American Poet  

“Whatever you do, you need courage; No matter what course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising that tempt you to believe your critics are right.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Carol Etlicher gives credit to many “helpers” along the way as she and Rio continue to discover more about the joy in their relationship. She thanks Rio’s first trainer Gary Wedemeyer as well as Logan Leach, Lorrie Grover, and Travis Dittmer for their invaluable direction and support as she and Rio continue on their journey of discovery together. 
For more information on how to adopt a mustang of your own and begin your own adventure please check out

Romancing the Mustang reveals the Beauty inside the Beast.

There’s a certain romance about wild horses, kind of an arrogant elegance carried by a mustang so easily and with such strength; it’s something we all yearn to feel in our own selves. It’s a quality apart from the ordinary.  For those who have touched this romance in real time, it becomes an addiction not easily overcome.  It’s impossible to gentle the wind, to steer it in directions self-ordained and maybe, just maybe send it on a path of predictable purpose, but to gentle a wild romance and still keep the ripple of the wild wind? Ahhh. Now there comes the romance of a lifetime.

For all the mustangs in the west, in all the herds across all the states the wild horses of Twin Peaks, Nevada may be the Valentine of them all.  A massive herd management range has supported a natural selection process, resulting in a type of mustang that has come to be easily recognized by those who study such things. Genetic markers have indicated that the Twin Peaks mustangs can be traced back to the “Old Spanish” lines, and are the only herds sharing this same genetic marker with the Kiger mustangs of Oregon.

None of this mattered to Laura Trotter of New Mexico. All she knew is that she had convinced her boyfriend, Matthew Jaramillo to adopt a mustang for the 2011 Supreme Extreme Mustang Makeover. On the day of pick up, Matthew named their mustang “El Feo.”  While Laura fell instantly in love with the wild horse, Matthew couldn’t believe how ugly he looked with his long coat and mud-caked legs. In Spanish, “Feo” means “ugly.”

In spite of Matthews’ practiced horseman’s eye, he couldn’t get over the weathered coat, short thick cannon bones and heavy head of the mustang they had seen only during the televised Supreme adoption event. Like virtually every other newcomer to the mustang world, Matthew soon learned that inside this mustang, in spite of his rough outward appearance there was a beauty he had never before experienced.  Over the weeks of training, Matthew began to see Feo’s brilliance shine through. Like all mustangs, every piece of him had a purpose. Perfectly proportioned to carry a herd sire’s weight through any challenge, the balance and symmetry of Feo’s build showed Matthew over and over again the true beauty of a horse.

The Sabino stallion, “El Feo” Hector Amezcua photo, August 13, 2010 

El Feo, first day home with Laura and Matthew 

Just three days after the arrival of El Feo, Matthew surprised Laura on her birthday with a yearling quarter horse filly. Laura quickly dubbed them “Beauty and the Beast.” 

Matthew and Feo practicing for the Supreme competition

Matthew and Feo practicing in Fort Worth, September 2011

Just a few hours after this portion of the competition, Feo became ill and was unable to compete.

Feo is now the favorite choice for Matthew when he needs a sturdy hand to help manage the cattle on the ranch he oversees. The Sabino gelding participates daily in doctoring sick or injured stock, branding, and any other ranch chores that need to be done from horseback.

Laura and Feo, February 2012

When he’s not helping with ranch duties, Feo and Laura spend hours exploring the national forest land surrounding the Rociada Valley in all seasons. His courage and heart have carried them through many adventures together.

Laura and Feo, springtime in the mountains, March 2012

Laura and Feo, through an aspen grove, March 2012

Laura and Feo at Kiowa National Grasslands, May 2012

The trust and respect of a mustang, if accepted with grace and humility is a gift like no other. With time, patience, and an effort to understand who these horses are, you will experience a romance quite unlike any you’ve ever known. For Laura and Matthew, one horse changed their lives and for that they will forever stand on behalf of the mustang, defending their strength, resiliency, and pure heart.  The paradox of an old Spanish name given to a horse carrying old Spanish lines is that “El Feo,” the ugly horse from Twin Peaks, Nevada has brought a new definition of beauty to the lives of two people, and their world has been forever changed.

Nina and Feo, “Beauty and the Beast.”

For more information on the Twin Peaks mustangs, please visit:

For information on how to adopt a mustang of your own, and to view adoptable, gentled mustangs in the Mustang Heritage Foundation’s TIP program, please visit:

all photographs courtesy of Laura Trotter, unless otherwise noted

Just Like “New”

If faith could be likened to summer, and self-doubt likened to winter, then it would be easy to understand how the seasons of our life are so much like the seasons of nature. If we can celebrate and believe in our faith as a journey unfolds, then the creeping shadows of winter doubt will never overcome us. Not many understand this analogy much better than Jessica Dabkowski of Fort Collins, Colorado. She has built her equine career by re-directing her doubts into a faith that has carried her through to success.

Jessica was crowned the 2012 Champion of the Fort Collins Extreme Mustang Makeover, a journey with a plain bay mustang she named “Novo” in which she never lost faith. In Portuguese, “novo” means “new,” and with every mustang she works with, Jessica starts anew, never losing faith as she works to build another relationship and travel familiar paths towards a similar destination.

Day one, a world of “new”

Introducing children to the beauty and intelligence of a once-wild horse, Jessica helps spread the message about adoption with the trainers of tomorrow Photo credit Jessica Dabkowski 

Every journey has a few “wrong turns,” and shortly after this pic was taken, a spook and a fall caused a broken foot as Novo fell with Jessica, just a few weeks into training. Jessica would spend some time on crutches after surgery repaired the break with a steel plate. Novo’s training continued with Jessica on the ground, and friend and fellow mustang trainer Mary Gates in the saddle. Photo credit Victoria Wood 


Novo and Mary Gates, getting acquainted Photo credit Jessica Dabkowski

Jessica believes in taking new experiences “one step at a time.” Here Novo is getting accustomed to the sound and feel of a flag.  Photo credit Jessica Dabkowski  

Even with a steel plate in her foot,  Jessica was back in the saddle in just a few weeks, and Novo was feeling comfortable with the flag. Photo credit Bob Dabkowski 

Every journey begins with faith, and along the way, trust becomes a mile-marker of success.  Photo credit Bob Dabkowski  

As their journey together came to a close at the Fort Collins EMM event, another one was just beginning for Novo. After the competition, Dana Schlitter adopted the Champion mustang gelding, gathered from the Divide Basin HMA in Wyoming. Mary Dobbs photo  

Jessica, Novo, and Dana, together after the competition. They will work as a team to start Dana and Novo off on their own adventures together. Photo credit Bob Dabkowski  

With faith and perseverance, the “pot of gold” comes from knowing that your journey has challenged you and changed you for the better; the doubts of winter, while they may always chase you, remain in the early summer dust of one’s faith, tested and true.

Jessica Dabkowski, winner of the 2012 Fort Collins Extreme Mustang Makeover, owns and operates Pony Peak Stables near Fort Collins, Colorado along with her husband, Bob. Her “Growing Great Riders” lesson program serves clients along the entire Front Range, from Denver to Cheyenne. An only child, she grew up along the eastern seaboard near Atlanta, Georgia.  Jessica’s equine training foundation includes dressage and hunter/jumper, sound philosophies she applies to her mustang training. To date, Jessica has trained and found homes for 5 previously untrained mustangs, 4 of which have successfully competed in various Extreme Mustang events. For more information on Jessica, please go to


For more information on how to adopt a mustang of your own, please check out the available TIP (Trainer Incentive Program) mustangs at



Mustang Country Threatened by Fire

The summer of 2012 is only 6 days old today, and yet it has brought destructive fire to many of our western neighbors, fires which burn uncontrollably at this moment in Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming, Utah, Arizona, California, Montana, Nevada, and even North Carolina and Tennessee. The people of Texas remember well.

According to Debbie Collins of the Bureau of Land Management, there are no mustang Herd Management Areas affected by these fires, however she is preparing a press release, due out this week on The press release will detail a complete update on BLM activities in progress as a result of the drought and ongoing extreme risk of new fires which may affect the mustang herds. Emergency gathers have taken place and more may be needed as reports of water shortages are verified in several key locations.

Horses near Roundup, Montana
Photo credit Mark Higgins

Fire on the slopes near Boulder, Colorado
Photo credit Cactus Saddlery

An indication of disaster in the making. Smoke plumes near Fort Collins, Colorado, June 9th, 2012
Photo credit Miranda Spindel

Fire near Fort Collins, Colorado. June 10th, 2012
Photo credit Miranda Spindel

Near Fort Collins, Colorado June 17th, 2012
Photo credit Miranda Spindel

Fire near Roundup, Montana June 26th, 2012
Photo credit Mark Higgin

As the lives, businesses and cherished animal companions of thousands of our friends and neighbors continue to be threatened by fire, many turn to prayer as a means of support. There is no doubt that no matter how you choose to support the people affected by these ongoing and disastrous fires, every little bit helps.  To all our “mustang family” friends in these areas, please know that our hearts are with you.
A facebook page with information on shared resources for horse owners during times of disaster

maintains a listing of missing/stolen horses; an excellent resource during times of disaster
Website with information on how to contact your local FEMA office for local information, situation updates, and assistance
Article with information on how to keep your horse safe if threatened by wildfire

Trading Places

There comes a time in everyone’s life when wishing for a different sunrise becomes a waking dream. It’s the time when the same old path, the same old doorways, and the same old routine just aren’t enough anymore. Some people take to the highways, some people spend their life wishing, and some people stand up and make their dreams come true. Justin Dunn is one of those people who took his dreams and made them real. He gives credit to his persevering faith, a few mustangs, and a willingness to trade the comfort of the known for the possibilities of the unknown.

Justin Dunn, at home

Raised in south Texas, Justin and his family built a business along the waterfront, restoring water-damaged dwellings from the ravages that can be Mother Nature when her fury wreaks havoc from sea to land.  It was here that he met Duke, an 18-month-old mustang colt born in captivity to a branded mustang mare.  Justin fell in love with this wild mustang colt, and with the first gentle touch of his calloused hands on the colt’s twitching shoulder, he knew that his heart had found a home. No other horse, young, old, trained or untrained, had ever offered the connection that Justin felt that day.

A chance visit with a friend would convince Justin that some things are just meant to happen. He had been having a recurring dream about a dun-colored mystery horse. The dream had no connection to any happenings in his daily life, but it was clear and detailed, a beautiful dun horse appearing several times in the moments between sleep and the first cup of coffee. While visiting a friend one day, the phone rang. His friend listened for a few minutes, then turned to Justin. “Do you want another horse?” he asked. The 4-year-old horse had been traded several times — once for a tank of propane and once for a small sum of money to a Wyoming cowboy. No one could handle him, and his future was bleak. Without hesitation, Justin nodded. On the way to see the horse, Justin thought he would name him “Whiskey.” When they arrived, he was stunned to see a dun mustang standing in a pen. His name, said the man, was Whiskey.

Justin and Whiskey lead a pack trip into the Colorado high country

A family vacation to Colorado in 2007 convinced Justin to put his Texas business and home on the market, and within three months both were sold. With proceeds from the sale, a modest parcel of land near Guffey, Colorado, was purchased and Justin began operating a trail ride and outfitting business, which immediately became a huge success.  Duke and Whiskey, once called “rogues” by those who saw them, had become true partners, their relationship of trust was a lesson that Justin wanted to share with other people and their own horses. His training business skyrocketed as he shared his unique philosophy of “trading places with the horse.”

Through his journey with mustangs, he has learned that time with them is measured in experiences rather than hours. A lowered head, the soft licking of lips, a step into trust, or even the subtle flick of an ear, all are examples of the kind of “moments” which have come together to build relationships between this man and his mustangs.  Justin understands the miracle of revelations, as his interactions with mustangs continues to strengthen his faith.  “A person can’t get any closer to their creator than being with a mustang on top of a mountain”, says Justin.

On the weathered mesas and trails of their Rocky Mountain home, Justin’s mustangs have taught him to understand the unique perspective of a wild horse. The difference between “what’s going to eat me” and “when am I going to eat” seems to be a consistent perspective between the mustangs and the domestic horses he trains.  As he works to connect to each horse in their own way, Justin has found similarities between communicating with his mustangs and the challenges that life presents daily. Because of the mustang, he has found that consistency builds confidence, and with confidence comes success.

No bits, no shoes, no spurs. Justin’s relationships with his mustangs are as strong as the home in which he and his family live. When he swings up into the saddle, he knows he is stepping into the horse’s world and trading places, yet again with one of God’s most magnificent creatures.

Justin Dunn and Harley, 2012 EMM Top Ten (7th)
Photo credit: Park County Republican & Fairplay Flume, 2012

Justin and Harley compete in Fort Collins 2012 Extreme Mustang Makeover as “Zorro”
















Justin Dunn lives in Guffey, Colorado with his wife Kristina and their children Austin, Lauren, and baby Emma. They manage the adventures of a successful outfitter company, which offers family vacation packages and mountain trail rides to visitors. Their mustangs are the primary horses for the business, including Duke and Whiskey. Justin competed in the 2012 Extreme Mustang Makeover in Fort Collins, Colorado, securing a spot in the Top 10 and finishing seventh with a black gelding named Harley. In addition to adopting Harley, he and his wife also adopted Moonshine, another EMM 2012 Fort Collins competing mustang, who placed fourth with his trainer, Margaret Blaha.

For more information on how to adopt a mustang of your own, please visit

“The Grass Remembered Them”

There is a comfort in reminiscing; revisiting memories once lived replete with colorful stories of family fable or legend. History gives us a place from which to grow, the roots of our future planted firmly in memories shared. Such is the story of the mustangs of the western plains, deserts, and mountain ranges.  Their roots extend deep into our own, their colors and patterns complementing the fabric of the new world into which their ancestors were delivered over 5 centuries ago.

Photo courtesy Tammy Roberts, Cafe Orange Photography, 2011

Their ancestors were warhorses, workhorses, and barter for brave and sometimes foolish men with names like Columbus, Cortez, and Desoto. With his tall ships Columbus set sail towards an unknown horizon, their holds filled with small yet sturdy horses. Five hundred years ago it was still believed our world was flat and Columbus would sail to the edge of the world and over, into oblivion horses and all.  From the shores of lands uncharted these horses, Andalusians, Arabians, and Barbs, the forbears of our American breeds began their own travels to destinations in a new country with no name.

Horses had arrived in the Americas via the hand-hewn wooden ships of traders, intrepid adventurers, and scoundrels. When battle-weary Spaniards fled before the anger and power of the native people there, they left behind many horses that assimilated into the wayward herds of Columbus.  Native storytellers say, “the grass remembered them,” these magnificent creatures of the prairies. Entire cultures would change with the introduction of the horse, an animal separated in a continental split of prehistoric determination. In time, the horse returned to the western sea of grasses, delivered by captains and Kings of the venerable vessels sailing the waters of the globe.

Seas of grass fed them

The mustang of today is called a wild horse, but it is still debated that only Przwalski’s horse can claim this true title. Centuries of free roaming and adapting to the environment have claimed the domestic traits of the mustang, but in every other way besides genetic markers the mustang is wild. Their name is from the Spanish “meste`no” meaning stray or unwanted. These early mustangs were captured here and there by settlers and Native tribes, and their populations grew as other horses escaped from their pioneering caretakers or were turned loose. Cold-blooded draft breeds joined hot-blooded thoroughbreds; mixing with the herds of tough Spanish warhorses, the roaming herds became as genetically varied and random as the people who admire them.

Photo courtesy ABC News

Today, the mustang has become a true symbol of America, a living, breathing reminder of from whence we came and who we are.  Their history with us is often a paradox, honored and admired for their resilient spirit, yet we remain a nation divided over their future as free roaming symbols of our collective memories. The defiance of a palomino mustang stallion named “Desert Dust” inspired a movement to protect these horses through legislation.  His image, captured by photographer Vern Wood in the 1940’s as the horse struggled to protect his herd, still teaches us that the mustang has value far beyond the marketplace. Their worth is for each of us to determine, their spirit is for each of us to remember, and their future is for each of us to protect. The mustang is our history, and our memories will preserve that for generations to come.

“Desert Dust,” the photo that inspired a nation to care
Vern Wood circa 1940

Photo courtesy BLM, United States Marine Corps Mounted Color Guard, circa 1988
Palomino mustang and U.S. Marine

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